Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa
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Music in the Middle East & North Africa

In a region often divided by political, ideological, and sectarian conflicts, music remains a common factor among the people of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Those who master the language of the soul and heart enjoy popularity all over the region; a popularity that lives on even after composers, singers, and musicians have gone. Whether you are in your country or abroad, you will be accompanied by Umm Kulthum (Egypt), Mohammed Abdu (Saudi Arabia), Lutfi Bushnaq (Tunisia), Fairouz (Lebanon), Nazem al-Ghazali (Iraq), and many, many others. Fanack presents the history of music in the MENA region and will continue to follow the new musicians, songwriters, and performers who are emerging, whether they follow traditional rules or break new ground, to reflect the changing realities in the region.

Music played a significant role in practicing religious rituals and the royal court life in most of the old Middle East. According to researchers, music in the Middle East was deduced from songs and rhymes that were night companions of tribes and clans during their trips. These trips were features of those who search for food and water in the bygone eras. The lyrics of songs had a significance that exceeds their rhymes.

The spread of music reinforced communications with neighboring cultures, like the Babylonian and the Assyrian empires that were thriving in the region back then. The Bedouin tribes also carried cultural messages from and to neighboring communities.

Music of the Middle East is that of the Arab, Turkish and Persian world. Despite the linguistic and cultural differences associated with it, this music has merged into a single great inheritance, thanks to Islam; its unifying element. It has been used to practice some activities and religious rituals. In general, these rituals accompanied by musical gestures (Not considering it pure music in its essence) were limited to Athan and Quran recitation. Although, Sufis have employed music (and even dancing) in their praying rituals.

With the spread of Islam during the Abbasid Caliphate, the contributions of Ziryab significantly developed Middle-Eastern music through a series of refinements. This includes inventing the Art of “Mwashah”, “Maqamat” and crafting modifications to the Oud instrument. Consequently, a golden era of arts prosperity and cultural progression started to take over the region.