Arabic Music

Music is a universal language, it has the same alphabet, but the words differ from one part of the world to the other according to the nature of the people and the instruments they use.

The history of the Arabic music starts on the Arabian peninsula in the pre-Islamic era, where poets, musician and singers used to gather around in markets to perform. Women also had a major contribution to the music scene back then as they used to sing and play their instruments in festivals and religious ceremonies. Then in the Islamic era, the music scene changed a lot. As the Arabs merged with the people of Persia after the invasion of Persia they adopted a lot of their musical habits. You can still see the influence of that time in the names of scientific musical terms which are still prevalent in modern Arab music.

After the advent of the Islamic country, music developed a lot. During the Umayyad period, singers were welcomed at the Royal palace and they were nurtured by the Umayyad caliphs. This nurturing continued to the Abbasid period, which is also called the golden age, as the Islamic country flourished in so many aspects, including music and culture. This was also the time when Arabic scientists starting writing books about music for example the works of Avicenna and Al-Kindi. Finally in the Andalusian era, when the headquarters of the Islamic country were based there in the 19th century, Cordoba became the center of music development and more books and encyclopedia were written on music, like the works of Al-Faraby and Zeryab.

After the fall of the Islamic country in Andalusia, a number of Arabic musical instruments such as the lute, the rebec, and the qitara were adapted in the music culture of Europe. Also the work of Al-Faraby was translated into Latin and was considered to be a strong foundation for European music scholars later on.

The main Arabic music instruments are the oud, the violin, the Qanoon, the flute, tambourine, drums, and Rababa, and they are called “the Arabic Takht.” In the modern Arab world, specifically in Egypt in the second half of the nineteenth century, the development of modern Arabic music and singing started. Major contributors in this era were Abdo Hamouli and Sayed Darwish. Later on, Western musical instruments were introduced into the Arabic Takht, such as the violin and piano. The singing differed a bit and the lead musicians of this style and that period are Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Farid al-Atrash, Zakaria Ahmad, and Riad El-Sunbati.

Arabic song development introduced many singers to Arabic music, such as the legend Umm Kulthum, Wadie El Safi, Fairuz, Sayyed Mekkawy, Asmahan and Abdel Halim Hafez.

The tones, rhythms, and melodies of Arabic music are different from Western ones. The basis of tonality is called ‚Maqam‘, literally translated as mode and is also characterized by a quarter tone which is not present in Western music.

As for contemporary Arabic music, there are those who still insist on the classical way of singing and there are those who are affected by globalization. What young people listen to now is much closer to Western pop music than Eastern music and examples of contemporary young singers are Amr Diab, Asala Nasri and Hakim.

And finally I leave you with a beautiful Arabic song by my favorite singer, Fairouz.


[اللغة العربية]

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