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Chapter 12 Music Journal Assignment
In this chapter, students will learn about:
• The historical and cultural backgroundof Arab-Egyptian dance music
• Arab-Egyptian melodic and percussion instruments
• Middle Eastern art music of the takht ensemble tradition
• Genres of women’s solo dance traditions of the Middle East and their international offshoots (e.g., belly dance)
• Characteristic rhythmic patterns used in Arab-Egyptian dance music
• Interrelationships of politics, nationalism, mass media, music, and dance in 20th century Egypt
• Influential composers, instrumentalists, vocalists, and dancers from Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations
Women’s dance is an important, though often controversial, part of Egyptian cultural heritage and the broader culture of the Arab-Islamic Middle East. This status has been complicated by Orientalist and other Western representations of Middle Eastern dance and dancers, as well as by religious, cultural, and political agendas. In this chapter, three domains of dance—raqs baladi, raqs sharqi, and international belly dance, along with standard rhythms and instruments associated with these genres—are explored through demonstrations and recorded performances by Hossam Ramzy and other well-known musicians. Exploration of genres, melodic structures, and performance techniques further enhance understanding of Egyptian and Egyptian-derived music and dance. Art music traditions of the Middle East (maqam, takht, taqsim), as well as a range of other traditions spanning from Qur’anic recitation to Iraqi heavy metal, are examined as well.
Getting Started: Middle Eastern Instruments
1. Before beginning the study of Arab-Egyptian music, scan through the chapter and identify the instruments you will encounter. Listen to the demonstrations of these instruments and use the following chart to list instruments and describe the sounds (timbres) they make:
Instrument Timbre Descriptions: Similar to:
This reference chart can serve as a guide to more effective listening responses!
Introduction to Egyptian/Arab-Islamic History, Culture, and Music
The opening portions of this chapter introduce key historical, cultural, and musical subjects that provide a context for the main topics discussed in the chapter’s later sections.
“Iraqi Café” Guided Listening Experience, CD1-15
After listening to CD1-15 and reading the information on pages 280-284, listen to CD1-15 again and complete the following chart describing the selection, its form, and its instrumentation. Focus on the maqam system (general features, specific maqamat, procedures for modulating from one maqam to another), the opening solo ‘ud taqsim (as well as the accompanied rhythmic taqasim of later sections of the piece), the instruments of and instrumental roles within the takht ensemble, the heterophonic melodic texture of ensemble passages, and the relationship between melody and rhythmic accompaniment in ensemble passages.
Comparing and contrasting the maqam system to the Indian raga system discussed in Chapter 8 may be helpful here.
2. List your Musical Observations for “Iraqi Café” Guided Listening Experience, CD1-15:
TAQSIM List your musical observations
RHYTHMIC TAQSIM 1
Chapter 12 Journal Part 1: Information
3. Define the following terms:
Key Terms Definitions, Explanations, or Comments
Baladi (folk heritage)
Dum, tek (drum strokes)
Firqa (firqa musiqyya)
Cane dance (Women’s—raqs al ‘asaya)
Tabla Solo (dance/music form)
Chapter 12 Music Journal Part 2
Questions/Music Listening and Analysis
Foundations of Women’s Dance
Western audiences define Middle Eastern women’s dance mainly in relation to professional or semiprofessional dance performances in various entertainment venues. However, in the Arab world, domestic women’s gatherings, typically occurring out of the sight of men and in the privacy of the home, principally define the realm of women’s dance culture. The use of song and dance as a rite of passage into womanhood is common in many cultures. For example, the Apache Nai’es (also referred to as Changing Woman Ceremony, although the literal translation is “preparing her”) marks the passage into adulthood through a series of dances and activities to remold the young woman into an adult. Pages 286-289 provide an overview of the history and development of Egyptian women’s dance.
