Al-Qasabgi is considered a unique musical phenomenon. He could, through
his melodies, transfer singing from plain delight, to expressive
delight; all through his career, he was innovative and progressive, to
be verily described as "precocious" and one of the pioneers immortalized
Qasabgi was born on April 15, 1892 in the Quarter of Qawadys, Hassan Al-Aqbar
Street, Cairo, bearing the name Mohamed Ali Ibrahim Al-Qasabgi. His
father was a renowned vocalist and reciter (of the Holy Koran) having
several melodies which were sung by prominent singers such as: Abdou Al-Hamouli,
Saleh Abdel-Hay, Zaki Murad (father of Laila Murad)- and Mohamed Al-Sunbaty.
The father’s desideratum for his son was a religious up-growth,
memorizing and reciting the Holy Koran; his mother, on the contrary,
wanted him to join the University and speak English and French.
But eventually the child joined a primary school where he fully
memorized the Koran and thence, by 1903, the elementary school "Osman
But the father noticed that his son was very fond of music, and, in
order to encourage him to work harder in his studies (which he did) used
to promise him, as a prize for memorizing the Koran, to take him to the
theatre to listen to the voice of Salama Higazy. Al-Qasabgy benefited a
lot from those concerts by collecting several poems of Sheikh Salama
Higazy to memorize them side by side with the religious "Tawashih" and "Adwar".
In 1913, Qasabgy finished his religious studies to join the teachers’
school. Nevertheless, and given that music was a deep-rooted interest
for Qasabgy, his father was obliged to encourage his musical trends; he
bought him a lute and taught him how to play it, besides teaching him
the musical theories and note. Qasabgy used to practice his musical
activities along with his studies in the teachers’ school until his
promotion there-from in 1914, to be nominated in 1915 monitor in Zeinab
Bint Khalil School to teach Arabic language, mathematics, geography and
history. But in May 1917 he resigned his teaching post, to start a new
stage of his life.
Qasabgy’s Artistic Beginnings:
Qasabgy wanted, at first, to begin with singing, melodizing some terza
rimas and "Adwar", but he did not find the lyrics, nor did he find any
response from the lyrical writers, and he decided to write for himself
with some successful trials such as:
Al-hub loh fi alnas ahqam "Love have sway over people"
Ya qalb leih sirrak tizi’oh lili’on " My heart, why do you reveal your
secret to the meddlesome?.
He later turned towards the lute, playing in the cabarets of Awalem
"Mistresses". And, in 1918 to 1923, Qasabgy melodized some "Takatik"
which were sung by the chanteuses of cabarets. In addition, he taught
the lute playing in the Oriental Club of music. One of his students was
the prominent singer and musician Mohamed Abdel-Wahab.
Among the troupes in which he participated was that of Mohamed Al-Aqqad
Al-Qabir, and the last ever was that of Umm Kolthoum.
Qasabgy’s Relations with Veteran Artists:
Qasabgy met with Mohamed Abdou Saleh the renowned zither player who, in
turn, introduced him to Tawhidah, one of the famous chanteuses at the
time. She chanted one of his "Adwar"- that was "Love has sway over
people" which was a good omen for Qasabgy to whom other chanteuses
strove for his melodies. In this stage, he also melodized the "Taktokah"
of Ba’d Al-Asha yehla al-hizar wa al-farfasha "Time for worship, time
Qasabgy was also contemporaneous with Sayyed Darwish (1918-1923) in
Cairo; and, in spite of their different "schools", they were unanimous
on the necessity of safeguarding the specific identity of the Arab
music, developing it and propagating it among the populace.
In 1920, he became acquainted with Kamel Al-Khol’i who was melodizing
for Munira Al-Mahdia, and through Kamel, he was introduced to Munira who
sang many of Qasabgi’s songs which included:
Wallah zaman or " I have missed you!".
Ma yegish zayii en laf alqon or "None of my like the world over".
And, from 1924 to 1927, he interpreted for the troupe of Munira Al-Mahdia,
the best operas and operettas such as :
Al-Mazloumah or "The aggrieved woman "- written by Younis Al-Qady.
Hayat Al-Nofous or "The sweetheart"- written by Ahmed Zaki Al-Sayyed.
Haram Al-Mufattish or "The wife of the inspector"- written by Younis Al-Qady.
For her part, the renowned chanteuse Fathia Ahmed sang tens of Qasabgi’s
songs, top of which:
Ana al-habiba saddakni or "I am your true-love".
Qult Saleit or "I thought you forgot all about me"
Haramouha wa haramouni or "They separated us one from the other".
Makansh yukhtur ala bali or "It has never come to my mind".
Ya shaghil bali ya hagirny or "I feel deserted and worried".
Redi al-habib anni wa gani or "My love forgave and returned back to me."
