Eid Al Fitr 2021: Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez's hologram set for Dubai Opera concert

The high-tech concert will feature many of the late crooner’s greatest hits accompanied by a live orchestra

Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez during a live performance in 1959 in Lebanon. AFP
Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez during a live performance in 1959 in Lebanon. AFP

The Black Nightingale will descend on Dubai Opera for Eid Al Fitr.

A hologram version of the late Egyptian crooner Abdel Halim Hafez will perform a pair of shows at the Downtown Dubai venue.

The digitised version of the singer, who died in 1977 at the age of 47, will perform many of his hits while backed by a live orchestra.

Taking place on Thursday and Friday, May 13 and 14, this will mark the hologram's second round of shows after a sold-out debut concert at the Baron Empain Palace in Cairo, Egypt.

How does it work?

Organised by Dubai’s pan-Arab television broadcaster MBC and UAE production company NDP, the concert is created by the team behind the Umm Kulthum hologram concert, which was unveiled in a 2019 show in Saudi Arabia’s Hegra and went on to successfully tour the region.

Similar to that project, the digitised Hafez is built from scratch with technicians studying hundreds of hours of concert performances, in addition to extensive consultations with family members and professional associates.

The orchestra will also stick to the song sheets.

With the hologram tightly synchronised to the original music score, the orchestra’s role is to bolster the sounds and to create a truly natural live show environment.

Who is Abdel Halim Hafez?

Referred to as Al-Andaleeb Al-Asmar (The Black Nightingale), he was the quintessential Arabic singer.

Hafez’s romantic and patriotic songs, delivered with his sensual deep vocals, were defined by his subtlety.

Where his peers often expressed themselves in vocal histrionics, Hafez kept it cool with songs such as Sawah and Gana El Hawa exhibiting a croon both glacial and passionate.

Speaking to The National before a 2018 tribute concert at Dubai Opera, Egyptian singer Ahmed Harfoush said Hafez's minimalism was difficult to emulate.

“He was less operatic and more laidback,” he said. “But there is a beautiful sophistication to his singing style. At the time, he showed us that you don’t have to overdo things. It is that subtlety that made him stand out. And because of that people paid attention to the songs.

“He had more hits than anyone in that time because he knew the importance of having a great melody.”

Western audiences got a small taste of Hafez's work when a snippet of the song Khosara was sampled by rapper Jay Z for the 1999 hit Big Pimpin’.

As a result, a copyright infringement lawsuit was launched by Osama Ahmed Fahmy, the nephew of Khosara composer Baligh Hamdy, only for it be dismissed by a California court in 2018.

The Abdel Halim Hafez hologram concert will take place in Dubai Opera on Thursday and Friday, May 13 and 14 at 10pm. Tickets from Dh350 at dubaiopera.com.

Updated: May 2, 2021 12:18 PM

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