Language Issue
Arab Unity in Music and the Role of the Arabian Peninsula
Arab Unity in Music and the Role of the Arabian Peninsula
Issue 49

Prof. Dr. Fathi Al Khamisi

Professor of Music at the Higher Institute of Arabic Music at the Academy of Arts - Cairo

The achievements of Arabic music are part of general human artistic and cultural accomplishments, and no civilization in the middle ages could have done more than Arabic music has.

Following its emergence in the Middle Ages, Arabic music has completed the task of building a single stable melody made up of rhythms and melodies (maqams) that form a "sound" template.  Those elements consisted in the melody include variations like the "mawal" template.

Then the successive tunes (e.g. “A,B”) in “Al-Mawshah" evolved and made it possible to build a formula with beginning, middle and end (e.g. “A, B, C”). 

Arabic music progressed and reached multiple successive melodies linked by one melody within the artwork, as in the template of Poems.

Did the civilization of Rome add something to the composition of the music? Was there anything new that Byzantium or the Papal State presented to music? Did the civilizations of Iran and Ottoman Turkey provide some different music? In fact, no civilizations of the medieval (or ancient) world provided anything additional to the templates of Arab music:

  1. Establishing and approving the rhythmic system,
  2. Establishing the melodic templates in four major phases:
  • Single melody
  • A melody and its variants 
  • Dual melody 
  •  A series of melodies with a common denominator 

European music alone was distinguished by another step; a step that was taken in the sixteenth century Renaissance, when the "synchronic melodies” were introduced. Where the course of the melody consists of several melodies that go together simultaneously, such as European symphony orchestra (symphony, concerto, etc.)

It is true that Arabic music is now in a state of developmental crisis; it is also true that there is a severe artistic deterioration in the current musical works, but this does not call for questioning the unity of the Arab music system, nor the maturity and usefulness of this system. It calls for exerting efforts to restore the growth of Arab music.