Music of Egypt

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Egyptian instrumentals C+B-Music-Fig26-EgyptianBand.PNG
Egyptian instrumentals
Ancient Egyptian guitar Britannica Guitar Egypt.jpg
Ancient Egyptian guitar

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.

Culture of Egypt culture of an area

The culture of Egypt has thousands of years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations in Middle East and Africa. For millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly unique, complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in the northeast corner of Africa, whose territory in the Sinai Peninsula extends beyond the continental boundary with Asia, as traditionally defined. Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Rhythm in Arabic music

Rhythms in Arabic music are rich and very diverse, as they cover a huge region and peoples from Northern Africa to Western Asia. Rhymes are mainly analysed by means of rhythmic units called awzan and iqa'at.

Contents

History

The ancient Egyptians credited the goddess Bat with the invention of music. The cult of Bat was eventually syncretised into that of Hathor because both were depicted as cows. Hathor's music was believed to have been used by Osiris as part of his effort to civilise the world. The lion-goddess Bastet was also considered a goddess of music.

Egyptians are the citizens of Egypt. Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to the Mediterranean and enclosed by desert both to the east and to the west. This unique geography has been the basis of the development of Egyptian society since antiquity. The first article of the constitution says: “Egyptians are part of the Arab nation and enhance its integration and unity. Egypt is part of the Muslim world, belongs to the African continent, is proud of its Asian dimension, and contributes to building human civilization”.

Bat was a cow goddess in Egyptian mythology depicted as a human face with cow ears and horns. By the time of the Middle Kingdom, her identity and attributes were subsumed within the goddess Hathor.

Music form of art using sound and silence

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

Neolithic period

In prehistoric Egypt, music and chanting were commonly used in magic and rituals. Rhythms during this time were unvaried and music served to create rhythm. Small shells were used as whistles. [1] (pp26–30)

Prehistoric Egypt period of earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt

The prehistory of Egypt spans the period from the earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period around 3100 BC, starting with the first Pharaoh, Narmer for some Egyptologists, Hor-Aha for others, with the name Menes also possibly used for one of these kings. This Predynastic era is traditionally equivalent to the final part of the Neolithic period beginning c. 6000 BC and ends in the Naqada III period c. 3000 BC.

Predynastic period

During the predynastic period of Egyptian history, funerary chants continued to play an important role in Egyptian religion and were accompanied by clappers or a flute. Despite the lack of physical evidence in some cases, Egyptologists theorise that the development of certain instruments known of the Old Kingdom period, such as the end-blown flute, took place during this time. [1] (pp33–34)

Clapper (musical instrument) musical instrument

A clapper is a basic form of percussion instrument. It consists of two long solid pieces that are clapped together producing sound. A straightforward instrument to produce and play, they exist in many forms in many different cultures around the world. Clappers can take a number of forms and be made of a wide variety of material. Wood is most common, but metal and ivory have also been used. The plastic thundersticks that have recently come to be popular at sporting events can be considered a form of inflated plastic clapper.

Flute Musical instrument of the woodwind family

The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.

Old Kingdom

The evidence for instruments played is more securely attested in the Old Kingdom when harps, flutes and double clarinets were played.[ citation needed ] Percussion instruments and lutes were added to orchestras by the Middle Kingdom. Cymbals frequently accompanied music and dance, much as they still do in Egypt today.

Harp class of musical instruments

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.

Double clarinet

The term double clarinet refers to any of several woodwind instruments consisting of two parallel pipes made of cane, bird bone, or metal, played simultaneously, with a single reed for each. Commonly, there are five or six tone holes in each pipe, or holes in only one pipe while the other acts as a drone, and the reeds are either cut from the body of the instrument or created by inserting smaller, slit tubes into the ends of the pipes. The player typically uses circular breathing.

Typically ancient Egyptian music was composed from the phrygian dominant scale, phrygian scale, double harmonic scale (Arabic scale) or lydian scale.[ citation needed ] The phrygian dominant scale may often feature an altered note or two in parts to create tension. For instance the music could typically be in the key of E phrygian dominant using the notes E, F, G sharp, A, B, C, D and then have an A sharp, B, A sharp, G natural and E to create tension.

In music, the Phrygian dominant scale is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, the fifth being the dominant. Also called the altered Phrygian scale, dominant flat 2 flat 6 (in jazz), the Freygish scale (also spelled Fraigish), or simply the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale. It resembles the scale of the Phrygian mode but has a major third. In the Berklee method, it is known as the Mixolydian 9 13 chord scale, a Mixolydian scale with a lowered 9th (2nd) and lowered 13th (6th), used in secondary dominant chord scales for V7/III and V7/VI.

The Phrygian mode can refer to three different musical modes: the ancient Greek tonos or harmonia sometimes called Phrygian, formed on a particular set of octave species or scales; the Medieval Phrygian mode, and the modern conception of the Phrygian mode as a diatonic scale, based on the latter.

