Andalusian classical music

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Andalusian classical music (طرب أندَلُسي, trans. ṭarab andalusi, Spanish: música andalusí) is a style of Arabic music found in different styles across the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, and to a lesser degree in Tunisia and Libya in the form of the Ma'luf style). It originated out of the music of Al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia) between the 9th and 15th centuries. Some of its poems were found to be composed by authors such as Al-Shushtari, Ibn al-Khatib and Al-Mu'tamid ibn Abbad.


Andalusian classical music was allegedly born in the Emirate of Cordoba (Al-Andalus) in the 9th century. The Arab/ Kurdish or Persian musician (as his origins were not known but all historians agreed that he was of dark skin that's why he was called the blackbird.), residing in Iraq, Ziryâb (d. 857), who later became court musician of Abd al-Rahman II in Cordoba, is sometimes credited with its invention. Later, the poet, composer, and philosopher Ibn Bajjah (d. 1139) of Saragossa is said to have combined the style of Ziryâb with Western approaches to produce a wholly new style that spread across Iberia and North Africa.

By the 10th century, Muslim Iberia had become a center for the manufacture of instruments. These goods spread gradually to Provence, influencing French troubadours and trouvères and eventually reaching the rest of Europe. The English words lute, rebec, guitar, and naker derive from the Arabic oud, rabab, qithara and naqareh, although some Arabic terms (qithara, for example) had been derived in their turn from Vulgar Latin, Greek and other languages like Persian.

Mass resettlements of Muslims and Sephardi Jews from Cordoba, Sevilla, Valencia, and Granada, fleeing the Reconquista, further expanded the reach of Andalusian music.

In his book "Jews of Andalusia and the Maghreb" on the musical traditions in Jewish societies of North Africa, Haïm Zafrani writes: "In the Maghreb, the Muslims and Jews have piously preserved the Spanish-Arabic music .... In Spain and Maghreb, Jews were ardent maintainers of Andalusian music and the zealous guardians of its old traditions ...."

The author also discusses a number of rare books related to Andalusian music, including a directory of Andalusian music written in 1786 by Al Haik (of Tetouan, Morocco), and a rare repertoire of songs of Granada and Cordoba printed in 1886/1887.[1]

If the term Gharnati refers in the region of Tlemcen in Algeria to a distinct musical style of the Andalusian music, in Morocco, the term is rather loosely applied to the music of Tangiers, Tetouan, and even to that of some Jewish communities.[2]

The North African cities have in particular inherited the Andalusian musical style of Granada, as mentioned in the book The Literature of Al-Andalus.[3]

The Nuba of Morocco have been identified in the eighteenth century by the musician Al Haïk from Tetouan.[4]

The music today[edit]

A suite form called the Andalusi nubah forms the basis of al-âla. Though it has roots in Andalusia, the modern nûba is probably a North African creation. Each nuba is dominated by one musical mode. It is said that there used to be twenty-four nuba linked to each hour of the day, but in Algeria there are only sixteen nuba and in Morocco eleven have survived. Each nuba is divided into five parts called mîzân, each with a corresponding rhythm. The rhythms occur in the following order in a complete nuba:

  1. basît (6/4)
  2. qâ'im wa nusf (8/4)
  3. btâyhî (8/4)
  4. darj (4/4)
  5. quddâm (3/4 or 6/8)

Andalusian classical music orchestras are spread across the Maghreb, including the cities of:

They use instruments including oud (lute), rabab (rebec), darbouka (goblet drums), taarija (tambourine), qanún (zither), and kamancheh. More recently, other instruments have been added to the ensemble, including piano, contrabass, cello, and even banjos, saxophones, and clarinets, though these are rare.