4. List some of the speculations about the ancient origins of women’s dance. What were some of the main purposes served by dancing in earlier times (and to some extent still today)
5. What is the ghawazi tradition?
Zaar – Zaar is an ancient healing ritual rooted in shamanistic practices and involving spirit dancing and trance dancing. Although officially prohibited among Muslims, it continues to be practiced in private ceremonies and performed in folkloric productions as a symbol of Egyptian heritage. The use of dance in healing ceremonies occurs throughout the world. The Santería (Regla de Ocha) rituals briefly described in Chapters 2 and 11 and the Nai’es referenced above are but two examples. Both involve creating altered states through music and dance. The zaar ritual is described on pages 263-264.
Traditional Zaar Rhythms, Hossam Ramzy, CD4-12
Hossam Ramzy’s performance of “Alla Hai” (CD4-12) introduces the zaar rhythm and the large number of variant forms it may take in the course of a performance. Before listening to this example, however, use the following activities to become more familiar with the rhythm patterns, instruments, and structures of this genre of music. Clap the basic zaar rhythm shown in Figure 12.1 (page 291).
6. Listen to the demonstrations of Arab-Egyptian percussion instruments on CD4-14 and CD4-15. Use the following chart to record descriptions of the characteristic sounds distinguishing one instrument from the other.
Instrument Description of sound
7. Use the following chart to record comments and observations to describe each designated section of “Alla Hai,” Hossam Ramzy, CD4-12. Clap/tap the basic zaar rhythm throughout the listening experience too:
Section Comments/Musical Observations
Slow Zaar Section (Part I)
Tabla elaborations begin (1:00)
Transition (cued by tabla)
Fast zaar section (Part II)
“Zeina,” Hossam Ramzy Group, CD4-16 – “Zeina,” originally composed by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab for a dance number featuring Samia Gamal in the Egyptian film Zannouba, is represented in CD4-16 in an arrangement by Hossam Ramzy. Although ‘Abd al-Wahhab frequently used Western instruments, harmonies, and rhythms in his earlier film music, “Zeina” represents his later work, in which he placed greater emphasis on distinctly Arab-Egyptian derived musical elements. Pages 295-298 explore ensembles and instruments used in film music as well as analyze the performance of “Zeina.”
8. What are the five standard instruments of the takht ensemble in an Egyptian context?
9. In the large ensemble used for film music (the firqa musiqyya), Western instruments were added to those of the traditional Egyptian takht. List some of the instruments commonly added from the Western tradition. Which instruments—Western and non-Western—supplement the takht instruments in this performance of “Zeina”?
Before listening to CD ex # 4-16, look at the basic masmoudi rhythmic pattern notated on page 299 and the variant forms in the “Insights and Perspectives” box on page 300.
10. Listen to CD ex # 4-16 “Zeina,” Hossam Ramzy Group and use the following chart to record your comments, observations, and descriptions of each section:
Fast zaar section
Reprise of “Zeina” melody
Post-Independence Era – After the “bloodless revolution” of 1952 and the establishment of the Arab Republic of Egypt under Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser, a cultural nationalism agenda placed emphasis on the support of Egyptian folk culture (baladi). Baladi, including music, dance, art, and folk rituals and ceremonies, became symbolic of the new Egyptian national identity. Pages 301-303 outline how these changes impacted women’s dance and music and several leading dancers, musicians, and actresses.
11. Why was the raqs sharqi world now seen as a poor example for Arab-Egyptian womanhood? How did this affect the entertainment industry?
12. How did the patronage of ‘Abd al-Nasser benefit the careers of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Umm Kulthum? Give consideration to the significance and cultural contributions, musical and otherwise, of these two towering figures in Egyptian/Middle Eastern music, mass media culture, and nationalism in your response.
13. Discuss the role of Farida Fahmy and the Reda Troupe in promoting an “indigenous Egyptian culture”? What were the sources and inspiration for the repertoire of this troupe? How was the Reda Troupe promoted? Explain the irony of the success and public image of this troupe.
Folk Dance Rhythms in Raqs Sharqi and Belly Dance: Fallahi and Saaidi – The popular interest in folklore following the establishment of the Arab Republic of Egypt resulted in adoption and adaptation of certain dance rhythms identified with folk culture including fallahi and saaidi. The fallahi rhythm is demonstrated in CD4-17, while CD4-18 offers an illustration of Saaidi rhythm.