In music, the double harmonic major scale is a scale whose gaps may sound unfamiliar to Western listeners. This is also known as Mayamalavagowla, Bhairav Raga, Byzantine scale, Arabic, and Gypsy major. It can be likened to a gypsy scale because of the augmented step between the 2nd and 3rd degrees. Arabic scale may also refer to any Arabic mode, the simplest of which, however, to Westerners, resembles the double harmonic major scale.

Medieval music

Early Middle Eastern music was influenced by Byzantine and Persian forms, which were themselves heavily influenced by earlier Greek, Semitic, and Ancient Egyptian music.

Egyptians in Medieval Cairo believed that music exercised "too powerful an effect upon the passions, and leading men into gaiety, dissipation and vice." However, Egyptians generally were very fond of music. Though, according to E.W. Lane, no "man of sense" would ever become a musician, music was a key part of society. Tradesmen of every occupation used music during work and schools taught the Quran by chanting. [2] (p359)

The music of Medieval Egypt was derived from Greek and Persian traditions. Lane said that "the most remarkable peculiarity of the Arab system of music is the division of tones into thirds," although today Western musicologists prefer to say that Arabic music's tones are divided into quarters. The songs of this period were similar in sound and simple, within a small range of tones. Egyptian song, though simple in form, is embellished by the singer. Distinct enunciation and a quavering voice are also characteristics of Egyptian singing. [2] (pp360–361)

Male professional musicians during this period were called Alateeyeh (plural), or Alatee (singular), which means "a player upon an instrument". However, this name applies to both vocalists as well as instrumentalists. This position was considered disreputable and lowly. However, musicians found work singing or playing at parties to entertain the company. They generally made three shillings a night, but earned more by the guests' givings.

Female professional musicians were called Awalim (pl) or Al’meh, which means a learned female. These singers were often hired on the occasion of a celebration in the harem of a wealthy person. They were not with the harem, but in an elevated room that was concealed by a screen so as not to be seen by either the harem or the master of the house. The female Awalim were more highly paid than male performers and more highly regarded than the Alateeyeh as well. Lane relates an instance of a female performer who so enraptured her audience that she earned up to fifty guineas for one night's performance from the guests and host, themselves not considered wealthy.

Modern Egyptian classical and pop music

In the second half of the 19th century, the Hasaballah genre of popular improvisational brass band folk music emerged, initiated by clarinettist Mohammad Hasaballah and his band, also called Hasaballah, playing in Cairo's music and entertainment quarter on Mohammed Ali Street. The typical line-up of trumpet, trombone, bass and snare drums, was popular, such as at family events, for well over a century, and is still played. [3] [4]

Egyptian music began to be recorded in the 1910s when Egypt was still part of the Ottoman Empire. The cosmopolitan Ottomans encouraged the development of the arts, encouraging women and minorities to develop their musical abilities. By the fall of the Empire, Egypt's classical musical tradition was already thriving, centered on the city of Cairo. In general, modern Egyptian music blends its indigenous traditions with Turkish and western elements.

Since the end of World War I, some of the Middle East's biggest musical stars have been Egyptian. Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of luminaries such as Abdu-l Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmud Osman, who were all patronized by the Ottoman Khedive Ismail, and who influenced the later work of the 20th century's most important Egyptian composers: Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Zakariya Ahmed. Most of these stars, including Umm Kulthum and Nagat El-Saghira, were part of the traditional Egyptian music. Some, like Abd el-Halim Hafez, were associated with the Egyptian nationalist movement from 1952 onward.

Religious music in Egypt

Religious music remains an essential part of traditional Sufi Muslim and Coptic Christian celebrations called mulids. Mulids are held in Egypt to celebrate the saint of a particular church. Muslim mulids are related to the Sufi zikr ritual. The Egyptian flute, called the ney, is commonly played at mulids. The liturgical music of the Alexandrian Rite also constitutes an important element of Egyptian music and is said to have preserved many features of ancient Egyptian music.

Lute and double pipe players from a painting found in the Theban tomb of Nebamun, a nobleman of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, c. 1350 BC Egyptian lute players 001.jpg
Lute and double pipe players from a painting found in the Theban tomb of Nebamun, a nobleman of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, c. 1350 BC

Folkloric music

Egyptian folk music, including the traditional Sufi dhikr rituals, are the closest contemporary music genre to ancient Egyptian music, having preserved many of its features, rhythms and instruments. [5] [6]

Folk and roots revival

The 20th century has seen Cairo become associated with a roots revival. Musicians from across Egypt are keeping folk traditions alive, such as those of rural Egyptians (fellahin), the Saii'da, and to a lesser extent minorities like the Siwa people, the Egyptian Gypsies, the Sinawis and the Nubians. Mixtures of folk and pop have also risen from the Cairo hit factory.

Since the Nasser era, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly important in Egyptian culture, particularly among the large youth population of Egypt. Egyptian folk music continues to be played during weddings and other traditional festivities. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Egyptian music was a way to communicate social and class issues. Among some of the most popular Egyptian pop singers today are Mohamed Mounir and Amr Diab.

