Nagwa Fouad

She is the only daughter, born in a small income Egyptian family. AWATEF MOHAMMED EL AGAMY, later to be known as NAGWA FOUAD moved to Cairo after realising her potential, love and ability in Egyptian dancing through her appearances in her family and local weddings and social gatherings which made her think seriously of taking it up professionally. So, she came to Cairo and started working in some of the small nightclubs, she drew strong attention to herself through her perfect musical interpretation, lean body, excellent performance, unique rhythmic qualities and a romantic feel for the dance that was a magnet to all her audiences.

Nagwa trained on the hands of various retired dancers and contemporary trainers and choreographers as well as her sixth sense for choosing the top class musicians in her band. She trained not only in Egyptian dance and music but also concentrated on learning classical and contemporary Western dance and music, such as Ballet, Jazz and Tap dancing, which gave her a huge reference bank to draw on as her career developed during the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and now the 2000’s of which we are all proud.

This amazing dancer is, at the time of writing this article, is the only remaining dancing film star who came from the 50’s and has earned the title and crown which entitles her to be added to the “STARS OF EGYPTÔ” video series as one of the historic ladies who made Egyptian dance what it is today.

Nagwa Fouad’s ability to stay supple and healthy is due to her love of dancing and sports. Her favourite sports are tennis, aerobics and swimming, and walking which she has been careful to maintain her shape and beauty during her life.

Her first introduction to the world of cinema was in the film “Sharei El Hob” (The Street Of Love) starring with a magnificent host of star actors and actresses and singers such as Hessein Reyad, the grandfather of Egyptian actors, Abdel Salam El Naboulsy, Zeinat Sedqy and of course starring Abdel Halim Hafiz in the classic song of “Olulu” (Tell Her){this song is available on Hossam Ramzy’s “Best Of Abdel Halim Hafiz EUCD 1195}. The story of this blockbuster movie is about a young artist born to a poor family from Mohammed Ali Street, where all the Cairo musicians live, who’s father was a poor musician in the Hasaballa Band, and here is a piece of Egyptian music history for you.

The Hasaballa style of music came from a musician by the name of Hasaballa, an ex-military band musician who formed a band of his old army retired musician friends, playing Egyptian traditional wedding, folkloric and pop songs on brass instruments in a marching style band. They were louder, cheaper and very capturing to the attention in their X army uniforms especially when they are hired to perform in an event that demands a lot of noise such as a new bride’s dowry, furniture and clothes are being transferred from her family house and going to her husbands to be house. Also, they were used in other occasions such as someone’s release from prison, weddings and when someone is going to Mecca for pilgrimage.

To go back to the story of the film, they send this young talented boy, played by Abdel Halim Hafiz, to the Institute Of Arabian Music to study music and singing and to come back as an educated artist of whom they can all be proud. You see, most of the people looked down on the Hasaballa and the Mohammed Ali Street musicians and they considered them the riffraff of the music world, so it would have been a great opportunity to gain social respect if one of them was an educated person who can teach them the proper ways and be proud of him.

Anyway, when the young boy, Abdel Halim Hafiz, returns from his university after he passes the exam, he is met with a big street party where as you will be able to hear in the song “Olulu”, there is almost a duel between the “regular” Egyptian band and the Hasaballa band. Nagwa danced her first film appearance in that song which in my personal opinion is as close as one can get to the most natural demonstration of a true Egyptian common (in the best definition of the word common) young woman would dance. Perfectly innocent, full of love, emotionally well expressed, translating all the bits of music wonderfully and portraying the storyline in a master class performance that has to be seen to be believed.

The film Sharei EL Hob became a classic and created fame for all of Nagwa, Abdel Halim Hafiz as well as SABAH the notorious Lebanese singer. After that, Nagwa always performed in the concerts of Abdel Halim as an opening star dancer for his shows, which made her more and more famous as Abdel Halim was labelled (The Egyptian Dark Grape) for his beautiful and sweet dark voice and was the heartbreaker of almost ALL of the Arabian, not just Egyptian women.

Nagwa Fouad became very conscious of the fact that her band had to be at least compatible in standard, if not as good as Abdel Halim’s who used to work with the AL MASSEYA ORCHESTRA (The Diamond Orchestra) led by the late Ahmed Fouad Hassan, the Qanun player, some of the famous musicians in the band were the also departed Mahmoud Effat on Nay (featured also on Hossam Ramzy’s CDs the best of Om Kolthoum, Abdel Halim, Farid Al Atrash and Mohammed Abdel Wahab and to whom the album Source Of Fire also by Hossam is dedicated), Mahmoud Hammouda on Tabla (Hossam’s master teacher), and a host of the biggest and most respected violin and string section in the whole of the Middle East.

