Master musician and composer Simon Shaheen, along with his ensemble Qantara, demonstrates the unique sounds in traditional/classical Arab music.
Instruments and Rhythms of the Arab World
To western ears and eyes, musical instruments and of the Arab World may seem exotic. Host Georges Collinet (NPR’s Afropop Worldwide) is joined by scholars and musicians to explore the sounds and history of Arab musical instruments, such as the qanun, the oud, the rebab and the nay. The rhythms and musical tonality that help define the rich sound of Arabic music are explored in this informative podcast.
What Makes Arabic Music Unique?
Much of what defines the music of the Arab World is the experience, not only for the musician, but also for the listener. In the Arab World, the audience is an active participant, responding to the ornamental and improvisatory offerings of the players, giving vocal feedback while in a state of “musical ecstacy.” Joined by Arabic music scholars and musicians, host Georges Collinet (NPR’s Afropop Worldwide) explores this important bond between musician and audience, and how it creates a unique musical relationship.
Styles of Music of the Arab World
The Arab World spans the width of North African Maghreb, across the Arabian Peninsula and into the Levant. Centuries of indigenous and nomadic traditions have created a musical cultural tapestry of unique regional styles bound by common themes and ideas. In the 21st Century, Arabic folk music traditions have been confronted with increased globalization, from Egyptian mega-star Umm Kulthum, to the worldwide influence of Western media. Host Georges Collinet (NPR’s Afropop Worldwide) is joined by Arabic musicians to discuss the many styles and future of music of the Arab World.
- What are some of the key instruments used in Arab music? Do they have counterparts/similarities to instruments in Western music?
- What are some of the unique elements of Arab music?
- What are some of the common musical roots of the diverse world of Arab music?
Describe the state of “musical ecstasy.” Do other types of musical traditions from other parts of the world have this? Describe and then compare and contrast these practices.
What are some of the predictions the musicians make about where Arab music is going? What are some of their reasons for this?
As you view, stay focused on your purpose for listening.
- Before you get started, think of what you already know about Arab music. What are some of the sounds or instruments you associate with this type of music? Have you heard music from the Arab world before? Who were the artists/groups/styles, etc? What do you remember about it? Keep these things in mind as you explore the interactive.
- Also, take a look at the accompanying vocabulary sheet before beginning your listening. Are you familiar with any of these words?
- As you listen, think about the fact that “Arab music” can mean many different things (styles, practices, etc.) and reflect on the diversity of music from the Arab world.
- As you listen, stop the audio track after each section to sum up what you have learned.
- These tracks are downloadable- grab them for your MP3 player for repeated listening.
Additional Arabic Music Videos
Allow students to listen online or to download the episodes in the series. For many students, this may be their first in-depth encounter with Arab music, and multiple listening sessions may be appropriate. Have students look over the accompanying vocabulary handout before listening to the audio tracks.
In part 1, explore the fascinating history and sounds of musical instruments of the Arab World, many of which are direct ancestors of modern Western musical instruments.
In part 2, scholars and musicians to explore unique elements of Arabic musical culture, including improvisation, ornamentation, audience participation, and the state of "musical ecstacy."
In part 3, musicians from across the Arab World join to discuss and demonstrate the diverse musical culture of Arab nations, their common musical roots, and where they believe Arabic music is headed.
For each audio story, engage in discussion around the similarities and differences between Western and Arab music-- the instruments, sounds and subject matter. Consider the traditional, classical and contemporary music of each culture.
September 9, 2019
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