Click here to expand and collapse the player

Abdel Halim Hafez

Rate It! Avg: 5.0 (4 ratings)
  • Born: El-Halawat, Egypt
  • Died: London, England
  • Years Active: 1950s, 1960s, 1970s


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

Despite a fairly short career, singer/movie-actor Hafez was one of the most influential Egyptian stars of the 1950s and '60s. His mellow, resonant voice, subtle vocal style and notably clean intonation marked him out, along with a liking for long, seemingly endless musical phrases. When Mohamed Abdel Wahhaab switched from singing to composition, he pretty much stepped into his shoes. Born in 1929, Abdel Halim studied at Cairo's Institute of Arabic Music and the Higher Institute for Theatre Music, and began his career teaching and playing oboe before taking aim at vocal stardom. His first hit came in 1951, and he soon signed a contract with Abdel Wahhaab to sing his songs and appear in his films. During the 1960s, he started to sing colloquial poetry more colorful and meaningful and nearer to popular folk song than ordinary pop songs, and his work on these lines had a significant influence on popular song in general. He cofounded a film company and the Saut el-Fann record label in the early '60s, and remained a major star until he died in 1977 of Bilharzia, which he had caught as a child and which had begun to affect him intermittently from 1955 onward.


Abdel Halim Ali Shabana (Arabic: عبدالحليم علي شبانة), commonly known as Abdel Halim Hafez (Arabic: عبد الحليم حافظ‎) (June 21, 1929 – March 30, 1977), is among the most popular Egyptian and Arab singers and performers. In addition to singing, Halim was also an actor, conductor, business man, music teacher and movie producer. He is considered to be one of the Great Four of Arabic music (along with Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, and Farid Al Attrach). His name is sometimes written as 'Abd el-alim afez. He is known as el-Andaleeb el-Asmar (The Dark-Skinned Nightingale, Arabic: العندليب الأسمر‎). He is also known as an icon in modern Arabic music. To this day, his music is still enjoyed throughout the Arab world. His songs influenced the 2011 Egyptian revolution.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).

Early life[edit]

Born in El-Halawat, in Al Sharqia Governorate, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Cairo, Kingdom of Egypt as Abdel Halim Ali Shabanah, he was the fourth child of Sheikh Ali Ismail Shabanah. He had two brothers, Ismail and Mohammed, and one sister, Aliah. His mother died from labor complications three days after giving birth to him - something that made people around him believe that he brought bad luck. His father died five years later, leaving him and his siblings orphaned at a young age. He lived in a poor orphanage for a number of years. He was later raised by his aunt and uncle in Cairo. During these years Abdel Halim was extremely poor.

Abdel Halim's 'one-of-a-kind' musical abilities first became apparent while he was in primary school and his older brother Ismail Shabanah was his first music teacher. At the age of 14 he joined the Arabic Music Institute in Cairo and became known for singing the songs of Mohammed Abdel Wahab. He dropped out from the Higher Theatrical Music Institute as an oboe player Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).

Musical career[edit]

While singing in clubs in Cairo, Abdel Halim was drafted as a last-minute substitute when the singer Karem Mahmoud was unable to sing a scheduled live radio performance in 1953. Abdel Halim's performance was heard by Mohammed Abdel Wahab, the supervisor of musical programming for Egyptian national radio. Abdel Halim took 'Hafez', Abdel Wahab's first name, as his stage-surname in recognition of his patronage.

In the early days of his career, Abdel Halim was rejected for his new style of singing. However he persisted and was able to gain accolades later on. Eventually, he became a singer enjoyed by all generations. He also became Egypt's first romantic singer.

In collaboration with composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim went on to produce many popular love songs such as Ahwak ("I adore you"), Nebtedi Minen el Hekaya ("Where should we start the story"), and Fatet Ganbina( "She passed by us"). Hafez also worked with Egyptian poet Mohammed Hamza on songs including Zay el Hawa ("It feels like love"), Sawah ("Wanderer"), Hawel Teftekerni ("Try to remember me"), Aye Damiet Hozn ("Any tear of sadness"), and Mawood ("Destined").

During his career, he was very popular and always performed in sold-out arenas and stadiums. Despite his popularity, he rarely released a studio album since he worked purely as a live singer. He also played many different instruments very well, including the oboe, drums, piano, oud, clarinet and guitar. He was involved in all aspects of the composition of his songs. Halim introduced many new instruments to the Arab World. He was known for his deep passion in his songs and his highly unique and rare voice. He always sang from true and honest feelings deep inside. Halim performed in almost every country in the Arab World as well as outside the Arab World, including several concerts in Europe. Moreover, he sang uplifting patriotic songs for not only Egypt, but for many other countries in the Arab World such as Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, and Morocco. He used to encourage and help many young artists and actors to pursue successful careers.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).

