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Music Culture of the Arab World

In the current essay we will review the topic – the music of the Arab World. In the essay we will talk about how some dances, music, music traditions have changed overtime and some staying the same for different reasons. Cultures are moving to other countries and adopting other music cultures and adding it into their own.

Arabic music is the music of the Arab countries, in spoken Arabic and the religion is Islam. There are included genres under this category of classical, popular, secular and religious. Arab music has been in contact with other regional music, as Persian, Turkish, Indian, Berber, the Swahili, the Andalusian and European. As in other areas of science or the arts, Muslims translated from Greek into Arabic the ancient treaties of music theory, and assimilated the principles of systems enharmonic, chromatic and diatonic. Arab music is also characterized by the primacy of melody and rhythm over harmony.

From the standpoint of melodic Arabic music, the system is based on the octave divided into 24 quarter tones, a system difficult to grasp by the ears accustomed to Western music, tonal and harmonic educated eighth divided into 12 semitones and outside the microtonal. To write the Arabic music using Western musical notation, foreign to the quarter-tone, you use the + and -. The + is used to indicate the elevation of a quarter-tone and the sign – to indicate the drop of a quarter tone. These signs, combined with the flat, sharp and natural sign, provided the graphic representation of the quarter-tone intervals, as described in Arab Civilization.

The Arabic maqam is a system of melodic modes used in Arabic music. The word maqam means season. Each maqam is made at a certain scale and a series of important notes, typical melodic phrases and melodic development and modulation determined by tradition. Both compositions and improvisations in traditional Arabic music are based on the maqam system. The maqam can be interpreted either with an instrument or voice and does not include the pace.

Peoples of the Arab East have an important place in the history of human culture. Not accidentally medieval geographers called Arab East breasts of the world: here for centuries beating heart of world civilization. Medieval Arab culture developed in Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa, as well as in southern Spain during the period of the Caliphate of Cordoba there and Arab Kingdoms. Medieval Arab culture at the time was a major step forward in the progressive development of mankind. Much of the credit peoples of the Arab East were and that they retained (especially in science) and passed to succeeding generations, many valuable achievements of antiquity.

In historical science, a true picture of Arab culture has been produced at once. In the last century, and even now, among many bourgeois scientists widespread misconception according to which all countries that were part of VII-IX centuries in the Arab caliphate and accept Islam, there was a unified “Arab” culture. Such an understanding of Arab culture, uncritically following the medieval Muslim tradition, leads to the denial of self-development of the culture of Iranians, Azeris, Uzbeks, Tajiks and many other nations in the Middle Ages. In fact, in countries with non-Arab population, there were part of the caliphate, developed, drawing on ancient traditions, local culture, which, like the culture of the Arabs, were a valuable contribution to the development of medieval civilization. Of course, between the peoples of the Middle East in the Middle Ages there was a complex and important for their cultural interaction, gave rise to common features.

Culture of the peoples who inhabited the Arabian Peninsula has been known since antiquity. Ancient geographers called the southern, agricultural Arabia “happy.” Here, from the middle of the first millennium BC there were rich nations. In the first millennium BC in the northwestern part of the peninsula (the so-called “stony Arabia”) emerged the state Nabataeans. The prosperity of these kingdoms was determined by competitive economic position in the global routes of communication and extensive mediation in trade with Egypt, the Near East and India, as described in Arab Culture and History.

The bulk of the population of Arabia since ancient times, were nomads who engaged in animal husbandry in the steppes and semi-desert peninsula. Deep and complex process of class stratification within the Arab society and the political environment is associated with the struggle between Iran and the Byzantine Empire created with the conditions for the emergence of the medieval Arab state. Political unification of the Arabs at the beginning of VII century took place under the auspices of the new, soon became a world religion – Islam. Original seat of the founder of Islam and Arab Heads of State – the Prophet Muhammad and his successors – the Caliphs (hence the name of the state – the Caliphate) were the Arabian city of Medina and then Mecca.

In the Arab caliphate, brings together countries are at different levels of social development, having different cultural and artistic traditions. However, the similarity of forms of feudalism in the Middle East gave rise to common features in the ideology and other super structural phenomena. These profound social and economic reasons, not the spread of religion – Islam – they are the basis of unity, which takes place in medieval culture of the Arab countries.

Important role in the development of Arab culture has played its interaction with the high medieval culture of Iran, Central Asia and Transcaucasia. Arabic was not only the language of the Muslim holy book – the Quran, but they, like Latin in Western Europe, are used by many scholars, writers and poets in all parts of multilingual caliphate.

