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Umm Kulthum Hologram To Bring Her Back To Life At Dubai Opera

The hologram will perform on the 26th and 27th of December.

umm kulthum

As a word, "iconic" doesn't do Umm Kulthum justice, but it's the closest thing we've got. New Dimension Productions attempts to take it a step further by making a real live hologram of the paradigmatic performer for a two-day show on Thursday and Friday at Dubai Opera. The production team recently released a video revealing the process behind the creation of this incredible life-like hologram.

The undertaking began a year ago when show director Hasan Hina and his New Dimension Productions team brought in Egyptian actress Sabreen. Sabreen previously played Umm Kulthum in a 1999 biographical series about her, which made Sabreen the perfect candidate for the photorealistic 3D modeling and motion capture that would be necessary to bring the archetypical singer to life. A month's worth of recording was made before the production team got to work at their Dubai studio.

“We captured all of [Sabreen’s] body data, all her muscle reactions, and we applied them to the 3D model,” Hasan Hina explained in a feature with Gulf News. "We created very special one-minute sequences for each song for the way Umm Kulthum is going to appear [on stage]... It's not just like, 'Here you go, here's what Umm Kulthum looked like.' No, it has to be like a movie – there's a buildup, there's a story and there's an end.”

Hina's team previously used rotoscoping from old black-and-white footage to create a hologram for a brief performance celebrating the launch of MBC Masr in Cairo in 2013. The production lasted only six minutes. This time, Hina's team created 55 minutes of hologram work for the Dubai concert to sing alongside a live orchestra.

"Umm Kulthum was actually the maestro. She was leading the music with her voice and her body movement; the kerchief in her hand was acting as the stick that the maestro holds," Hani said.

This particular hologram performed only once before, in Saudia Arabia's Al-Ula earlier in 2019. "For people who actually had the chance to see Umm Kulthum live, you're taking them back 50 years," Hina said. "All their memories, all their emotions from that era will come back to them in that moment."

The concert at Dubai Opera will include a performance by Sanaa Nabil, a relative of Umm Kulthum who recently appeared on Arabs Got Talent. Hina's ambitions for his production team are extensive, with plans to work with singer Abdul Halim Hafez and to take the team beyond musical productions such as the revival of old plays like 'Madrasat Al Mushaghibeen'.