|1||Ahlamna El Helwa||5:13|
Janet Erskine Stuart said that “Egypt was full of dreams, mysteries, memories”. Her music, like her architecture is somehow hardwired into us, more than we know. When Oum Kalthoum was at her zenith, Egyptian music circled the world on shortwave, picked up and marvelled over by millions who didn’t understand a word she sang but understood the emotion in it.
Something different might be said about an astonishing single by Mohamed Mansour, now issued by Staalplaat as a limited edition 7” single. Many will know the words on the first side, because they come from the Eurhythmics song “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This”, its glorious, operatic line translated into Arabic as “Ahlamna el Helwa”. When the Lebanese singer Mayssa Karaa re-recorded Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit in Arabic for the American Hustle soundtrack, many were reminded that the sheer beauty of the original song went beyond limitations of language. So it is with Mansour’s version of the Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox classic, a soaring line over a universal beat.
To make the single doubly special, the flipside is Mansour’s reworking of Woody Guthrie’s “All You Fascists Bound To Lose”, a song that had resonance when it was first performed but which seems ever more relevant today. Mansour’s version is called “Hatehhsare”, but its message remains the same: evil never prevails for long. Mansour’s music is a compelling synthesis of European, American and Egyptians styles and sounds. It is genuinely international. Just as shortwave radio fans used to twiddle dials to find Oum Kalthoum phasing up and down in the ether, so Mansour’s music has a global presence on the internet, but how fine to have it in physical form too, in a beautifully designed sleeve by Staalplaat.
Mo is a lyricist, vocalist and physicist from Egypt, Scotland and Kuwait, who has never worked on the 1st of May.