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Back in the History of Arabic Music :
The history of Arabic music combines a dilemma of thoughts and different opinions. However, the Arabic Music as it is identified nowadays is the creation of an evolutionary art. It is said to date back to the Greek civilization. Music of the Middle East is very much influenced by the Greek and Indian music. In fact, it is the combination of Greek culture, the Phoenician culture, the Roman and the Persian, and more related to the Islamic kingdom. The Arabic songs are of a diverse musical inheritance that has all come out to form the Arab Music that we know today.
Read more about Arabic Music:
Arabic music, as it exists today, is the product of the blending of music from the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula with the music that was produced by the indigenous people who inhabited the lands that were conquered by the Arabs after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 a.d. The Arabs translated Greek texts in the field of music (as in various other fields). As a consequence, it is possible that Arabic musical theory was influenced by that of the ancient Greeks.
Music in Pre-Islamic Arabia
Distinct forms of music existed in the Arabian Peninsula in the pre-Islamic period between the 5th a.d. and the 7th century a.d., which was known as the “Jahiliyya” period or “Period of Ignorance.” Pre-Islamic Arab poets used to recite poems with high notes. People of that time believed that poems were revealed to poets and music was revealed to musicians by the jinn (spiritual creatures who inhabit an unseen world).
Women with beautiful voices would do the singing and also play some instruments that were used at that time, such as the drum, the oud (similar to the European lute), or the rabab, a type of stringed instrument that is similar to the violin. It has one to three strings. In most of the Arab world, it has now been replaced by the violin. The well-known songs of the period included the huda (from which the ghina was derived), the nasb, the sanad, and the rukbani. In pre-Islamic times, female singing slaves sung for the rich people, inspired warriors with their rajaz poetry, and entertained at weddings.
Arabic Musical Theory
Al-Kindi (801-873 a.d.), who was born in al-Kufa in Iraq, was known as “the Philosopher of the Arabs.” He was the first important theoretician of Arab music in the Arabo-Islamic world. He wrote 15 treatises on music theory; only five of them have survived. He also added a fifth string to the oud. Al-Farabi (872-950 a.d.), who was born in Kazakhstan, was a renowned scientist and philosopher of the Golden Age of Islam. He wrote a famous book on music that was titled Kitab al-Musiqi al-Kabir [The Great Book of Music]. It was primarily a study of the theory of Persian music of his time. The pure Arabic tone system that he described is still used. The great Muslim theologian and philosopher Al-Ghazali (1059–1111 a.d.), who was born in Persia, wrote a treatise on Persian music in which he stated that “ecstasy means the state that comes from listening to music".
The Maqam System
In general, Arab music is based on melody and rhythm, rather than on harmony. It is essentially homophonic, which means that it is characterized by a single melodic line, with accompaniment. Traditional Arabic music is based on the maqam system, which is a system of melodic modes. The Arabic maqam (plural: maqamat) is a melody type, which refers to a set of melodic formulas, figures, and patterns. The maqam is similar to the “mode” in Western classical music. The term “maqam” first appeared in treatises that were written by al-Sheikh al-Safadi and Abd al-Qadir al-Maraghi in the 14th century. Each maqam is built on a scale. There are between 90 and 110 maqamat in Arabic music theory. A maqam generally covers only one octave (usually two scale segments).The maqamat are then grouped into larger categories, each one of which is known as a fasila. A fasila is a grouping of maqamat, the first four primary pitches of which are the same. The tonic note, the dominant note, and the ending note are determined by the maqam that is employed.
Each maqam consists of at least two scale segments; a scale segment is known as a jins (Plural: Ajnas). The word “jins” is derived from the Latin word genus, meaning "type". A jins is usually composed of a trichord (three notes), a tetrachord (four notes), or a pentachord (five notes). Some maqamat may use different ajnas when descending and ascending, as is the case with melodic minor scales. Because of continuous innovation and the development of new ajnas, most music scholars have not reached a consensus with regard to the total number of ajnas that are in use. There are at least eight major ajnas: rast, bayat, sikah, hijaz, saba, kurd, nahawand, and ajam. These ajnas have commonly used variations that include: nakriz, athar kurd, sikah beladi, and saba zamzama.
