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, Tunisia, and Libya in the form of the Ma'luf style) and the Levant. 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 (his origins are unknown, but historians agree that he was called blackbird, a reference to his skin color), 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 kamanja. 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] and the xelami from the sulami or fistula (flute or musical pipe).[8]

Most scholars believe that Guido of Arezzo's Solfège musical notation system had its origins in a Latin hymn,[9] but others suggest that it may have had Arabic origins instead. According to Meninski in his Thesaurus Linguarum Orientalum (1680), Solfège syllables may have been derived from the syllables of an Arabic solmization system Durar Mufaṣṣalāt ("Separated Pearls").[10] However, there is no documentary evidence for this theory, and no Arabian musical manuscripts utilizing sequences from the Arabic alphabet are known to exist.[11] Henry George Farmer believes that there is no firm evidence on the origins of the notation, and therefore the Arabian origin theory and the hymnal origin theories are equally credible.[12]

Some scholars have speculated that the troubadour tradition was brought to England from Andalus by William IX of Aquitaine. Writers like Ramón Menéndez Pidal state that William was influenced by Moorish music and poetry while fighting in the Reconquista, though George T. Beech considers this unlikely, as William participated in only one known battle in Spain late in his life. Beech adds that while the sources of William’s inspirations are uncertain, he did have Spanish individuals within his extended family, and he may have been friendly with some Europeans who could speak Arabic.[13] Regardless of William's involvement in the tradition's creation, Magda Bogin states that Andalusian poetry was likely one of several influences on European “courtly love poetry”.[14] J.B. Trend has also asserted that the poetry of troubadours was connected to Andalusian poetry.[15]

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 (eds.). 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)". Archived from the original on 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  5. ^ Guerbas, Rachid (2002). "Chante et musique de la nawba ou nûba algérienne". In Samrakandi, Mohammed Habib; Aous, Rachid (eds.). 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. ^ McNaught, W. G. (1893). "The History and Uses of the Sol-fa Syllables". Proceedings of the Musical Association. Novello, Ewer and Co. 19: 35–51. ISSN 0958-8442.
  10. ^ Farmer 1988, pp. 76–77
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Farmer 1988, pp. 81–82
  13. ^ Beech, George T. (1992). "Troubadour Contacts with Muslim Spain and Knowledge of Arabic: New Evidence Concerning William IX of Aquitaine". Romania: 14-26.
  14. ^ Bogin, Magda; Bogin, Meg (1995). The Women Troubadours. WW Norton. p. 46-47. ISBN 978-0393009651.
  15. ^ Veldeman, Marie-Christine (2001). "Egypt, or the quest for syncretism and spiritual wholeness in Lawrence Durrell's Avignon Quintet". Equivalences. 28 (2): 87-100.


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