Badiea Masabny

The Queen Of Egyptian Nightclubs

A woman who had full control and monopoly on the nightclub life of entertainment in Cairo. Her orchestra, musicians, singers and dancers, where the leaders in the field and when we take a closer look, we will find that almost all of them, we find that they were and still are our measuring scale of excellence and classic consideration.

A Lebanese girl at the age ripe age of 17 years old, decided to move to Cairo in pursuit of an artistic career as her love for singing and dancing were stronger than any power of persuasion that was stubbornly argued by her family.

Badeia Masabny (pronounced Badee-a Masubni) moved to Cairo and started working in some small nightclubs where the entertainment nightlife was beginning to flourish and prosper, however, was mainly controlled by western foreigners, Lebanese, Syrians, English, French, Greeks, Turks, German, American etc… even the dancers and singer, dancers and comedians were none Egyptian. However, Badeia was met with a lot of support and encouragement from her fellow Lebanese and Syrian people in the business to whom she held many nights of entertainment, danced and sang in their weddings and sang the “Meijana and Etaba” (Lebanese and Syrian specialised styles of Laments) which brought back the nostalgic memories of home and made them feel closer to their mother countries.

A young Lebanese actor by the name of Nageeb Elias El Rihany (who was sponsored by the famous actor and director Aziz Eid Fa’ and whom sent him to Paris to study film production and cinematography) attended one of these parties and weddings in which Badeia sang and danced. Nageeb was introduced into the Egyptian theatre world by Aziz Fa’ in one of his plays, in a comedy role, which made him very successful and created a name and a face that went with it. However, Nageeb was not too keen on comedy and tried his hand in tragedy but failed in that to the point of losing all work offers and became broke and very poor.

Nageeb was later met with an unknown sponsor who believed in him as a comedian and financed his comedy company and then so did the young actor Nageeb realised that this is how the people see him and he started to believe in his comedian abilities and he wrote a play about a small cotton farmer from the very small village of Kafr El Ballas by the name of Kesh-

Kesh Beih (in the Turkish style of the strata of social order was organised as follows: Effendi = Mr., Beih= Sir, Pasha = Prince) who came to Cairo to sell his crop, he does and goes to one of the nightclubs to celebrate his big sale of the year. Kesh-Kesh Beih gets very used to the nightlife, living it up amongst all the dancers and singers and spends all his money. He returns home, plants another season and sells it the next year and returns to Cairo to repeat the whole story all over again. In this play, Nageeb found it very easy to find his heroin to share the leading role in his successful play as he remembered the beautiful Lebanese dancer whom he met in one of the Lebanese wedding parties.

The audience loved the play and loved Badeia’s dancing and singing, not to mention her captivating beauty and they sang with her many of the songs that became big hits of the time:

“Ya mena-anesha Ya Betaaet Elloze
Taali NelAb Fard We Goze”
(You beautiful and fresh girl selling Almonds.
Come on let’s play: Singles or doubles?)
“Yabol KeshaKesh Ya Tara?
Kan Bas Eih Elli Gara?”
(Oh Mr. KeshaKesh I wonder?
What could have happened to you?)

Every night, Badeia was very careful to present a new dance routine and a new piece of music and a new costume, which kept the audience very intrigued and eager to see what new things she was going to enchant them with. All this fame and audience admiration opened various financial and artistic doors to the young Badeia.

During all this stardom and success, the hero and heroine of the play got married which made them even more of a centre of attraction. The marriage lasted for two whole years, but without children, and they got divorced. Badeia did not continue in the same play with other members, but decided to start her own company and rented a dance hall in Emad El Deen Street, the street famous in that time for the nightclubs, entertainment houses and dance halls, and she started her own show – dance company presenting all forms of dance and singing and male and female monologists, comedy sketches as well as presenting the most beautiful dancers in the whole country, and she used to present one or two pieces with her singing with a line of chorus girls dancing and singing behind her, as well as ending the night with a big presentation of various styles of Egyptian dance, which later on got the name of “RAKS SHAQUI” (Oriental Dancing).

You see, the pure Egyptian dancing is called BALADI (that which is of the country or home grown, or my own country) (Please refer to the article on the site by the heading of Zeinab. In this particular dance hall of Badeia, many dancers and singer and groups of dancers, folkloric or otherwise presented various shows during the night. The way the music would be, it would have a grand introduction with big orchestration and Egyptian as well as classical style arrangement, then have some very Egyptian style of music and presenting a variety of Egyptian and Middle Eastern and even foreign styles of dance and music, then go to the Egyptian Baladi, and finishing with a grand finale that is derived from the original introduction music. You can find music of this style in my CDs (ROHE EUCD1082) & (FADDAH – EUCD1614).

The success of Badeia’s club continues for many consecutive seasons, which led her to buying a piece of land in the Royal Opera Square, a very famous location in the heart of Cairo, and she built a magnificent building that contained a big theatre, a reasonable sized nightclub presenting new talented singers whom later on became the Leaders of the singing field such as Ibrahim Hammouda, Farid Al Atrash, Mohamed Abdel Motteleb. As well as many famous composers such as Mahmoud El Sherif, and musicians/composers such as Ahmed Sherif ( famous for Wahawi Ya Wahawi { a very famous song that Egyptian children sing until today in the famous religious month of Ramadan in which the Muslims Fast from sunrise to sunset}) and the song (Nebayyen Zein We Nedog El Wadaa) ( A famous song that says I see the future well and I understand reading the seashells, that is sung by the fortune tellers on the beaches of Egypt) & the Song of El Erque Soos, The Liquorish Juice man song). Next to the theatre and the nightclub there was a coffee ship and a bar on the first floor, and the second floor there was a top class restaurant and a beautiful roof garden with a breath taking view of Cairo, old and new at the time.

The Badeia Masabny dance hall presented and gave the world the legendary dancers whom we know today as THE STARS OF EGYPT such as Taheyya Karioka, Samya Gamal, Naima Akef, Naima Gamal, Beiba Ezz Eddin, Beiba Ibrahim, Zuzu Mohammed and Juliet who was adopted by Badeia and gave her the name of Layla Al Shaqraa (Blonde Layla) and Nadia Salama. Badeia’s dance troupe was also the bouncing board and take off runway for other famous stars such as Soraya Helmy and Ismail Yassin (two of the greatest comedians of Egypt) and the writers Abou El Saud Al Ibiary, Mahmoud Fahmy, Ibrahim El Qalawy and Fahmy Aman. All these names dominated the filed of cinema, theatre and nightclub scenes during the 40’s and a large chapter of the 50’s, when Badeia fled back to Lebanon after the 23rd of July 1952 revolution in Egypt in fear of having all her fortune confiscated by the new republican regime.

Badeia produced two films in her time “Layali AL Qahira”(The Nights Of Cairo) and “Maleket El Masareh” (The Queen Of Theatres).

After her divorce from Nageeb El Rihany, Badeia did not remarry, and returned to Lebanon as mentioned above, after selling her artistic centre and all to her student Beiba Ezz Eddin and opened a restaurant on the hill face of the Lebanese mountain and lived there until her final curtains were drown.

Dancers, singers, musician, artists and audiences from the Middle East owe an appropriate acknowledgement to the late Badeia Masabny for having the vision and strength to create the very first platform for the Egyptian and Arabian arts to be presented to all and to give us all the stars whom we admire and follow until today.

The Great Unknown - Part II
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