Ghannili Shwaya Shwaya

Ghannili Shwaya Shwaya – The Oum Kalthoum Project

Title in Arabic: غنى لى شوية
Translation in English: “Sing to me a little”/”Sing to me softly”

Year: 1945

Composer: Zakariyya Ahmad
Lyrics: Mahmud Bayram el-Tunsi

“Ghannili Shwaya Shwaya” is from one of Oum Kalthoum’s most popular movies Sallama, which came out in 1945 and was directed by Mizrahi Togo. Oum Kalthoum played a virtuous singing slave girl in the movie. As in the 1940ies Oum Kalthoum’s repertoire was musically and linguistically moving closer to the people, the movie, including the lyrics of this song were set in a more Bedouin-like language. You can watch the movie in full here, but unfortunately it is only in Arabic.

The “team” behind the song: Oum Kalthoum, Zakariyya Ahmad and Bayram el-Tunsi were sometimes called the “golden trio”, however their cooperation did not last long, as Zakariyya Ahmad felt he was not compensated worthily.

As my Arabic is very limited, I have to rely on the different translations posted on the internet (for example here, here and here). To me, the song is mainly about the beauty of music  – how the singer attracts the audiences, and makes the girls dance; how the darkness is cleared by the singing and how the birds are repeating along… and even, how a song can heal someone’s liver, much to the surprise of doctors! 😀

And, as usually with the classical Egyptian songs – it is about love 😉

Although it is a beautiful song, it does not seem to be too popular among dancers. But below you will find a few examples of videos that caught my eye:


Mona Mohamed

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Sources used:
- Ghanili Shwaya Shwaya. - All About Belly Dancing!
- Danielson, V. The voice of Egypt: Umm Kulthum, Arabic song, and Egyptian society in the twentieth century.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
- Ghanili Shway Shway. Lyricstranslate.
- Ginsberg,  T., Lippard, C. et al. Historical dictionary of Middle Eastern cinema Lanham : The Scarecrow Press, 2010.
- Noshokaty, A. Zakaria Ahmed: The Sheikh of ComposersAhram Online, 2013
- Oum Kalthoum songs. Al Mashriq.
- Oum Kalthoum - Ghanili Shway