Thursday, December 13, 2018

Omar Sharif

Katrina Lenk's performance of "Omar Sharif" in the musical The Band's Visit  is technically stunning, and the somber tone of the music invokes feelings of nostalgia in the listener. The song occurs at a point in the musical when she is remembering childhood memories of listening to Egyptian music in her isolated desert hometown. The song is about how people can connect to things outside of their ordinary daily lives, and how they can use this wide thinking to expand their personal experiences.

There are two main tonal shifts within the song which emphasize the point. Towards the beginning, Dina (Lenk's character), uses vague language to describe how she experienced cultures that differed from her own (Egyptian movies and music) through chance, saying they "floated in on a jasmine wind". The first shift occurs with the phrase "Friday evening, Omar Sharif", as Lenk's voice gets louder and she gets more confident, she begins to describe the wonder that she and her mother held towards these pieces of foreign art. The song uses phrases that aren't exactly descriptive but imply that she needed this escape from tragedy to stay sane in her day to day, like when she watches the TV "in black and white and blurry through tears". Lenk then returns to the softer tone when she repeats the vague lyrics from the beginning of the song, which illustrates the comfort that these movies and music give her, she is soft about them.

The second tonal shift happens with the line "And the TV set becomes a garden", as Lenk grows in volume again and uses descriptions like this first line to show that these pieces of art have literally made their way into her life, and that she is better for it. The word choices here of nature imagery express beauty, a marked change from the tragedy implied earlier in the song, showing that her new experiences are providing her with comfort and making her life better. This is further shown as she goes back to the phrases that reference "jasmine wind" and share the same tone, and creates the feeling of comfort that comes with repetition.


  1. Your analysis sheds light on the poetic side of the song. Really nice job!

  2. First of all, I absolutely love the music from this musical .The complex melodies and motifs are definitely carried through the lyrics as well. I think that a powerful part of this poem and the show in general is it's intimate view of interactions. The whole show revolves around an Egyptian band getting an incredibly condensed and close view of what life is like for the people they meet in the town. Even though their interactions are brief, it has profound impacts on all of the characters. This song hits on a lot of the same notes and details how a window, albeit a small one, into another world can be an incredibly powerful thing.