Middle Eastern music spans across a vast region, from Morocco to Iran. The various nations of the region include the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the Iranian traditions of Persia, the Hebrew music of Israel and the diaspora, Armenian music, the varied traditions of Cypriot music, the music of Turkey, traditional Assyrian music, Berbers of North Africa, Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the Andalusian (Muslim Spain) music very much alive in North Africa, all maintain their own traditions. It is widely regarded that some Middle-Eastern musical styles have influenced India, as well as Central Asia, Spain, and the Balkans.
Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in the Maghreb region of North Africa with an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction. Educationally and culturally, Morocco hosts the world's oldest university which is in Fez, the University of Al Quaraouiyine.
Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital, largest city, and leading economic and cultural center.
The Arab world, also known as the Arab nation, the Arabsphere or the Arab states, currently consists of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries that make up the members of the Arab League. These countries occupy the Middle East, North Africa and parts of East Africa; areas stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The contemporary Arab world has a combined population of around 422 million inhabitants, over half of whom are under 25 years of age.
Throughout the region, religion has been a common factor in uniting peoples of different languages, cultures and nations. The predominance of Islam allowed a great deal of Arabic, and Byzantine influence to spread through the region rapidly from the 7th century onward. The Arabic scale is strongly melodic, based on various maqamat (sing. maqam) or modes (also known as makam in Turkish music). Arabs translated and developed Greek texts and works of music and mastered the musical theory of the music of ancient Greece (i.e. Systema ametabolon, enharmonium, chromatikon, diatonon).This is similar to the dastgah of Persian music. While this originates with classical music, the modal system has filtered down into folk, liturgical and even popular music, with influence from the West. Unlike much western music, Arabic music includes quarter tones halfway between notes, often through the use of stringed instruments (like the oud) or the human voice. Further distinguishing characteristics of Middle Eastern and North African music include very complex rhythmic structures, generally tense vocal tone, and a monophonic texture. Traditional Middle Eastern music does not use chords, or harmony in the Western sense.
Arabic music is the music of the Arab World with all its different music styles and genres. Arabic countries have many styles of music and also many dialects; each country has its own traditional music.
Arabic maqam is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or position. The Arabic maqam is a melody type. It is "a technique of improvisation" that defines the pitches, patterns, and development of a piece of music and which is "unique to Arabian art music". There are seventy two heptatonic tone rows or scales of maqamat. These are constructed from major, neutral, and minor seconds. Each maqam is built on a scale, and carries a tradition that defines its habitual phrases, important notes, melodic development and modulation. Both compositions and improvisations in traditional Arabic music are based on the maqam system. Maqamat can be realized with either vocal or instrumental music, and do not include a rhythmic component.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
Often, more traditional Middle-Eastern music can last from one to three hours in length, building up to anxiously awaited, and much applauded climaxes, or tarab, derived from the Arabic term طرب tarraba.
Many instruments originate in the Middle East region. Most popular of the stringed instruments is the oud, a pear-shaped lute that traditionally had four strings, although current instruments have up to six courses consisting of one or two strings each. Legend has it that the oud was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. This is stated by Al-Farabi, and it is part of the Iraqi folklore relating to the instrument. Legend goes on to suggest that the first oud was inspired by the shape of his son's bleached skeleton.
The oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses, commonly used predominantly in the music of the Western Asia and North Africa: especially Egypt, Syria, the Jewish diaspora, Sudan, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Somalia, Yemen, Arabia, Iran, Greece, Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, North African Chaabi, Classical, and Spanish Andalusian classic music.
Lamech is a person in Cain's genealogy in the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis. He is a sixth-generation descendant of Cain ; his father was named Methushael, and he was responsible for the "Song of the Sword". He is also noted as the first polygamist mentioned in the Bible, taking two wives, Adah and Zillah (Tselah).
Al-Farabi was a renowned philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was also a scientist, cosmologist, mathematician and music scholar.
Historically, the oldest pictorial record of the oud dates back to the Uruk period in Southern Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago. It is on a cylinder seal currently housed at the British Museum and acquired by Dr. Dominique Collon,Editor of Iraq at the British Institute for the Study of Iraq.
