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Nightingale of the Nile

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Saturday, December 10 at 8:01am

Radio Lumiere

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Singer-songwriter, record producer and world music expert Justin Adams travels to Cairo, where he grew up, to tell the story of the woman whose voice dominated the culture and politics of the Middle East in the 20th century, Umm Kulthum.

Once described as a combination of 'Ella Fitzgerald, Eleanor Roosevelt and Elvis Presley', her radio broadcasts often brought the entire Arabic world to a standstill. Her incredible voice and skilful handling of the media quickly made her the most prominent celebrity in the Arab world at the time, and her close friendship with both the royal circle of King Farouk I before the revolution, and President Nasser in its wake, gave her unprecedented political influence.

Justin Adams is Robert Plant's songwriting partner, record producer for the Tuareg desert blues band Tinariwen, among others, and an ex-collaborator with Jah Wobble. As the son of a British diplomat, Justin grew up in Cairo during Kulthum's golden age. Now he travels back, talking to those that knew her to discover more about this icon of the Arabic world.

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
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