Born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1957, Kazim(*) Al-Sahir كَاظِم السَّاهِر is one of the most noted singers in the Arab World الوَطْنِ العَرَبِي. He is also a composer and a song writer. Living in reduced circumstances, his family had to move to Baghdad. His knack for music emerged when he was seven years old. This talent was a precursor to studying and teaching music. His song عَبَرَتْ الشَّط ‘she crossed the shore’, released in 1989, was a turning point in his music career.
As a child, Al-Sahir had a very big family. He had seven brothers and two sisters. Owing to financial circumstances, the family was forced to move from his birthplace, Mosul, to Baghdad where his father worked. To contribute to the betterment of his family, he had to work. Besides selling books and iced beverages, he worked in a textile factory. Therefore, his childhood was full of hardships. This, consequently, shaped his personality and triggered his rags-to-riches story. Equally important to his success may be his early marriage. Al-Sahir got married at the age of nineteen to a cousin who was the same age. His marriage lasted for around seven years. Choosing not to get married again, Al-Sahir, thereafter, dedicated his life to music, namely singing, composing, and song writing.
His knack for music emerged very early in his life. His recitals and singing after classical singers like Mohammed Abdel Wahab proved to him as well as to others that he had a talent. At the age of ten, he saved up in order to buy a guitar. A year later, he learned how to strum on the oud. In addition to music, he had a flair for writing poetry. These artistic inclinations led him to Baghdad Music Academy where he studied music for six years. Due to his dexterous and exception strumming of the oud, his classmates in the academy called the king of oud. Following his graduation, he taught history and music in public schools.
In 1989, Al-Sahir released a song entitled ‘she crossed the shore.’ It was a landmark song in his music career. Following his outstanding performance in the album that included this song, he moved to Kuwait and then to Beirut. In Beirut, he collaborated with Nizar Qabbani, a renowned Syrian poet whose poetry featured women and love. For this reason, many of Al-Sahir’s songs are in Modern Standard Arabic (or even classic Arabic, given that i‘raab is strictly observed in all the songs written by Qabbani). The song we will listen to below ‘I hate her!’ is one example. Thanks tor Nizar Qabbani’s ballads, for which Al-Sahir wrote the music, by the mid-1990s, he was the most popular singer in the Arab World. Al-Sahir received many awards appreciating his outstanding music from across the Arab World.
أَكْرَهُهَا! ‘I hate her!’
Song Writer: Nizar Qabbani
Composer: Kazim Al-Sahir
Singer: Kazim Al-Sahir
أَكْرَهُهَا وَأَشْتَهِي وَصْلَهَا
وَإِنْنِي أُحْبُّ كُرْهِي لَهَا
أُحْبُّ هَذَا اللُّؤْمَ فِي عَيْنِهَا
وَزُوْرَهَا إِنْ زَوْرَتْ قَوْلَهَا
Note: Each stanza of the ballad is repeated twice in the song
I hate her!
Though I hate her, I want to be by her
And indeed, I love my hatred for her
I love the cunningness in her eyes
And her fibbing whenever she sweet-talks
عَيْنٌ كَعَيْنِ الذِّئِبِ مُحْتَالَةٌ
طَافَتْ أَكَاذِيْبُ الهَوَى حَوْلَهَا
قَدْ سَكَنَ الجُنُونُ أَحْدَاقَهَا
وَأَطْفَأْتْ ثَوْرَتُهَا عَقْلَهَا
With a cunning eye like that of a wolf,
the fibs of love ringed her.
The madness has filled her irises, and
her wrath turned her mind off
أَشُكُّ فِي شَكِي إِذَا أَقْبَلَتْ
بَاكِيْةً، شَارِحَةً ذُلَّهَا
فَإِنْ تَرَفَّقْتُ بِهَا اِسْتَكْبَرَتْ
وَجَرَّرَتْ ضَاحِكَةً ذَيْلَهَا
I’m only more doubtful if she comes
Crying and justifying her servility
And if treated gently, she reacted haughtily,
and dragged her dress laughing
إِنْ عَانَقَتْنِي كَسَّرَتْ أَضْلُعِي
وَأَفْرَغَتْ عَلَى فَمِي غِلَّهَا
يُحِبُّهَا حِقْدِي وَيَا طَالَمَا
وَدَدْتُ إِذْ طَوْقْتُها ، قَتَلْتُها
If she hugged me, she would break my ribs
and emptied her grudge on my mouth.
My grudge loves her, and I so often
wished that, if I embraced her, I killed her
Here is another landmark song of his entitled قُولِي أُحِبُّك ‘say I love you’. It was written by Nizar Qabbani, and composed by Al-Sahir.
* Having no English equivalent, the third letter of his name, i.e. ظ, is written with three English variants /z, d, th/. Hence, it is written as Kazim, Kadim, or Kathim.