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia and the Sumerian civilization. The late Uruk period saw the gradual emergence of the cuneiform script and corresponds to the Early Bronze Age; it may also be called the Protoliterate period. It was during this period that pottery painting declined as copper started to become popular, along with cylinder seals.
Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.
The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI) is the only body in Britain devoted to research into the ancient civilizations and languages of Mesopotamia. It was founded in 1932 and its aims are to support and undertake research into the archaeology of Iraq and the neighbouring countries from the earliest times to c. AD 1700, and to promote the cultural heritage of Iraq. Since 1934, the School has published a refereed journal, Iraq, which is now published annually, in November/December of each year.
Used mostly in court music for royals and the rich, the harp also comes from ancient Egypt c. 3500 BC.
The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia, Africa and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BC. The instrument had great popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where it evolved into a wide range of variants with new technologies, and was disseminated to Europe's colonies, finding particular popularity in Latin America. Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa, and other defunct variants in Europe and Asia have been utilized by musicians in the modern era.
Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.
The widespread use of the oud led to many variations on the instrument, including the saz, a Turkish long-necked lute that remains very popular in Turkey.
Another popular string instrument is the qanoun, developed by Farabi during the Abbasids era. Legend has it that Farabi played qanoun in court and alternately made people laugh, cry, or fall asleep. The qanoun developed out of string instruments described in inscriptions that date to the Assyrian period.It has about 26 triple-string courses, plucked with a piece of horn. The musician has the freedom to alter the pitch of individual courses from a quarter to a whole step by adjusting metal levers.
Middle Eastern music also makes use of the violin, which is European in origin. The violin was adopted into Middle Eastern music in the 19th century, and it is able to produce non-Western scales that include quarter-tones because it is fretless.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Percussion instruments play a very important role in Middle Eastern music. The complex rhythms of this music are often played on many simple percussion instruments. The riq الرق (a type of tambourine) and finger cymbals add a higher rhythmic line to rhythm laid down with sticks, clappers, and other drums. An instrument native to Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, the doumbek (or tombak), is a drum made of ceramic clay, with a goatskin head glued to the body.[ citation needed ]
The Armenian duduk is a very popular double reeded, oboe-like instrument made out of Apricot tree wood. The Moroccan oboe, also called the rhaita, has a double-reed mouthpiece that echoes sound down its long and narrow body. A similar instrument is called the sorna. Equivalent to the mizmar and zurna, it is used more for festivals and loud celebrations. A Turkish influence comes from the mey, which has a large double reed. Bamboo reed pipes are the most common background to belly dancing and music from Egypt. Flutes are also a common woodwind instrument in ensembles. A kaval is a three-part flute that is blown in one end, whereas the ney is a long cane flute, played by blowing across the sharp edge while pursing the lips.
Music pervades Middle Eastern societies.While traditional music remains popular in the Middle East, modern music reconciling Western and traditional Arabic styles, pop, and fusion are rapidly advancing in popularity. Lebanese musical pioneer Lydia Canaan is listed in the catalog of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Library and Archives in Cleveland, Ohio, USA as the first rock star of the Middle East. Canaan fused Middle Eastern quarter notes and microtones with anglophone rock, innovating a unique style of world music.
Music history, sometimes called historical musicology, is a highly diverse subfield of the broader discipline of musicology that studies music from a historical point of view. In theory, "music history" could refer to the study of the history of any type or genre of music. In practice, these research topics are often categorized as part of ethnomusicology or cultural studies, whether or not they are ethnographically based. The terms "music history" and "historical musicology" usually refer to the history of the notated music of Western elites, sometimes called "art music".
Music has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since antiquity. The Bible documents the instruments played by the ancient Hebrews, all of which are correlated in Egyptian archaeology. Egyptian music probably had a significant impact on the development of ancient Greek music, and via the Greeks was important to early European music well into the Middle Ages. Egyptian modern music is considered as a main core of Middle Eastern and Oriental music as it has a very big influence on the region due to the popularity and huge influence of Egyptian Cinema and Music industries. The tonal structure of Oriental Middle Eastern music is defined by the maqamat, loosely similar to the Western modes, while the rhythm of Middle Eastern music is governed by the iqa'at, standard rhythmic modes formed by combinations of accented and unaccented beats and rests.