Importantly, however, is not only the interaction and a certain commonality but also a high for that time, the level of culture of the peoples of the Middle East. In IX-XIII centuries, Arab and Iranian, Azerbaijani and Central Asian cities were major centers of learning, famous for their libraries, schools, universities and other educational institutions. Characteristic of popular sayings of the time are: “The greatest human adornment – knowledge” or “black scholar are equally worthy of respect, like the blood of the martyr.”

Some influence on the development of medieval art, the Arabs, like other nations, followers of Islam, had a religion. The spread of Islam marked the abandonment of old before feudalism religions, the assertion of monotheism – belief in one God. The Muslim view of the world as a single entity created by a god was very important for the formation of a characteristic of the medieval era of aesthetic ideas about certain, albeit an abstract harmony of the universe. However, Islam, like all medieval religion, ideologically justify and perpetuate feudal exploitation. Dogma of the Koran darkened mind of man, let him develop. However, views on the world of medieval Oriental people, including their artistic views that can not be reduced to religious beliefs. In the medieval worldview of human contradiction combine the idealistic and materialistic tendencies of scholasticism and the desire for knowledge of reality. One of the greatest scientists and philosophers of the medieval East, Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna), acknowledged the divine origin of the universe and at the same time argued that the scientific and philosophical knowledge exists independently of religious faith. Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ferdowsi, Navoi, and many other prominent thinkers of the medieval East, in whose writings and poetry especially evident progressive features of the era, claimed the power of human will and reason, value and richness of the real world, though, as a rule not speak openly with the atheist position, as stated in Arab Cultural Centre.

When it comes to the influence of Islam in the art, there is usually indicated a prohibition to depict living beings in fear of religious retribution. There is no doubt that from the very appearance of the teachings of Islam contained the iconoclastic tendencies connected with the overcoming of polytheism. In the Quran, idols (most likely, sculptures of ancient tribal gods) called “an obsession of Satan.” Religious tradition firmly rejected the possibility of an image of a deity. In the mosques and other religious buildings were not allowed to put images of people. Koran and other theological books were decorated only with the ornament. Initially, however, in Islam there was no prohibition to depict living creatures, formulated as a religious law. It was only later, probably in the IX-X centuries, iconoclastic tendency of Islam was used to prohibit certain categories of images, under penalty of the Hereafter. “The misfortune of the fact – we read in the commentaries on the Koran – who will portray a living creature! On the day of the last court of the person who introduced the artist, will go with the pictures and come to him with a demand to give them a soul. Then this man, who can not give his creatures soul will be burned in an eternal flame, “Beware portray gentlemen in person, and write only the trees, flowers, and inanimate objects.” History has shown that these restrictions have left their mark on the development of certain kinds of art, had a value not in all Muslim countries, and strictly implemented only in times of particular ideological amplification reaction. However, the explanation of the main features of the medieval art of the Arab peoples to be found not in religion, which is influenced but not determined its development.

Specificity of medieval art in the Arab, like most of the Middle East, is very complicated. It is reflected tin he contents of a living reality, but like the entire culture of the Middle Ages, and it is deeply imbued with religious and mystical worldview, making it conditional, often symbolic form, developed to fiction its distinctive graphic language.

Innovation of Arabic medieval literature, yet its lifeblood characterizes the appeal to the spiritual world of man, the creation of moral ideals that had universal significance. Great imaginative force creates their way into art and the Arab East. However, as the literature used a predominantly conventional form for the realization of their images, and in the fine art of living language of the content there are particularly decorative arts.

In the art of the Arab East smartness has particularly striking and original features, becoming the basis for imagery of painting and giving rise to the rich art of the pattern, has a complex ornamental rhythm and often increased coloristic sonority. In the framework of the close of the medieval world artists Arab East have found their way to the richness of the embodiment of their lives. Rhythm pattern, his “carpet”, a thin plastic ornamental forms, unique harmony of bright and pure colors, they expressed great aesthetic content.

The image of man has not been excluded from the field of attention of artists, although reference to it was limited, especially in time of increased religious prohibitions. Images of people fill the illustrations in manuscripts and are often found in the patterns on the objects of applied art, also known monumental painting with multi-scenes pictorial and sculptural reliefs. However, in these works the human form is subject to the overall decorative solutions. Even giving many basic features of human figures, artists, Arab East treated their flatness, conditionally. In the applied arts figures of people most often included in the ornament, they lose the value of self-image, becoming an integral part of a pattern.

Medieval architects of the Arab East have created new types of monumental religious and secular buildings: Housing a thousand worshipers mosques, minarets – the tower from which urged the faithful to prayer; madrassas – the building of Muslim religious schools, caravanserai and covered markets in charge scale trading activities of cities, palaces rulers, the fortified citadel, city walls with gates and towers.

