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Music From The Middle East


The Middle Eastern music spans an area which includes Western Asia and it extends to Morocco and Egypt in Africa and it is based on the maqamat (modes) system. The major ethnic groups within the Middle Eastern area Arabs, Persians, Turks, Azeris and Kurds, as well as significant minorities like Assyrians, Copts, and the Somalis. Music varies in content, structure and performance from one culture and tradition to another. Music from the Middle East differs from Western music in several significant respects.

Middle Eastern music was influenced by the Greek music and it in-turn influenced Indian music as well as the music of Central Asia and Spain. Middle Eastern music has been significantly influenced by religion in the region and the spread of Islam has helped to spread Arabic forms of music which is strongly melodic and based on a type of musical scale called maqamat (modes) of which there are about 24 distinct types. The maqamat moderates the Middle Eastern music and it specifies the intervals between notes of a musical scale. In addition, the maqamat serves as a guide on which notes that needs being emphasized. The Arabs studied and mastered the literature and theory of ancient Greek music and incorporated it into their musical traditions and then exported same to other ethnic groups in the region through the spread of Islam.

The Middle Eastern view of music is significantly and symbolically different from that of the West. In Middle Eastern music, the emphasis seems to be on performance for an audience in a kind of melodramatic display designed to evoke emotional responses and a single piece of music may last for between one and three hours with an anxiously awaited climax which the dancer performs in an accurate symphony.

Middle Eastern music is characterized by overlapping rhythms, during which the various instrumentalists and the dancers may be performing different rhythms yet in a perfect symphony which a dancer must accurately capture in his or her movements to the delight of the audience. The Middle Eastern music is also noted for improvisation in which the musician begins with a simple collection of notes but then embellishes it in unhindered individual expressions of style. This art is called taqasim. Ornamentation is part of Middle Easter music. This involves the individual expressiveness of both musicians and dancers in free artistic creations based on basic traditional forms. It is also well known for call and response mode of performance in which an instrumentalist takes the lead and another responds creating a kind of musical conversation.

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