His Fame[edit]

In the Arab world, Halim is known as the "King of Arabic music", "The voice of the people", "The son of the revolution", and "King of emotions and feelings". His patriotic songs were the most frequent songs sung by the crowds during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. One of the revolutionaries in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 quoted that "the nightingale's songs inspired us during the January 25 revolution", he added "Although, he died 35 years ago, his songs will surely continue to inspire his fellow Egyptians for many generations to come". His albums and CDs have sold more copies since his death than any other Arab artist ever. His way of singing, the popularity of his songs and his behavior made him a role model for almost every modern Arab singer. Egyptians and Arabs of all ages are a fan of Halim. Halim is still remembered in the hearts of many people, even years after his death. He is widely considered among the most influential performers in the Arab World. The two composers Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Mohammed Al-Mougy both said, "Halim is the smartest person I ever knew". Mohammed Al-Mougy also added, "Halim is very original in all of his work".Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).

Personal life[edit]

At the age of 11, Abdel Halim contracted schistosomiasis—a rare parasitic water-borne disease—and was afflicted by it for most of his career. Despite this, he remained positive and continued composing and performing his songs. Nevertheless, he was always there for his country despite his illness.

Although Abdel Halim never married, it was rumoured that he was secretly married to actress Soad Hosny for six years. This has never been proven to date. People who were close to both singers denied this rumor.

Throughout his life Halim often gave money and food to charities, and directly to the poor. Halim frequently volunteered at orphanages and hospitals all over the Middle East to donate money, teach music, and to help those in need. In 1969 Halim built a hospital in Egypt. He treated the poor, the rich, and presidents equally in the Arab World.

Abdel Halim established strong friendships with many contemporary presidents and kings of the Eastern world, including Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and King Hassan II of Morocco. He also had very close friendships with most Egyptian poets.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).


Abdel Halim died of liver failure on March 30, 1977 (a few months before his 48th birthday) while undergoing treatment for Bilharzia in King's College Hospital, London. His death brought sadness and shock waves throughout the entire Arab world. As a result, his funeral in Cairo was attended by millions of people – more than any funeral in the history of the Middle East, other than that of President Nasser. He had many more dreams and goals that he wanted to achieve and surpass and could have, but his early death prevented him from doing so. Some people committed suicide once they heard of Halim's passing. It has been reported that at least four women committed suicide by jumping off the balcony during his funeral march. He was buried in Al Rifa'i Mosque (مسجد الرفاعي) in Cairo.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).


Abdel Halim Hafez's song Khosara (خسارة) received notice in the Western world in 1999 when producer Timbaland used elements from it for Jay-Z's recording "Big Pimpin'." Two complete bars from "Khosara" were rerecorded, not sampled, and used without permission from the song's producer and copyright holder, Magdi el-Amroussi. Jay-Z's use of an interpolation, rather than an actual sample, may allow him to avoid paying royalties for the use of the song.

Over 300 of his songs were recorded and he starred in sixteen classic and successful films, including "Dalilah" (دليله), which was the Middle East's first color motion picture>

Along with Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Magdi el-Amroussi, Abdel Halim was one of the main founders of the famous Egyptian recording company Soutelphan, which continues to operate to this day as a subsidiary of EMI Arabia. The company was founded in 1961.

A feature film about his life, "Haleem", was released in 2006, starring Ahmad Zaki in the title role, produced by the Good News Group. In the same year a soap opera "Al-andaleeb hikayt shaab" was produced in Egypt with Shadi Shamel starring as Abdel Halim. Shamel won the lead role in a televised competition.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).


Abdel Halim was very successful in composing rich and meaningful Egyptian songs for the world to enjoy.

Some of Halim's most popular songs are:

Ahwak (I adore you), Ala Ad Al Shok (As much as the longing), Ala Hesb Wedad (Wherever my heart leads me), Bitlimoni Leih (Why do you blame me), El Massih (Christ), Fatet Ganbena (She passed by us), Gabbar (Arrogant), Gana El Hawa (The mood struck us), Sawwah (Wanderer), Mawood (Destined), Zay El Hawa (Like the wind), his last song Qariat Al Fingan (The coffee fortune-teller), and the posthumously-released Habibati Man-Takoon (Who is my beloved)Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).


more »