Fallahi Rhythm, CD ex. # 4-17
Before listening to this example, vocalize the fallhi rhythm, or play it on a table or desk using the strokes indicated in Figure 12.3. Listen to CD4-17 and play along.
Beat 1 2 1 2
Strokes Dum tek tek Dum tek Dum tek tek Dum tek
Saaidi Rhythm, CD4-18 – Before listening to this example, vocalize the saaidi rhythm, or play it on a table or desk using the strokes indicated in Figure 12.4. Listen to CD4-18 and play along.
Beat 1 2 1 2
Strokes Dum tek Dum Dum tek Dum tek Dum Dum tek
About Women’s Cane Dance–
Dances and singing games originating in martial arts and training for battle may be found in several other cultures. For example, the Brazilian dance genre capoeira originated among Afro-Brazilians during their struggle for equal rights, Zulu dancers in South Africa use spears and shields in addition to movements mimicking fighting skills in specific dances, and both the haka and tittorea of the New Zealand Maori originated in training for battle. The haka is a fierce challenge sung and danced by warriors to intimidate their opponents (a practice which may be observed before the start of any New Zealand All Black) and the tititorea stick tossing game hails back to when warriors were training to toss weapons to comrades during battle.
The Saaidi rhythm is closely linked to tahtib, a form of martial arts traditionally practiced by Egyptian men. In tahtib, there are contexts of actual fighting, sportlike combat, and a dance in which players demonstrate skill, inventiveness, and musicality. This “dance with stick” (raqs bil’asaya) is usually performed just before or after a tahtib match. Typically, the accompanying music is performed by a drum struck with sticks (tabl baladi) accompanying a melody played on one or more aerophones (mizmar). The women’s cane dance (raqs ‘al asaya) also derives from tahtib.
From Cairo to Mexico, Lebanon, and Beyond
“La Cucaracha,” Hossam Ramzy and Pablo Cárcamo, CD4-21 and 4-22 – This selection is an example of how music travels from culture to culture through the work of creative artists. The rhythmic background is played on standard instruments of the Arab-Egyptian percussion section, yet the melody and other parts are performed on South American panpipes, guitar, and other Latin American instruments. The melody itself is the Mexican folk song “La Cucaracha.” A touch of modern technology makes the performance possible—through the use of overdubbing and multitrack recording, all of the many parts are performed by just two musicians.
14. Listen to “La Cucaracha,” Hossam Ramzy and Pablo Cárcamo, CD4-22. Briefly describe what you are hearing. Do you like this fusion of Arab-Egyptian and Mexican music–Yes or No? What characteristics seem to make it enjoyable or not enjoyable to your ears.
“Hou Hou Hou,” Emad Sayyah, CD4-23
15. After reading the information on pages 309-311 about Hossam Ramzy, Emad Sayyah, and Lebanese music, listen to “Hou Hou Hou,” Emad Sayyah, CD4-23 and fill in what you notice in each section of the song on the following chart:
Kawkab al-Sharq ???? ????? (“Star or Planet of the East”)
Egyptian Singer born either December 31, 1898, or December 31, 1904; died February 3, 1975
widely regarded as the greatest female Arabic singer in history.
Umm Kulthum’s voice and music was the embodiment of tarab — a unique quality of Arab music that translates best to the word “enchantment.”
Her songs deal mostly with the universal themes of love, longing and loss. They were nothing short of epic in scale, with durations measured in hours rather than minutes. A typical Umm Kulthum concert consisted of the performance of two or three songs over a period of three to six hours. In the late 1960s, due to her age, she began to shorten her performances to two songs over a period of two and a half to three hours. These performances are in some ways reminiscent of the structure of Western opera, consisting of long vocal passages linked by shorter orchestral interludes.
