OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Umm Kulthum and Aural Celebrity


Umm Kulthum, an immensely popular Egyptian singer, has had a long lived career. Despite her death nearly five decades ago, Umm Kulthum's music is still played throughout the Middle East. An example of this is the recent hologram performance in Saudi Arabia. The concert included a hologram of Umm Kulthum. Some audience members expressed disappointment in the hologram. My research seeks to find out why her career has been so long lived and why some audience members felt disappointment in the hologram performance. Using the works of Sound scholar, primally David Suisman and Neepa Majumad, I construct a definition of the term aural celebrity. Secondly, I put Umm Kulthum in the context of sound media during the 20th century. I then used the works of Virginia Danielson and Laura Lohman, two of the most learned scholars on Umm Kulthum, as well as some of her live performances, interviews of people familiar with Umm Kulthum, and song lyrics, to demonstrate that Umm Kulthum is an aural celebrity. Her status as an aural celebrity is part of the reason for the longevity of her career. The research shows that Umm Kulthum is an aural celebrity, which is a person who utilizes sound reproducing technologies, and new media, to disseminate their disembodied voice. In doing so, their celebrity and persona are inextricably tied to their voice. By thinking of her in this new context, Umm Kulthum’s many legacies form one sonic legacy. Through this sonic legacy, she has changed the soundscape of Egypt.

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