For the past 50 years, the song “Ramadan Gana” has played through airwaves in Egypt as well as many parts of the Arab world to welcome the arrival of the holy month. The song’s lyrics were written by the late poet Hussein Tantawy, while the late musician Mahmoud El Sherif provided its melody. In 1965, Mohamed Abdel Mottaleb recorded the song, which since then has become the unofficial anthem for the advent of Ramadan.
Early life and Talent
Mohamed Abdel Mottaleb Abd El Aziz El Ahmar was born on August 13, 1910 in Shabrakheet a district within the Beheira governorate in Egypt. Like most young Egyptians in the early 20th century, he listened to Quran recitations, religious anthems and non-religious Arabic songs. He memorized the Quran and learned a variety of recitation styles; this would hone his musical skills as he mastered the fundamentals of performance and how to grab listener attention. He soon took part in many concerts as his voice spread across the Arab world and stirred intrigue among many musical artists such Said Darwish, Zakaria Ahmed Salah Abd El Hai, Badia Masbany and Mohamed Abd El Wahab. He eventually became part of Mohamed Abd El Wahab’s choir.
Rising Above the Chorus
Mohamed Abd El Motalleb wanted to be more than just another voice in a choir. As such, he would train his voice to become distinguished from those of the rest of the chorus singers. Abd El Motalleb’s talents as a solo singer would eventually be recognized while he was part of Badia Masbany’s band.
His first popular song, entitled “Betesa’alini Bahabek Leih” (You Ask Me Why I Love You), was recorded in the early 1930s under the Baidaphon record label.
Poise and Balance
Thus Mohammed Abdel Mottaleb became a star during a time when many talented artists graced the Arab world, but he never let that get to his head. When he was live on stage, he struck the perfect balance of performing self-confidently without giving off vibes of arrogance. It was this poise, modesty, simplicity and self-confidence which made him a pleasure to watch.
Courtesy towards Audience and Crew
While on stage, Abdel Mottaleb would show courtesy towards his audience by constantly displaying a genuine friendly smile. At the end of each concert, he would thank both his audience members and his band because he knew that he wouldn’t be where he was without them.
Reaching the Cinema Industry
When the cinema industry started to rise to prominence, it needed appropriate musical numbers which would complement the scenes of drama and romance and Abdel Mottaleb’s songs were the perfect match. Thus, Abdel Mottaleb’s songs went from the radio to the big screen and eventually to everyone’s television sets. As a result, his music spread across multiple generations of Arabs.
Ramadan’s Theme Song
Mohamed Abdel Motalleb passed away on August 21, 1980. Despite his absence, he left us with a myriad of wonderful songs. Perhaps his lasting legacy is his iconic “Ramadan Gana” song which millions of Arabs listen to and sing when they’re counting down the days to Ramadan.