Middle Eastern Music
The music of Western Asia and North Africa spans across a vast region, from Egypt to Iran, and its influences can be felt even further afield. Middle Eastern music influenced (and has been influenced by) the music of Greece and India, as well as Central Asia, Spain, Southern Italy, the Caucasus and the Balkans, as in chalga. The various nations of the region include the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the Iraqi traditions of Mesopotamia, Iranian traditions of Persia, the varied traditions of Cypriot music, the music of Turkey, traditional Assyrian music, various Jewish traditions, Kurdish music, Berbers of North Africa, and Coptic Christians in Egypt all maintain their own traditions.
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 influence to spread through the region rapidly from the 7th century onward. The Arabic scale is strongly melodic, based around various maqamat (sing. maqam) or modes (also known as makam in Turkish music). 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 homophonic texture.
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.
In Arabic music a scale consists of 17, 19 or 24 notes in a single octave. Rhythm in Middle Eastern music is very complicated but must be memorized by the musicians. There are at least 32 documented different "beat styles" for the drum or tambourine used in this music. Arabic music is generally monophonic, with only one line that instruments and voice follow in unison. Singers often start in a solo and have the instruments or background singers repeat in a dialog method. Because many of the classical musicians learn "by ear" from a teacher, there is much room for improvisation. Most of the groups include only four people, to allow a greater dynamic and bond for the musicians. The most frequent theme for songs from the Middle East include love and longing for the homeland. This can also tie into the very diverse cultural settings from which many of the musicians come from. Countries such as Turkey, Persia and Egypt are some of the most influential to the overall musical style recognizable with the Middle East.
Andalusi nubah (نوبة أندلسيّة) is a musical genre found in the North African Maghrib states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya but, as the name indicates, it has its origins in the Arabo-Andalusian music. The name replaced the older use of sawt and originates from the musician waiting behind a curtain to be told it was his turn or nawbah by the sattar or curtain man. According to tradition, there were initially 24 nuba, 1 nuba for each hour of the day, one nuba must have a duration of 1 hour. Lyrics are sung by the soloist or in unison by the chorus are chosen from the muwashshah or zajal poetic forms, being in classical and colloquial Arabic, respectively. Andalusi nubah uses one tab' (similar to maqam) per performance, and includes several instrumental pieces and predominantly vocal pieces accompanied by instrumentation. These differ as to mizan or rhythmic pattern (wazn). Formally the tempo increases while the awzan simply within each of five sections, called mizan. The sections are introduced by short instrumental pieces and vary according to region, the name indicating the awzan used:
In Algeria (12 nubah and 4 incomplete): msaddar, btayhi, darj, insiraf, khlas
In Tunisia (13 nubah): btaybhi, barwal, darj, khafif, khatm
In Morocco (11 nubah): basit, qayim wa-nisf, btayhi, darj, quddam
Unlike the nuba in Algeria or Tunisia, Morocco nuba are long. So, it is rare for a Moroccan Nuba are played in its entirety. Furthermore, many Tunisian or Libyan nuba and some Algerian nuba are considered as being of Turkish inspiration.
The ensemble includes the ud, rabab or rebec, nay, box zither, tambourine, and goblet drum, the players of which also serve as chorus.
Persian Traditional Music
Persian traditional music (also known as Iranian traditional music, mūsīqī-e sonnatī-e īrānī, or Persian/Iranian classical music, mūsīqī-e aṣīl-e īrānī) is the traditional and indigenous music of Iran: mūsīqī, the science and art of music, and moosiqi, the sound and performance of music (Sakata 1983).
Iranian classical music relies on both improvisation and composition, and is based on a series of modal scales and tunes which must be memorized. Apprentices and masters, ostad, have a traditional relationship which has declined during the 20th century as music education moved to universities and conservatories. The common repertoire consists of more than two hundred short melodic movements called gusheh, which are classified into seven dastgāh or "modes." Two of these modes have secondary modes branching from them called āvāz. Each gusheh and dastgah has an individual name. This whole body is called the Radif of which there are several versions, each in accordance to the teachings of a particular master or ostad.
A typical performance consists of the following elements pīshdarāmad(a rhythmic prelude which sets the mood), darāmad (rhythmic free motif), āvāz (improvised rhythmic-free singing), taṣnīf (rhythmic accompanied by singing, an ode), Chahārmeżrāb (rhythmic music but rhythmic-free or no singing), reng (closing rhythmic composition, a dance tune). A performance forms a sort of suite. Unconventionally, these parts may be varied or omitted. Towards the end of the Safavid Empire (1502-1736), more complex movements in 10, 14, and 16 beats stopped being performed. In fact, in the early stages of the Qajar Dynasty, the uṣūl(rhythmic cycles) were replaced by a meter based on the ghazal and the maqām system of classification was reconstructed into the Radif system which is used to this day (see Dast'gāh).
Today, rhythmic pieces are performed in beats of 2 to 7 with some exceptions. Rengs are always in a 6/8 time frame. Many melodies and modes are related to the maqāmāt of the Turkish classical repertoire and Arabic music belonging to various Arab countries, for example Iraq. This similarity is because of the exchange of musical science that took place in the early Islamic world between Persia and her neighboring countries. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, radifs were officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The classical music is vocal based. The vocalist plays a crucial role: she or he decides what mood to express and which dastgah relates to that mood. In many cases, the vocalist is also responsible for choosing the poems to be sung. If the performance requires a singer, the singer is accompanied by at least one wind or string instrument, and at least one type of percussion. There could be an ensemble of instruments, though the primary vocalist must maintain hers or his role. In some taṣnīf songs, the musicians may accompany the singer by singing along several verses. Traditionally, music is performed while seated on finely decorated cushions and rugs. Candles are sometimes lit. The group of musicians and the vocalist decide on which dastgahs and which of their gushehs to perform, depending on the mood of a certain time or situation.
Iranian classical music continues to function as a spiritual tool as it has throughout its history, and much less of a recreational activity. Compositions can vary immensely from start to finish, usually alternating between low, contemplative pieces and athletic displays of musicianship called tahrir. The incorporation of religious texts as lyrics were replaced by lyrics largely written by medieval Sufi poets, especially Hafez and Jalal-e Din Rumi.