Western music is based on the chromatic scale, which consists of twelve pitches, each of which is a semi-tone above or below the other. Unlike the chromatic scale that is used in Western classical music, maqam intonation is not even-tempered. Arabic scales contain many in-between notes, which are sometimes called “quarter tones.” As a result, Arabic music uses more notes than do Western musical scales. In theory, the quarter-tone scale consists of 24 notes. According to Yusuf Shawqi, author of Dictionary of Traditional Music in Oman, fewer tones are used in practice.
Influence of al-Andalus on Western Music
As of the 11th century, Moorish Spain had become a center for the production of Arabic musical instruments. These instruments first found their way to France, and then to the rest of Europe. For example, the English word “lute” comes from the Arabic word oud, the word “rebec” comes from the Arabic “rabab,” and the English word “organ” comes from the Arabic word “urghun.” The rebec was introduced into Europe in the 14th century, and it an ancestor of the violin. Other Arabic instruments that entered Europe included the qitara, which became the “guitar.” The term “qitara” included various members of the lute family that were precursors to the modern guitar.
Many observers believe that the music of the troubadours had Arabic origins. The American poet Ezra Pound wrote in his Canto VIII that William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, an early troubadour, "had brought the song up out of Spain, with the singers and veils..." Lévi-Provençal, the great French Orientalist, is said to have found four Arabo-Hispanic verses more or less duplicated in Williams IX’s manuscript. William VIII of Aquitaine, the father of William IX of Aquitaine, is said to have brought to Poitiers hundreds of Muslim prisoners, who may brought their music with them. John Brande Trend (1887-1958 a.d.), the British Hispanist, contended that the troubadours derived their sense of form as well as the themes of their poetry from the Andalusian Muslims. The hypothesis that the troubadour tradition was developed by William IX of Aquitaine after his contact with Moorish music while fighting with the Réconquísta in Spain traces its origins to the Italian Giammeria Barbieri (died 1575 a.d.) and Juan Andrés y Morell (1740-1817 a.d.), a Spanish Jesuit priest. It was also propounded by Ramόn Menéndez Pidal (1869-1968 a.d., a Spanish philologist and historian, in the early 20th century. Meg Bogin, an English translator of the female troubadours, supported this hypothesis, as did Idries Shah (1924-1996 A.D.), the Indian-born writer who was inspired by the Sufi tradition.
Solfège Notation System
According to some observers, the Western Solfège musical notation system may have had Arabic origins. Some people say that the Solfège syllables (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti) may have been derived from the syllables of the Arabic solmization system Durr-i-Mufassal ("Separated Pearls") (dal, ra, mim, fa, sad, lam). Solmization is a system of assigning a distinct syllable to each note in a musical scale. The theory of an Arabic origin to the Western Solfège system was first proposed by the Polish musicologist Franciszek Meninski in his Thesaurus Linguarum Orientalum (1680), and later on by J.B. de Laborde in his Essai sur la Musique Ancienne et Moderne (1780), while more recent proponents of this theory include Henry George Farmer, a British musicologist who specialized in Arabic music, and music scholar Samuel D. Miller.
Properties of Arab Music
Arabic music is characterized by an emphasis on melody and rhythm, rather than an emphasis on harmony. In general, Arabic music is homophonic, which means that it has a single melodic line with accompaniment. Habib Hassan Touma (1934-1998 a.d.), a Palestiniain composer and musicologist, lists "five components" that characterize Arabic music:
1. The Arabic tone system, which is a musical tuning system that relies on specific interval structures. It was invented by al-Farabi in the 10th century.
2. Rhythmic-temporal structures that create a rich variety of rhythmic patterns. These are known as “awzan,” or "weights," and they are used to accompany metered vocal or instrumental music in order to accent it or to give it form.