Sawahli (coastal) music is a type of popular Egyptian music from the country's northern coast, and is based around ancient Egyptian instrumentals, mainly the simsimiyya, which is an indigenous stringed instrument. Well-known singers include Abdo El-Iskandrani and Eid El-Gannirni.

Saidi (Upper Egyptian)

Egyptian musicians from Upper Egypt play a form of folk music called Ṣa‘īdi which originates from Upper Egypt). Discovered in 1975 by Alan Weber, Metqal Qenawi's Les Musiciens du Nil ( Musicians of the Nile) are the most popular saidi group, and were chosen by the government to represent Egyptian folk music abroad. They spent over three decades touring Europe performing at various festivals and musical events and in 1983 after their performance in the World of Music and Dance Festival, they were signed to Peter Gabriel's label Real World-Carolina and went on to feature on his Album Passion. Other performers include Shoukoukou, Ahmad Ismail, Omar Gharzawi, Sohar Magdy and Ahmed Megahid.

Nubian

In Egypt, Nubians are native to southern part of Aswan, though some live in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities. Nubian folk music can still be heard, but migration and intercultural contact with Egyptian and other musical genres have produced new innovations. Ali Hassan Kuban's efforts had made him a regular on the world music scene, while Mohamed Mounir's social criticism and sophisticated pop have made him a star among Nubians, Egyptians, and other people worldwide. Ahmed Mounib, Mohamed Mounir's mentor, was by far the most notable Nubian singer to hit the Egyptian music scene, singing in both Egyptian Arabic his native Nobiin. Hamza El Din is another popular Nubian Egyptian artist, well known on the world music scene and has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet.

Western classical music

Western classical music was introduced to Egypt, and, in the middle of the 18th century, instruments such as the piano and violin were gradually adopted by Egyptians. Opera also became increasingly popular during the 18th century, and Giuseppe Verdi's Egyptian-themed Aida was premiered in Cairo on December 24, 1871.

By the early 20th century, the first generation of Egyptian composers, including Yusef Greiss, Abu Bakr Khairat, and Hasan Rashid, began writing for Western instruments. The second generation of Egyptian composers included notable artists such as Gamal Abdelrahim. Representative composers of the third generation are Ahmed El-Saedi and Rageh Daoud. In the early 21st century, even fourth generation composers such as Mohamed Abdelwahab Abdelfattah (of the Cairo Conservatory) have gained international attention.

Egyptian musical instruments

A typical contemporary Egyptian ensemble compromising the Oud, qanun, violin, ney and cello. Arabic Takht.jpg
A typical contemporary Egyptian ensemble compromising the Oud, qanun, violin, ney and cello.

During the Abbasid and Ottoman dynasty Egypt was one of the main musical hubs in the middle east and therefore after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 Egypt became the capital of Arabic music where classical instrument such as the oud, qanun and ney were widely used. The typical takht (ensemble) consisted of an Oud player, qanun player, ney player and violin player. The takht (literally meaning a sofa) was the most common form of ensembles in the early 20th century before the adoption of more orchestral instruments which were introduced by composers such as Mohamed El Qasabgi, Riad El Sunbati and Mohammed Abdel Wahab.

Electronic music

One of the most respected early electronic music composers, Halim El-Dabh, is an Egyptian. However, the Egyptian electronic music scene has only gained a mainstream foothold recently in the form of techno, trance and dance pop DJs such as Aly & Fila. In the 2010s, Shaabi music, a form of electronic music which often contains political lyrics, gained popularity both inside and outside music. [7]

Reconstruction of ancient Egyptian music

In the early 21st century, interest in the music of the pharaonic period began to grow, inspired by the research of such foreign-born musicologists as Hans Hickmann. By the early 21st century, Egyptian musicians and musicologists led by the musicology professor Khairy El-Malt at Helwan University in Cairo had begun to reconstruct musical instruments of Ancient Egypt, a project that is ongoing. [8]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 Arroyos, Rafael Pérez (2003). Egypt: Music in the Age of the Pyramids (1st ed.). Madrid: Centro de Estudios Egipcios. p. 28. ISBN   8493279617.
  2. 1 2 Lane, Edward William (2003). An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians: The Definitive 1860 Edition. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. ISBN   9789774247842.
  3. Egypt: Hasaballah, the People's Music, Al Jazeera, 22 Nov 2017
  4. Hasaballah Music: The Past and The Present, The Community Times, 24 May 2016
  5. Hickmann, Hans (1957). "Un Zikr Dans le Mastaba de Debhen, Guizah (IVeme Dynastie)". Journal of the International Folk Music Council. 9: 59–62. doi:10.2307/834982.
  6. Hickmann, Hans (January 1960). "Rythme, mètre et mesure de la musique instrumentale et vocale des anciens Egyptiens". Acta Musicologica. 32 (1): 11–22. doi:10.2307/931818.
  7. "Six Explosive Tracks that Define Mahraganat, Egypt's Wildly Popular Street Music". Thump. Retrieved 2017-05-23.
  8. Ancient Egyptian Music Symposium

Further reading

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