In the XVI century, most Arab countries were captured Ottoman Turkey, the rule which later gave way to the oppression of Western colonialists, hindered the development of national culture and art. However, during a time of decline, when the foreign invaders planted in architecture and visual art forms that are alien to the peoples of the Arab East, they do not die a truly national artistic creativity. It lived in the works of Arab peasants and artisans, who, despite poverty and harsh living conditions, have sought in the patterns on clothes and utensils People bring their ideas about beauty.

Culture of the Arab world, including the pre-Islamic period, has, in any case, about two thousand years. However, despite the geographical, historical and ethnic communities of the Arab national development taking place in them differently, with age more acutely and specifically identifying the individual characteristics of each country. Arab specifics, traditions, religion, language, culture, music changed, following the natural features and cultural and ethnic diversity, with an abrupt movement of time and the historic migrations, as described in Popular culture in the Arab World.

It should be noted that if entertainment has penetrated into the religious life of the Arab countries, has captured all the rituals and traditions, there is no doubt that the worldly, secular life of the Arabs striving for theatrical creativity grow uncontrollably, finding the original expression even in such critical components of theater as music and literature. It was mastered as a cultural heritage of pre-Islamic period, and the experience of the peoples enslaved by the previously Byzantium, Persia, Visigoths, and now included in the Arabic of the first caliphate. If the palaces of caliphs, dressed in luxury, conquered other peoples, and in all areas of culture Arabs creatively reprocessing, whether artistic achievements of Greece, India and Persia. So, if before the VII century, when the Sassanid court held extensive staff not only singers and dancers, and jesters and buffoons, in the second half of the VIII century, when power in Persia into the hands of the Arab Abbasid dynasty, the Greco-Persian culture presentation in every way maintained and restored, as stated in The Arab World’s Cultural Challenge.

Tradition of Arabic music is great. Even in ancient times, when the Arabs had quite primitive tools: a wooden flute – “found”, a square of diamonds – “duff”, a lute with a leather-deck “Mizhar, drum (clay pot with an expanding neck, covered with rams her skin) – “dunbak” (in Iraq) or “darbuka” (the Maghreb) – without the music did not manage any of the festivities. Then came the lyre, flute, zither (“Eve”), through Andalusia – guitar (“ud”, which are youth-point) and many other musical instruments. After the rise of Islam in Madinah there was organized the first school of musicians, singers and dancers. Graduates of these schools toured the cities of the Caliphate and transferred their skills to others. If the unity of music and poetry there was still a “Bedouin period, when art, these were overwhelmingly popular, it is from the reign of the Umayyad preserved the names of occupational singers and composers, Ibn Musado-zhih, Muslim ibn Muhriz, singer Jamila (possibly the name of the singer is not present, and false, because it means it – “beautiful”).

Of all the arts music is considered the highest among Arabs, but it was given the rights to attach to the “music of the spheres of heaven.” Musicians are treated to a higher stratum of Arab society. Problems of music are devoted to serious scholarly works – such as the “Book of Songs” al-Isfahani, “Great Treatise on the music of Al-Farabi, research on acoustics and the harmonic relations of Safi al-Din Urmavi and the famous Arabic encyclopedic.

Song is considered an integral part of spiritual culture of every nation. Since ancient times they were accompanied by all the major actions of people, so art song at the dawn of Islam has established genres. Songs were lullabies, work, hunting, caravan, were mourning laments (“rice”) and boasting (“Fahr”), song of revenge and vilification enemy. Ka-moves, the songs are born, almost immediately after the first cry of a child and then escorted to a man in sorrow and in happiness, love and longing, and dreams, and hopes to become life itself, are carried through the centuries and, of course, always and everywhere nourish poetry, literature, and drama. All in all, it can be said that music culture of the Arab World plays a considerable role in the era of globalization. As well, it causes great interest among many nationalities all over the world, attracts attention and it is indispensable.

Works cited

Arab Civilization. 2011. 8 June 2011. <http://www.arabamericanmuseum.org/Arab-Civilization:-Our-Heritage.id.17.htm>
Arab Cultural Centre. 2011. 8 June 2011. <http://www.arabculturalcenter.org/>
Arab Culture and History. 2011. 8 June 2011. <http://www.plumsite.com/palace/arabculture.html>
Popular culture in the Arab World. 2010. 8 June 2011. <http://archive.arabnews.com/?page=21&section=0&article=100880&d=6&m=9&y=2007>
The Arab World’s Cultural Challenge. 2010. 8 June 2011. <http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=40398>