MofA Week 6
Folk music and folkloricization in the Arab world
Listening examples to accompany readings and class discussions. Note the diversity of "folk music". How does the coherence of this category compare to that of the turath qadim (old turath of the 19th century and before)? To the newer extensions of the turath in the 20th century (mediated by radio, film, phonograms, TV) (we'll discuss these next)?
Folkloricization: the separation of music and context; musical recontextualization; musical symbolization/ideologization/commodification (in relation to notions of nation); removal of traditional audience and insertion of new audience; musical communication caused to cross boundaries of culture and class. All these processes induce corresponding musical changes as well.
Note that with the exception of the Fidjeri music and mawwal, all the folk music examples presented here were recorded on the stage of the Institut du Monde Arabe, an Arab cultural center in Paris, primarily for a French audience. The mawwal examples were recorded in Cairo, and produced by Long Distance- Real World Works, a label based in Paris, with support from Festival D'Automne a Paris.
The three Institut du Monde Arabe albums can be found in their catalog. (La Simsimiyya de Port-Said: Ensemble Al-Tanburah; Aux source du Rai: Cheikha Remnitti; La geste hilalienne: Sayyed al-Dowwi). Have a look at the album covers and read the French text if you are able.
Generally: Examine the notes and cover art to "folk music" albums from a critical perspective. What features are emphasized in order to sell the "folk music" to a largely Western market?
Fidjeri songs of the Arabian Gulf
Fidjeri songs of the Arabian Gulf (Touma, The Music of the Arabs, pp. 88-95).
This remarkable tradition developed among pearl divers of the Gulf.
Roots of Rai: Cheikha Remitti
The Sira Hilaliyya
The Sira Hilaliyya (Reynolds, D. F. (1994). Musical Dimensions of an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition. Asian Music, 26(1), 53-94.)
Listen and also read the relevant portions of this interview with Professor Dwight Reynolds (the whole thing is fascinating, but start reading in earnest from the interviewer's question about the Bani Hilal; just search for the text "epic of the Bani Hilal" and start reading from there)
The sira has been folkloricized in a number of ways, in Egypt (the famous poet Abd al-Rahman al-Abnudi published one version; the director Hasan al-Geretly adapted it for the stage), and in Europe (performances by Hasan's troupe al-Warsha; performances on the stage of the Institut du Monde Arabe).
The Egyptian mawwal
Egyptian mawwal (Cachia, P. (1977). The Egyptian Mawwal: Its Ancestry, Its Development, and Its Present Form. Journal of Arab Literature, 8, 77-103.)
Listen and also read the notes online, providing a complete transcription of the mawwal performed. In fact, what is performed is a sequence of mawwal poems, each employing a different rhyme scheme. Strung together, they create a narrative form rarely heard today. The mawwal as purely musical genre, implying vocal improvisations on a poem (which need not itself be a mawwal), continues in secular urban music which represents the extension of the old turath, though most modern pop singers are not capable of performing it.
The Red Sea Simsimiyya
The Simsimiyya of the Red Sea region. (Shiloah, A. (1972). The Simsimiyya: A Stringed Instrument of the Red Sea Area. Asian Music, 4(1), 15-26.)
The audio presents two excerpts from a Paris performance by the Tanbura group from Port Said, featuring the simsimiyya (lyre) and voice.
The first song, "Shuftu al-Amar `ala al-sadr al-gamil" (I saw the moon on the breast of the beautiful one), in praise of beauty, is typical of this genre (maqam rast). The second, "Wa al-salaat `al-nabi" indicates a common phenomenon: the performance of Islamic folk music in genres and contexts that don't appear overtly religious, as a kind of benediction. Such songs often open or close performances of folk music. This one calls for blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad (maqam bayyati)
The group challenges traditional governmental folkloricization, and also creates their own forms on stage, and even in video clips. (Check out the videos on their website.)