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Popular Kuwaiti sawt singer Hamad Khalifa passes away at the age of 89

Late singer was known for his mastery of oud

Hamad Khalifa

KUWAIT CITY, July 19, (KUNA): Kuwaiti popular sawt singer and performer Hamad Khalifa, considered one of the icons of traditional Kuwaiti music, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 89. The late singer was renowned for performing old folk songs in the traditional Kuwaiti musical styles of sawt and samry.

He was also known for his mastery of oud and other string instruments. Khalifa, whose full name is Hamad Khalifa Ali Al-Saqer, was born in 1929 in Al-Mawash neighborhood in the old area of Jibla in Kuwait City.

Following his parents’ death at a young age, Khalifa grew up as an orphan living at his relatives’ home in the Murqab area of Kuwait City. He received his education, which consisted merely of memorizing the Holy Quran, reading, and writing Arabic, from the schools of Sayed Hashem Al-Henayan, Mulla Marshad, and Al- Mubarakeya.

His interest in music began when listening to old vinyl records of sawt music, played at public coffee houses. Sat inside these cafes, he would listen passionately for hours to the songs and melodies, prompting him to develop a love for oud – a necassary component of this type of music.

It was then he decided to learn how to play this diverse instrument, which he mastered soon after. Khalifa joined other fellow musicians and began to play at samras – a Kuwaiti word used to describe private in-door sessions which combine sawt ensembles.

As his performances developed over time, Khalifa began to perform at major community-renowned samras alongside other prominent counterparts, such as Saud Al-Arrouj. He also performed at wedding parties and concerts, sponsored by stateowned enterprises, such as the Kuwait Oil Company, to which he was employed.

Strangely enough, the late singer’s first opportunity on the microphone was not in Kuwait. While on transit as a member of a Kuwaiti dhow naval merchant expedition he performed a sawt song for the first time on a radio station in the East African archipelago of Zanzibar.

He was accompanied on the mirwas, a small double-sided hand-held drum, by Majed Awadh, who happens to be a kin to the famous Awadh Doukhi, an iconic Kuwaiti singer. Khalifa released his first record in 1949 under the Bahrain-based Taha Records, owned by fellow Kuwaiti Taha Sabry. He also recorded for Bahrain Phone Records, owned by Ibrahim Taqi.

In 1954, Khalifa released another record under independent label, Bou- Zaid Phone Company, in Kuwait. He also performed regularly on the publically-owned Radio Kuwait, after stints on Radio Shereen, a private local radio station.

During these appearances, he would perform sawt songs on-air alongside a number of veterans, like Saud Al-Rashed, Awadh Doukhi, Abdullah Fadhala, and Mahmoud Al- Kuwaity. After Radio Kuwait’s first official transmission in 1951, the station brought in Khalifa to record and archive his music. The first song the station’s director Hamad Al-Momen extracted focused on a religious hymn that had been altered into sawt

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