Influence of Andalusian music[edit]

Andalusia was probably the main route of transmission of a number of Near-Eastern musical instruments used in European music: the lute from the oud, rebec from the rebab, the guitar from qitara and Greek kithara, and the naker from the naqareh. Further terms fell into disuse in Europe: adufe from al-duff, alboka from al-buq, anafil from al-nafir, exabeba from al-shabbaba (flute), atabal (bass drum) from al-tabl, atambal from al-tinbal,[6] the balaban, sonajas de azófar from sunuj al-sufr, the conical bore wind instruments,[7] the xelami from the sulami or fistula (flute or musical pipe),[8] the shawm and dulzaina from the reed instruments zamr and al-zurna,[9] the gaita from the rhaita, rackett from iraqya or iraqiyya,[10] geige (German: used to describe the violin, other early bowed instruments and the 'geigenwerke') from ghichak,.[11][12]

One possible theory on the origins of the Western Solfège musical notation suggests that it may have had Arabic origins. It has been argued that the Solfège syllables (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti) may have been derived from the syllables of the Arabic solmization system Durr-i-Mufassal ("Separated Pearls") (dal, ra, mim, fa, sad, lam). This origin theory was first proposed by Meninski in his Thesaurus Linguarum Orientalum (1680) and then by Laborde in his Essai sur la Musique Ancienne et Moderne (1780), while more recent supporters include Henry George Farmer[13] and Samuel D. Miller.[14]

According to historic sources, William VIII brought to Poitiers hundreds of Muslim prisoners.[15] Trend[16] believes the troubadors derived their sense of form and the subject matter of their poetry from Andalusia. The hypothesis that the troubador tradition was created, more or less, by William after his experience of Moorish arts while fighting with the Reconquista in Spain was also championed by Ramón Menéndez Pidal in the early twentieth-century, but its origins go back to the Cinquecento and Giammaria Barbieri (died 1575) and Juan Andrés (died 1822). Meg Bogin, English translator of the female troubadors, also held this hypothesis.[17] Certainly "a body of song of comparable intensity, profanity and eroticism [existed] in Arabic from the second half of the 9th century onwards."[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haïm Zafrani (2002). Juifs d'Andalousie et du Maghreb. Références Maisonneuve et Larose. Maisonneuve & Larose. p. 228. ISBN 978-2-7068-1629-1. 
  2. ^ Marouf, Nadir (2002). "Le système musical de la Sana'a ou le paradigm de la norme at de la marge". In Samrakandi, Mohammed Habib; Aous, Rachid. Horizons Maghrebins: Le droit à la mémoire. Toulouse: Presses Universitaire du Mirail. p. 24. ISBN 978-2-85816-657-2. (footnote 12)
  3. ^ María Rosa Menocal; Raymond P. Scheindlin; Michael Anthony Sells (2000). The literature of Al-Andalus. Cambridge history of Arabic literature. 4 Arabic literature to the end of the Umayyad period (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-0-521-47159-6. 
  4. ^ Arab-Andalusian Music of Morocco during the Centuries / scientific publication of D. Eisenberg (Hispanic Journal of Philosophy 1988)
  5. ^ Guerbas, Rachid (2002). "Chante et musique de la nawba ou nûba algérienne". In Samrakandi, Mohammed Habib; Aous, Rachid. Horizons Maghrebins: Le droit à la mémoire. Toulouse: Presses Universitaire du Mirail. p. 25. ISBN 978-2-85816-657-2. 
  6. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 137)
  7. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 140)
  8. ^ (Farmer 1978, pp. 140–1)
  9. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 141)
  10. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 142)
  11. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 143)
  12. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 144)
  13. ^ Farmer 1988, pp. 72–82
  14. ^ Miller, Samuel D. (Autumn 1973), "Guido d'Arezzo: Medieval Musician and Educator", Journal of Research in Music Education, 21 (3): 239–45, doi:10.2307/3345093, JSTOR 3345093 
  15. ^ M. Guettat (1980), La Musique classique du Maghreb (Paris: Sindbad).
  16. ^ J. B. Trend (1965), Music of Spanish History to 1600 (New York: Krause Reprint)
  17. ^ Bogin, Meg. The Women Troubadours. Scarborough: Paddington, 1976. ISBN 0-8467-0113-8.
  18. ^ "Troubadour", Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, London: Macmillan Press


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