The duration of Umm Kulthum’s songs in performance was not fixed, but varied based on the level of emotive interaction between the singer and her audience. A typical improvisatory technique of hers was to repeat a single phrase or sentence of a song’s lyrics over and over, subtly altering the emotive emphasis and intensity each time to bring her audiences into a euphoric and ecstatic state, and was considered to “have never sang a line the same way twice”.
There is something known as “Tarab” – Tarab happens when we reach that epic moment of a feeling (“being carried away”) derived from hearing music whether it instrumental or voice or both together expressing either joy, pain sorrow or any other intense emotion.
16. Click on the links below to view, describe, and comment on the music of Umm Kulthum demonstrating her ability with tarab. Be sure to note what happens with the audience during her performances. Click the links below for a great segment about Umm from National Public Radio, and to Part 1 of the excellent documentary Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt. Listen, view, describe, and comment on what you experience here:
Umm Kulthum: ‘The Lady’ Of Cairo by Neda Ulaby for NPR – National Public Radio; March 15, 201012:00 AM ET
(Links to an external site.)
The print article:
(Links to an external site.)
Part 1 of the documentary Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt
(Links to an external site.)
Paco de Lucía and Cameron de la Isla
Paco de Lucía was a Spanish virtuoso flamenco guitarist, composer and producer. A leading proponent of the New Flamenco style, he helped legitimize flamenco among the establishment in Spain, and was one of the first flamenco guitarists to have successfully crossed over into other genres of music such as classical and jazz.
Paco was noted for his fast and fluent picados (fingerstyle runs). A master of contrast, he often juxtaposed picados and rasgueados (Flamenco strumming) with more sensitive playing and was known for adding abstract chords and scale tones to his compositions with jazz influences. These innovations saw him play a key role in the development of traditional Flamenco and the evolution of ‘New Flamenco’ and Latin jazz fusion from the 1970s. He received acclaim for his recordings with flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla in the 1970s, recording ten albums which are considered some of the most important and influential in Flamenco history.
17. Click on the link below to view, listen, and describe the musical activity in a performance of Paco performing his own composition, “Rio Ancho.”
Paco de Lucía performing Rio Ancho
(Links to an external site.)
Camarón de la Isla
December 5, 1950 – 2 July 2, 1992
Camaron de la Isla was the stage name of a Spanish flamenco singer José Monje Cruz.
Cante meaning “flamenco song”, is one of the three main components of Flamenco along with toque (playing the guitar) and baile (dance). Because the dancer is front and center in a flamenco performance, foreigners often assume the dance is the most important aspect of the art form – but in fact, it is the cante which is the heart and soul of the genre. A cante singer such as Camarón de la Isla is known as a Cantaor.
The video below Como El Agua (below) is an audio recording with photographs featuring Camaron de la Isla with the wonderful Spanish virtuoso flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucía.
Camaron de la Isla and Paco de Lucia – Como El Agua
(Links to an external site.)
This video is of an actual live performance of both musicians from 1976. Note the intensity of Cameron’s whole being in this video—especially his concentration on the great Paco de Lucía. Paco who died on February 25, 2014 was perhaps the greatest Flamenco guitarist of all time.
Camaron de la Isla & Paco de lucia – Bulerias
(Links to an external site.)
View and listen to both clips above and respond to the following questions:
18. Describe the musical activity as it unfolds in Como El Agua and in Bulerias:
a) What music characteristics do you notice in these two recordings? Describe Camarón’s vocal timbre.
b) Describe the interaction between the guitar and the voice. What contrasts do you notice in the music as it unfolds?
c) Look, listen, and make note of any changes in texture, dynamics, and intensity in these two selections–use minute/second time marks in your observations to indicate where you noticed specific characteristics. Finally, include your reflections on these two Cante Flamenco performances.
Chapter 12 Journal
Part 3: Reflections
What, in this chapter, was new to me?
What, in this chapter, would I like to know more about?
Of the musical examples in this chapter, which did I enjoy the most? Why?
Of the musical examples in this chapter, which did I enjoy the least? Why?
Other thoughts or comments about Chapter 12.