3 February 2015
"Omar Khorshid" is one of the greatest Middle Eastern electric guitarists.
But Khorshid was more than just a groundbreaking guitarist, he was also a bona fide movie star and soundtrack composer.
Born Omar Mohammed Omar Khorshid in 1945 in Cairo at the glittering age of Egypt's cultural reinvention, "Omar Khorshid" was soon to become one of its luminaries and most well-known, if short-lived, voices. With a natural gift for music, at a young age he was taught piano but quickly discovered the guitar, much to the annoyance of his father, "Ahmad Khorshid" (a cinematographer) who even smashed his first guitar, but Omar was persistent enough to continue with a new one on credit.
By the mid 60's he was established with his group "Le Petit Chats", an Egyptian Beat group modeled after the prevailing influence of Elvis and "The Beatles". It was at this time that one of the reigning figures of contemporary Arabic music, "Abdel Halim Hafez", asked Omar to join his orchestra. It didn't take long before he was adapted into an Egyptian orchestra as a soloist. Hafez with Khorshid in place would create some of the most innovative modern sounds in the Arabic musical canon. Arranger "Baligh Hamdi" helped him with arrangements to show his Western-inspired guitar talent.
"The Hafez Orchestra" offered Khorshid instant fame, and it wasn't long before he was asked to play with the Queen of Arab music, the voice of Egypt herself: "Oum Kalthoum". Over the next few years, he was heavily featured in live concerts, national TV and radio and studio recordings, playing for the leading artists of the day. The guitar had now become an essential ingredient in the Oriental orchestra. Khorshid began recording albums under his own name for the prestigious Lebanese record labels "Voice Of The Orient" and "Voice Of Lebanon". Working with visionary engineer "Nabil Moumtaz" at Polysound Studios in Beirut, Khorshid would take his music into some of the most progressive musical terrain of its time.
In 1971 Khorshid won the Premier Prix at the "Film Festival of Tachkand" for his music for the "Ebnati El Aziza".
While "Omar Khorshid" introduced the guitar to the Arab orchestra, embedded in the musical forms associated with belly dance, as well as with Arab classically inspired music associations, bringing in a new useful instrument of expression. In "Rhythms From The Orient" ("Voice of Lebanon" – "VLMX 39" 1974) the playing is peerless: Khorshid's reverb-mad Middle Eastern guitar mixed with intricate hand percussion, serpentine accordion and sci-fi synth sounds. Some of the finest moments come when Khorshid lets loose on the Moog, injecting a singularly alien glow over the proceedings.
Omar Khorshid with Vox Phantom XII guitar
It is understandable how earlier writers mentioned -surf guitar- to describe some of the electric tracks, but Omar changes his approach much more often has so much more in common it hardly is an appropriate enough reference at all. It still needs a thorough listen to lift the clever ideas, I am sure the Moog/guitar track will most often be the most effective to lift out for Western ears, the most effect the tracks have when we could actually see the guitarist play.
Besides he also played as an actor, produced and composed music for over 40 films over the years (in Egypt and Lebanon). He lived for a few years a great life in Lebanon until the 1975 civil war, which over a short period in Syria made him return to Egypt. By 1979 he was invited to play at the White House on invitation with President Sadat being present and with violinist Menuhin, as an Arab/Israeli exchange idea. Rumors indicate that after that day, he happened to be persecuted by extremists and he died in a mysterious car accident at age 36 (May 29, 1981). His wife had a miscarriage when she heard about his death.