3. Certain musical instruments that are found throughout the Arab world. They produce a standardized tone system. They are usually played with standardized performance techniques, and they are similar in construction and design.
4. The existence of Arabic musical genres that can be broadly classified as urban, rural, or Bedouin.
5. A shared Arab musical mentality that produces an esthetic homogeneity of the tonal-spatial and rhythmic-temporal structures throughout the Arab world, whether the music is composed, improvised, instrumental, vocal, sacred or secular.
Arabic Musical Instruments
The archetypal Arabic musical group in Egypt and Syria is known as the takht. It includes instruments such as the oud, qanun (a string instrument similar to the zither), rabab, nay (a form of flute), violin (introduced in the 1840s or 1850s), riq (tambourine), and dumbek (a goblet-shaped drum). In Iraq, the traditional musical group is known as the shalghi. It includes only two melodic instruments: the jawza (similar to the rabab, but with four strings) and the santur (an Iranian hammered dulcimer). They are accompanied by the riq and the dumbek. The Arab world has adopted musical instruments from the West, including the electric guitar, cello, double bass and oboe, and it has also been influenced by jazz and other foreign musical styles.
Modern Arabic music has long been dominated by musical trends that have emerged in Cairo, which is a major cultural center of the Arab world. Innovations in popular music that reflect the influence of other regions have also appeared from Morocco to Saudi Arabia. In recent years, Beirut has become a major source of trends in the development of Arabic pop music. Other popular, regional music styles include the following:
1. From North Africa: Andalusian classical music, Shaabi (Algeria), Shaabi (Morocco), Al Jil (Egypt), Gnawa, Haqiba, Malhun, Mezwed, and Raȉ (Algeria).
2. From the Arabian Peninsula: Adani, Ardha, Fann al-Tanbura, Fijiri, Khaliji, Liwa, Mizmar, Malayah, Samri, Sawt, and Yawla
3. From the Levant: The dabka (a folk dance).
Secular and Western Influence
In the 20th century, Egypt was the first Arab country to experience the emergence of nationalism, as it gained its independence after 2,000 years of foreign rule. Turkish music, which had been popular during the Ottoman period, was replaced by nationalistic music with a more secular bent. Cairo became a center of innovation in Arabic music. One of the first singers to adopt a secular approach was Egypt’s Umm Kulthum. She was followed shortly afterwards by the famous Lebanese singer Fairuz.
Traditional Arabic Music (Tarab)
Since the development of the Arabic recording and film industry in the 1920s in Cairo, the singers have carried the banner for traditional Arabic music. Some of the major figures in traditional Arabic music include Oum Kulthum, Farid al-Atrash, Asmahan, Abd al-Halim Hafez, Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, Warda al-Jizairiyya, Fairuz, Fayza Ahmad, and Sayyid Darwish. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Western music began to have a greater influence on Arabic music. Singers Umm Kulthum and Abd al-Halim Hafez, along with composers Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab and Baligh Hamdi, introduced Western instruments into Egyptian music.
Arabic Pop Music
Arabic pop music appeared in the 1970s. It featured a combination of Western-styled songs and Arabic instruments and lyrics. Arabic pop melodies are usually a blend of Eastern and Western music. In the 1990s, many singers adopted this style. They included: Amr Diab (Egypt), Najwa Karam (Lebanon), Elissa (Lebanon), Nawal Al Zohgbi (Lebanon), Nancy Ajram (Lebanon), Haifa Wehbe (Lebanon), Majida al Roumy (Lebanon), Wael Kfoury (Lebanon), Carole Samaha (Lebanon), Yara (Lebanon), Samira Said (Morocco), Hisham Abbas (Egypt), Kazem al Saher (Iraq), Moustafa Qamar (Egypt), Ehab Tawfik (Egypt), Georges Wassouf (Syria), Fares Karam (Lebanon), Julia Boutros (Lebanon), and Amal Hijazi (Lebanon).
