As was previously done with the also deceased rapper Tupac at the Coachella festival, the Arab world’s most adored diva is revived for a ‘live’ performance in front of a captive audience on NBC TV. The technology is not archive footage, nor is it found footage but an illusion projected inside a truss box.
Egyptian singer Kulthum died in 1975, but is still loved by millions of people across the globe not only for the poetry of her music of love, loss and longing (by Ahmad Rami, who wrote 137 songs for her) but also because in the 1920s with her own virtuosic orchestra accompanying the sometimes hour-long songs, Kulthum’s performances were open to the general public, which contributed to the transition from classical and elitist music, to popular Arabic music.
However in her heyday of the 40s she even went back to singing in classical Arabic, in her wonderfully rich and emotive contralto voice. What this new technology offers is a living, glowing ghost of the past (similar to the temporary recreation of the deceased from cells as imagined in Spielberg’s film A.I. in that they have no relation to the present and just a snapshot that cannot last), but it also raises a lot of ethical questions, as recently discussed around reviving the deceased to promote brands (Monroe for Dior, for example) what if they can be made to last in a few decades?
The imagination is left to wonder what other personal ends could be met with this new technology…as stars can be manipulated to do things that may not have been in line with their artistic vision (if they had one). For example we can now make Elvis rap, Tupac sing opera…and what might we do if the technology reaches private levels? If we can’t answer these questions now, then the only option is to wait and see.