Evolution of Middle East Music and Relation to Its Culture

Music surpasses language. Middle East music has always been greatly adored and embraced since it can put away sorrowful emotions or entertain no matter the type of language the song is in. Middle East music is considered as a language of its kind as it is unique and differs from western music since it was structured by its own music theoreticians (Zuhur, 121). The musical instruments of Middle East are glamorous looking, albeit they are the descendants of a majority of the Western instruments. Therefore, this paper discusses the evolution of Middle Eastern music including the instruments used, rhythms, patterns and scales in the music and its relation to their culture.

In Middle East music, in its octave, there are 17, 19 or even 24 notes (Morley, 201). Three-quarter notes, in-between notes and quarter notes tones are utilized in Middle East music and are composed by apportioning a string into forty equivalent parts (Morley, 202). Flexibility is abundant because of this scale but the vocalist still ought to be accurate when dealing with notes. Middle East music is flexible and allows creativity like to make it mini-musical by incorporating dialogue which in turn is the song like a story. Typically, the compositions of the music are monophonic, thus indicating that they lack harmony. A tambourine or a drum is used to play the rhythm in Middle East music. The soloists typically, because of the artistic license that the musician obtains. Nonetheless, some times the soloist is backed up with by a backup group repeating what is played or sang by the soloist. This enables the musician to be flexible.

Middle East musicians hardly learn through written music, they mostly learn by ear. However, currently, Middle East music has evolved by developing recordings to learn from (Danielson et al., 179). Just like western music, Middle Eastern music theme surpasses culture and love. Love and the urge of missing homeland is a common norm often likely to find in Middle East music. Majority of the instruments in the Middle East culture are strange looking and exotic. They lack traditional European violin and pianos. These instruments are quite unique with various outstanding sounds never heard in other parts of the world. For instance, the quantum instrument which is quite odd-looking in trapezoid shape has several strings. This instrument is the descendant of the ancient Egyptian harp, introduced to Europe in the late 12th century.

Another melodious instrument is the nay, a reed flute, which looks almost similar to a recorder but varies in their sounds. The nay’s sound is soothing while the recorder has a screechy and high sound. It has been used for about 4 to 5 years, mostly portrayed on the Egyptian pyramids (Wallin, 99). Albeit its shape is same, there are some differences. Turkish and Arabic nays possess eight holes while for the modern Iranian nays, they 5 to 6 holes, a subordinate thumb holes, and a unique mouthpiece. The ud instrument simulates a guitar, but it is has a gourd shape. It also possesses 5 to 13 strings, relying on the maker and the location. The ud’s number of strings never had a bigger variation. During the 18th to 19th century, ud had only four strings. The fifth one was added after sometime later (Wallin, 100). The ud, reed and quanun are instruments utilized in traditional Arabic bands. Violin amongst other familiar western instruments are included. There are many other instruments used in traditional Middle East bands like buzuq and riq.

These Middle East instrument even though the look different and exotic, the Western world is still familiar with them since these instruments are the descendants of the Western instruments (Sachs, 231). Middle Eastern music is diverse just as the land is with varying music according to the location.  Essentially, in Gulf countries encompassing Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and UAE amongst others, their music differs from those of the North African countries like Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Egypt.

Trading and migrations which led to the accumulation of Africans and Indians in the Gulf region together with transcontinental touches led to the development of Gulf music from the Bedouin ethnic group in the Gulf countries. In their music, melodies are recurrent and with a step-like quality (Sachs, 233). Their most common traditional instruments are the single framed drum, the tabl, and the tar. Drums are usually decorated for performing dances like Ardha which originated form the Bedouin culture. Nonetheless, Bedouin music mostly incorporates the use of tar in accompanying poetry being sung. On the other hand, Oman traditional music possesses lesser music instruments just like the Bedouin due to the concentration on the vocalist. Their melodic instrument entails wind and stringed instruments like the nay and violin. Rhythm instruments are very significant in Oman music. Oman music is popular and well known for being strong and with complex rhythm. Non-skinned, double skinned and single skinned instruments are exploited in the production of the rhythm (Sachs, 235). Traditionally music for Oman was not connected to any musical notation, neither was it often written. Currently, music is put into writing although not every aspect of the music is included in the writing. Omani music is best enjoyed by listening especially for foreigners.

In North Africa, music is normally started by singing and makes use of the ud, nay, and quanun. However, in their music, they incorporate sub-Saharan musical culture and traditions which includes call-and-response dialogue and dense rhythms. Classical music in Morocco is known as the Andalusian music of the 5th to 10th centuries (Danielson et al., 182). This type of music is very intricate in musical structure and usually played using an orchestra encompassing the darbuga, tar, and the three-stringed instruments which include ud, kemanja which is the violin, and rehab. An ethnic group in North African countries, the Berber, their music is different from Moroccan classical music. Those who are singing are accompanied by; t”bel for rhythm, bendir (the frame drum) and ajouag (the flute) and ghaita (the bagpipe) for production of melody for the song (Danielson et al., 189). However, Berber music is very closely connected with poetry as compared to Arab music whereby the poetry is sung.

In essence, the Middle East has been a significant origin of musical instruments for the entire world. From the stringed quanun to the reed nay, all musical qualities of the Middle Eastern music have their own exclusive beauty which is acquired from the blended cultures.  Therefore, Middle East music was monophony using unique traditional instruments which made them remain outstanding. Today, Middle Easter music has greatly evolved; developing through assimilation of Western instruments which are has helped improve Middle East music through the introduction of more harmony and polyphony.