Qasabgi and Umm Kolthoum:
The first time he listened to the voice of Umm Kolthoum, Qasabgi said,
was in 1924, when she was singing one of Ibrahim Fawzi’s "Taqatiq"
entitled : Fi gharamaq yama shoft agayeb "In your love I have
experienced a lot of marvels". But their first acquaintance came by
chance when she chanted a song without knowing that it had been
Qasabgi’s and of course without his permission. She apologized to him,
to start henceforth, the longest ever artistic relation between the two
prominent figures in this field.
She sang, accompanied by her troupe, two of Qasabgi’s works:
Ana endi amal tensa elli hasal or "I hope you forget the past".
Min alsanah lil sanah or "Every now and then".
Other Qasabgi’s melodies, written by Ahmed Rami and sung by Umm Kolthoum,
Enna hali fi hawak agab, or "Amazing my love to you!
Ya reitny kont al-nasim, or "I wish I were the breeze"
Lahad emta ha tidari hobbak?, or "Until when you will hide your love?"
Bahibak wa enta mish dari, or "You are not aware of my love"
Qalbak Ghadar bi wa Ramani, or "Your heart betrayed and neglected me".
Umm Kolthoum recorded these songs on discs, and Qasabgi’s charges became
higher since then.
Qasabgi then formed the first musical troupe to accompany Umm Kolthoum
during her concerts. The new troupe was composed of ; Mohamed Al-Aqqad
(zither), Sami Al-Shawwa (violin), Mohamed Rahmi (repercussion) and
Qasabgi himself (lute).
In this stage, Qasabgi was considered Umm Kolthoum’s first melodist. The
first of Qasabgi’s melodies sung by Umm Kolthoum and boadcast from the
Egyptian Radio was the Monologue: Yalli gafak al-manam, or "You who
doesn’t find sleep", written by Rami. The last was : Rak Al-habib, or
"My love has finally relented" written also by Rami.
In fact, Qasabgi was closely associated with Umm Kolthoum for about 40
years, leading her orchestra until she entrusted it to Mohamed Abdou
Saleh, for Qasabgi to remain, nevertheless, as an ordinary member
there-of. The last song in which Qasabgi participated was the poem of
Al-Atlal, or the "Ruins" written by Ibrahim Nagi and melodized by Al-Sonbati;
but Qasabgi died before the theatrical presentation of the song;
nevertheless, his seat among the orchestral troupe remained vacant, and
nobody occupied it; even the lute (played by Qasabgi) was not introduced
to the orchestral instruments for three years after.
Qasabgi and Asmahan:
During one of the artistic soirees given by Princess Alia’a, mother of
Asmahan, Qasabgi listened to the daughter’s voice and admired it. Then
she sang some of his masterworks such as:
The poem: Laita lilbarraq aynan, or "I wish if Al-Barraq had eyes"
The Taktoka: Farrak ma beina leih al-zaman, or "Why did the days
In fact, Qasabgi is considered the only melodist who could perceive the
qualities of Asmahan’s voice, and her second melodist after her brother,
Farid Al-Atrash. He continued providing her with his lyrical masterworks
until her death in 1944. Thus he lost his "gem" to which he attached
great importance. Among the most important melodies of Qasabgi sung by
Monologue: Oyoun, or "Eyes".
Ayna Allayali allati sabbabat sokmi? or " Where are those nights which
have sickened me?"
Ana elli astahel qol elli yegrali, or "I deserve all that befalls me".
Emta hate’iraf emta ?. or "When would you ever be aware (of my love).
Qasabgi’s Artistic Achievements:
Qasabgi wrote a teaching book on how to play the lute; but this book was
lost due to the negligence of his family.
Qasabgi dealt with all the Arab lyrical forms. He melodized Al-mowashah,
Al-dor, Al-taktoka, the poem, the opera and the operetta. He also
introduced and renovated a new type of singing, that was the Monologue.
The Advanced Taktoka:
Among Qasabgi’s developed Takatik:
Enta fakirni walla nasini, or "You are still remembering me or you have
forgotten me", by Rami (recorded in 1931).
Farrak ma beina leih al-zaman, or " why did the days separate us?"
Bitbos liah kidah leih , or " why are you looking at me that way?"
Among the "takatik" presented in films:
Ya sabah al-kheir yalli ma’ana, or"Good morning all of you"
Ana elli astahel kol elli yegrali, or"I deserve all that befalls me"
Mish momkin akdar asalhak, or "Never can I become reconciled with you".
Edhak, karkar, or "Laugh and guffaw".
Yalli tihib al-fol, or "The Jasmine-lover".
Norik ya sit al-kol, or "what a glamour, lady of all the ladies"
Emta hate’iraf emta/, or "When shall you ever be aware (of my love).
Ana qalbi dalili, or "I Trust My Heart".
Kidah bardoh, or "How come?!".
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