25 July 2024 02:50 AM

Music & Singing in Egypt

Thursday، 19 May 2016 12:00 AM

The region around the Nile is one of the oldest continually-inhabited areas in the world. Ancient Egyptian musicians are known to have played harps and flutes circa 4000 BC, and double clarinets and lyres from around 3500 BC. Percussion instruments were added to orchestras by 2000 BC. It is probable that no system of musical notation existed at the time, as none have survived. The music of ancient Egypt has not been documented, but some musicologists believe that the liturgical music of the Coptic Church is directly descended from ancient Egyptian music.

Arab musical tradition is usually said to have begun in the 7th century in Syria during the Umayyad dynasty. Early Arab music was derived from Byzantine, Indian and Persian forms, which were themselves very influenced by earlier Greek and Semitic music. In the 10th century, Al-Farabi translated Aristotle’s Problems (and Themistius’ commentary on them), Euclid’s Elements of Music and Ptolemy’s Harmonics into Arabic. These works, foundations of Western music, became the basis for Arabic musical theory.

Like African music, Arabic and Egyptian music has strong improvisatory and rhythmic components. The base rhythm of Arabic music is the maqamat, which is formed by dum (downbeats), tak (upbeats) and rests. Arabic music uses microtones, or notes not present in the formal musical scale (half-flats and half-sharps). Arabic tones are divided into thirds, which makes their sound inherently different from most other musical traditions.

In Egypt, religious music is frowned upon, but still common in Muslim celebrations called mulids. Mulids are held to celebrate the saint of a particular mosque, and is related to the Sufi zikr (ritual). A type of flute called the Nay is commonly played at mulids.

Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Arabic, African and Western influences.
As early as 4000 BC, ancient Egyptians were playing harps and flutes, as well as two indigenous instruments: the Nay and the Oud. However, there is no notation of Egyptian music before the 7th century AD, when Egypt became part of the Arab world. Percussion and vocal music became important at this time, which has remained an important part of Egyptian music today.

From the 1910s, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly listened to, as has folk music from Egypt’s many cultures. This enhances the sense of place which is part of the Arab influence in Egyptian music.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, Egyptian music was a way to communicate social and class issues.

Singing is the most integral part of the Egyptian Music. This may have to do with the impact of both the Ancient Egyptian culture and Islam culture on Arabic Music.

In European and American countries, singing is taught using musical instruments like a piano, on the other hand, in the Arabic Countries, playing instruments starts with the learning of maqams through singing.

As a result of this interest in singing, different genres of singing evolved and changed during the years. Some of these genres are detailed below:
Muashahah (pl. muashshahat)
Mawwal (pl. Mawaweel)
Dawr (pl. Adwar)
Qaseeda (pl. Qasaed)
Nasheed (pl. Anasheed)
Taqtuqah (pl. Taqateeq)

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