In 1996, Amr Diab released the song Habibi ya Nour El Ain . It became a great success in the Arab countries as well as worldwide. The title track, and its English version Habibi, was a big, international crossover hit. In this song, Amr Diab combined three musical heritages in one track. The Spanish influence was reflected in flamenco music, the French influence was reflected by an accordion solo, and the drum playing reflected the Arabic influence. This song enabled Arabic music to become popular throughout the world.
Arabic Hip Hop, R&B, and Reggae
In the past few years, R&B, reggae and hip hop-influenced Arabic music has emerged. These songs usually feature an Arabic-language rapper. The Moroccan singer Elam Jay has developed a modern version of the Gnawa genre that is influenced by R&B. He has called it “Gnawitone Styla.” Gnawa music reflects the influence of the Hausa people from Nigeria, who historically had close ties with Morocco. The Moroccan group Darga has introduced another version of contemporary Gnawa music that fuses Gnawa with reggae. Political reggae artists became popular in Palestine in 2011 after the Youtube premiere of a song about the Arab Spring that was called The Green Revolution. They include TootArd from the occupied Golan Heights and Walaa Sbeit from Haifa. Shadia Mansour, a well-known Palestinian-British rapper, is known as "The First Lady of Arab Hip Hop." Many of her songs are about the Palestinian cause.
Arabic jazz is characterized by the use of jazz instruments. Musicians such as Samir Suroor, an Egyptian saxophonist, pioneered the use of the saxophone in the "Oriental" style. The saxophone is used in the “oriental style” in certain songs by Abd al-Halim Hafez, as well as certain songs by Kazem al Saher and Rida al Abdallah today. The Lebanese Rahbani brothers were the first to incorporate elements of mainstream jazz into Arabic music. Fairuz’s later work consisted largely of jazz songs that were composed by her son, Ziad Rahbani. The latter was the pioneer of today's Oriental jazz movement, represented by singers such as Rima Khcheich (Lebanon), Salma El Mosfi (Lebanon), and Latifa (Tunisia). Egypt’s Mohamed Mounir's songs manifest much jazz influence, beginning with his first album, which was released in 1977.
Numerous Arab rock bands have fused rock, metal, and alternative rock sounds with traditional Arabic instruments. Arabic rock has been attracting a great deal of attention lately in the Middle East. Arabic rock bands include Jadal and Akher Zapheer from Jordan, Mashrou’Leila and Meen from Lebanon, Massar Egbari, Sahara, Wyvern, and Cartoon Killerz from Egypt, Khalas and Chaos from Palestine, and Acrassicauda from Iraq. The band HobaHoba Spirit from Morocco is also becoming more and more popular. Rachid Taha from Oran, Algeria plays a fusion of rock and raȉ. Raȉ music originated in Oran in the 1930’s. Regional, secular, and religious drumbeats, melodies, and instruments were fused with Western electronic instruments. Raȉ music has been influenced by American rap music. This music is popular with many young people in Algeria, but it is opposed by Islamic fundamentalists, who claim that it promotes un-Islamic values.
TOP ARABIC SINGERS
Nancy Ajram, Haifa Wehbe, Elissa, Najwa Karam, Amr Diab, Nawal Al Zoghbi, Ragheb Alama, Carole Samaha, Myriam Fares, Asala, Georges Wassouf, Sherine, Marwan Khoury, Mohamed Mounir, Tamer Hosny, Mohamed Hamaki, Mohamad Fouad, Ramy Sabry, Wael Jassar, Wael Kfoury, Ramy Ayach, Assi El Helani, Amr Mostafa, Angham, Fares Karam, Hisham Abbas, Cheb Khaled, Samira Said, Dounia Batma, Ehab Tawfik, Jannat.
Fairuz, Ziad Rahbani, Sabah, Majida El Roumi, Abdel Halim Hafez, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Warda Al Jazairia, Farid Al Atrash, Umm Kulthum, Talal Madah, Laila Mourad, Samira Tawfik, Wadih El Safi, Mayada El Hennawi, Fayza Ahmad, Najat Al Saghira, Chadia, Sabah Fakhri, Asmahan.