Omar Khorshid (1945 – 1981) was a famous Egyptian musician, composer, accompanist, and actor. Born in Cairo, Khorshid is a renowned guitarist of the Arab world and has accompanied many famous Arabic singers, including Umm Kulthum, Abdel Wahab, and Abdel Halim Hafez.
As a child, Khorshid taught himself the violin, guitar and piano, which eventually led him to a private music institute in downtown Cairo for further instruction. In 1966, Khorshid formed a band with friends called “Le Petite Chats” (The Small Cats), a band that played music influenced by Western sounds. The group played in small venues and eventually worked their way up in terms of fame.
From 1968 until 1973, he played with the orchestras of both Oum Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Hafez. Over the next few years, Khorshid became a well-established and integral part of the Arab musical landscape. He was featured heavily in live concerts, national TV and radio and studio recordings, playing for the leading artists at the time.
From 1973 to 1977, Khorshid moved to Lebanon and began recording albums under his own name for Lebanese record labels such as Voice Of The Orient and Voice of Lebanon. Working with audio engineer Nabil Moumtaz at Polysound Studios in Beirut, Khorshid worked harder to progress his musical style. However, due to the Lebanese Civil War, Khorshid was forced to move elsewhere to continue his career. In 1977, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat invited Khorshid to perform in America at the White House for American president Jimmy Carter. Though many saw this performance as peaceful, conservatives in the Middle-East who saw the United States as Zionist viewed it as a betrayal.
In 1978, Khorshid spent a year in Syria, acting in films and performing at various venues. In 1979, driven by a bigger desire for cinematic fulfillment, Khorshid returned to Egypt to pursue a film career. He directed and acted in films and performed live until his death in 1981.
On 29 May 1981, Khorshid was driving at a high speed on Al-Ahram Street in Giza, Egypt with his third wife, Dina, when Khorshid lost control of the vehicle and collided with a street lamp. Though Dina suffered from critical injuries, she survived. Khorshid, upon collision, was ejected from his seat and suffered from blunt trauma to his skull, neck, and spine, killing him instantly.
The reason why Khorshid was driving at such a high speed remains mysterious, as some claimed that bigger forces that disapproved of his music and were dubious of Khorshid’s political allegiances were behind the accident. Furthermore, Dina Khorshid alleged that there were attempts made to kill or injure her husband that had failed prior to the car accident.
Khorshid’s musicality in orchestra performances, original songs, and film scores was considered revolutionary at the time in the Middle East. His extensive theoretical knowledge, fusion of Western sounds with Eastern sounds, and incorporation of different, more modern instruments (e.g. the electric guitar, electric keyboard, synthesizer) in Arabic music was previously unheard of. Khorshid’s unique style sparked inspiration from many aspiring musicians not only in the Middle East, but in Europe and the Americas as well. His mixing of “modern” instruments with older Arabic tunes spawned a new, more modern sound of Arabic music that many use for belly-dancing today.
Sidi Mansour, “an extended improvisational rhythmic exchange between percussionist Ibrahim Tawfiek and Omar’s electric guitar”, is taken from the LP Live in Australia 1981, released by Sublime Frequencies in 2014. It is “the first live concert recording ever issued of legendary Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid and his group”. “The album has even more nostalgic (and tragic) significance as these shows would be his last; a car accident claiming Omar’s life within 72 hours of flying back to Cairo from Australia. Mohamed Amine, Khorshid’s lifelong friend and member of his group from 1975-1981, recorded these tracks.”