The music of Iraq or Iraqi music,, also known as the Music of Mesopotamia encompasses the music of a number of ethnic groups and musical genres. Ethnically, it includes Arabic music, Assyrian, Kurdish and the music of Turkmen, among others. Apart from the traditional music of these peoples, Iraqi music includes contemporary music styles such as pop, rock, soul and urban contemporary.
The qanun, kanun, ganoun or kanoon is a string instrument played either solo, or more often as part of an ensemble, in much of the Middle East, Maghreb, West Africa, Central Asia, and southeastern regions of Europe. The name derives from the Arabic word qanun, meaning "rule, law, norm, principle", which is borrowed from the ancient Greek word and musical instrument κανών (rule), which in Latin was called canon. Traditional and Classical musics executed on the qanun are based on Maqamat or Makamlar. Qanun is thought to trace its origins to Ancient Greece, developed by the Pythagoreans in the 6th century BC, however may have originated since Minoan or Mycenaean times between 3000BC and 1600BC. The instrument is a type of large zither with a thin trapezoidal soundboard that is famous for its unique melodramatic sound.
The music of Lebanon has a long history. Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, has long been known, especially in a period immediately following World War II, for its art and intellectualism. Several singers emerged in this period, among the most famous Fairuz, Sabah, Wadih El Safi, Nasri Shamseddine, Melhem Barakat, Salwa Katrib, Majida El Roumi, Ahmad Kaabour, Marcel Khalife,, and Ziad Rahbany, who—in addition to being an engaged singer-songwriter and music composer—was also a popular playwright. Lydia Canaan was hailed by the media as the first rock star of the Middle East.
The culture of Lebanon and the Lebanese people emerged from various civilizations over thousands of years. It was home to the Phoenicians and was subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks and the French. This variety is reflected in Lebanon's diverse population, composed of different religious groups, and features in the country's festivals, musical styles, literature, cuisine of Lebanon and architecture of Lebanon. Tourism in Lebanon is popular with periods of interruption during conflict.
Munir Bashir, the King of Oud was an Iraqi Assyrian musician and one of the most famous musicians in the Middle East during the 20th century and was considered to be the supreme master of the Arab maqamat scale system.
Arabic pop music or Arab pop is a subgenre of pop music and Arabic music.
Taqsim is a melodic musical improvisation that usually precedes the performance of a traditional Arabic, Greek, Middle Eastern, or Turkish musical composition.
Omar Bashir is an Iraqi-Hungarian musician. His father, Munir Bashir, was considered to be the supreme master of the Arab maqamat scale system.
Farid and Rami Chehade, who perform professionally as the Chehade Brothers, are Palestinian-Lebanese musicians and singers.
Assyrian folk/pop music, also known as Assyrian folk music, Assyrian pop music or Syriac music, is the traditional music style of Assyrian people that includes a broad range of genre, which would encompass, or fuse, western genres such as electronic, Latin, jazz and/or classical music, with a melodic influence of Assyrian folk. Assyrian songs are usually lengthy, tending to be around 5 minutes long on average.
Lydia Canaan is a Lebanese singer-songwriter and humanitarian activist widely regarded as the first “rock star” of the Middle East.
MAQAM is a US-based production company specializing in Arabic and Middle Eastern media. The company was established by a small group of Arabic music and culture lovers, later becoming a division of 3B Media Inc. "MAQAM" is an Arabic word meaning a position of high esteem. It also refers to a musical mode in Arabic music that is based on the quarter-tone scale.
Sahar Taha was an Iraqi musician and journalist living in Lebanon. She co-hosted the Lebanese programme Banat Hawa on LBC. She was known for playing the oud in both eastern and western music.
Khyam Allami is a British-based musician and musicologist of Iraqi descent. He is best known as a contemporary player of the Arabic oud lute and has also written about and lectured on Arabic music.
The Brothers of the Baladi is a World music band based in Portland, Oregon, USA, that plays both traditional Middle Eastern music, and also combines traditional Middle Eastern and western sounds and instruments for a unique Worldbeat sound. Band leader/percussionist/vocalist Michael Beach provides lyrics in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, French, Spanish, Kurdish, Armenian and English, and the band features many traditional Middle Eastern instruments including oud, saz, mizmar, midjwiz, arghool, doumbek, riq, def, tar, bendir and davul.