In her band, Nagwa Fouad had Ahmed Hammouda, Mahmoud Hammouda’s brother on Tabla, the master of all dance style drummers and the first man to ever play a “Live or Recorded Tabla Solo” in the history of dance music and performance. He incorporated many Egyptian folkloric elements such as the Haggala and the Oasis style Bedouin rhythms into that Tabla Solo that are still heard today on many dance CDs and which many drummers still copy as their standard Tabla Solo. Ahmed Hammouda also incorporated various style of rolls on the “Taks” that would be played either on the “Maqsoum Rhythm” on the counts of 1 & 2 then followed by stops of a “Dom” on the count of 3 and a “Slap” on the count of 4 that have become the “Tabla Solo Classics” of all time. Nagwa also had Mohammed Ayyad on Duff and Mazhar, plus a large section of percussionists.

On Violin solo she sometimes had Mahmoud El Gersha (One of Egypt’s most sensual violin soloists who could mix Egyptian sound with western classical then back to the dirtiest Baladi and come back in a dancing theme over only 4 bars of music). She also had Samy El Bably on Trumpet (Also featured many times on Hossam Ramzy’s CDs) the only man who can play a western trumpet like an Egyptian sounding instrument. On accordion she had Hassan Abu El Saud (from the “Saher EL Accordion” famous CD and also one of Ahmed Adaweya’s most preferred accordionists, also sometimes she had Mohammed Hamidu on accordion (who composed many of her dance compositions) and sometimes she used Mohammed Asfour (also from the Ahmed Adaweya band. But her most miraculous performer was her Nay player Sayed Abu Sheffa. The word Abu Sheffa means the man with the Hare Lip (Clef Pallet) which makes it impossible for the person to play any wind instruments AT ALL, however, Abu Sheffa played the Nay and Kawala Egyptian Bamboo flutes like no one else could. Extremely burning sound and an incredible ability to haunt you with one straight musical note.

Because the true Egyptian dancer is considered, by those who know anything about Egyptian dancing, as another instrumentalist member of the orchestra. The dancer is the one that makes the music come alive, gives the sound a physical, three-dimensional existence. Interacting with her musicians, inspiring them as she is inspired by their virtuoso performances and taking all of that by the scruff of the neck and portraying to the audience in her aesthetic seduction. Having such a frightfully powerful band and believe me they didn’t come any stronger than the above-mentioned group of musicians, Nagwa became more and more musical, rhythmic and more and more talented in her dancing and musical performances, able to explore the impossible and boldly go where no previous dancers could have gone before her.

Many of Nagwa’s choreographies and performances had that element of surprise as well as experimentation to the maximum limits of fusion while adhering to the purest forms of art fields that are being fused. She really understood her Baladi and her Egyptian classical as well as ALL of the Egyptian, Arabian and North African Styles of folklore and regular dance. She also studied Western Classical Ballet, Jazz and Tap, and in some of her tableaux performances, I do recall her doing some Flamenco and even Argentinean Tango.

People’s love and admiration for Nagwa Fouad’s dance and stunning personality was not coming only from her loving audience worldwide, but also from composers such as the legendary Mohammed Abdel Wahab who composed the dance music “Amar Arbaatasher” (The moon of the 14th day of the Lunar Month) Signifying the most beautiful face) especially for her, and of course the choreography, set, costumes and performance of that music was matching to the quality of its composition.

I do recall a time in Cairo in 1998 where I went to spend an evening in the Marriot Hotel in Cairo where Nagwa was dancing and thought to myself… I was a bit estranged by the show, as it had quite a few elements in it that I was not too sure of their suitability to the show and wanted to see where was Nagwa coming from on this fusion. So I asked her when she came to my table to dance “Ashara Baladi” (meaning “Ten Baladi”) (as it is known to us in Egypt. It is a dance sequence of the pure Egyptian Urbanised Folklore dancing that you can read about on this site by the name of “Baladi” also another article called “Zeinab”). To cut a long story short, Hamidu played the accordion introduction and she danced so sensual, so perfectly in tune and in harmonic motion with him until the rhythm started and she took my heart straight up to my throat and brought tears to my eyes, not to mention the Tabla Solo that she did after with Ali Ahmed Ali ( the Tabla Player at the time who used to be the personal player and teacher and trainer of Mona El Said) that shook the whole place, plus the rapture of the audience’s applause almost took the place down.

Many of the famous dance pieces that were being danced in almost all of the Arabian / Egyptian Nightclubs such as Naasa, Mashaael, Ali Loze, Shick – Shak – Shok, El Saidi and Amar Arbaatasher where actual compositions for Nagwa Fouad. This is just to mention but a few.

I thank God for the fact that until the day of writing this article, the 21st of November 2001, on a VARIG Airline flight number 8614 from Buenos Aires, Argentina on my way to Santiago, Chile on a dance workshop tour between the two countries, our beloved Nagwa Fouad was still alive and very involved in the world of art, dance and music and I pray that he may keep her for us in good health and high spirits.

The Great Unknown - Part II