Ranging from classic to pop, soothing to lively and secular to sectarian, Arab music is a product of musical styles and genres of ancient Egypt, Greece, Persia (now Iran), Assyria, Turkey, India, North Africa, Africa and Europe.
Arabic music is not just popular in Arabian countries. It is also popular among other cultures and nations, especially in neighboring continents and countries.
Characteristics of Arab music
Arab music is distinct for its focus on rhythm and melody. Though there are Arabic music genres that are polyphonic, Arab music is usually homophonic. Its musical tuning system is based on particular intervals introduced by al-Farabi in the 10th century. Arab music also follows a rhythmic-temporal structure known as "awzan", which are used to accent instrumental and vocal genres.
Vocal music predominates the Arab music scene. Generally, Arab music is composed of more homophony than polyphony and polyrhythm.
Tracing the roots of Arab music
Arab music started to develop in the pre-Islamic period known as Jahiliyyah. The deep roots of present day Arab music can be traced back to early Arabic poetry. Ancient Arab poets used to read poems in hymns.
Early Arab music was an integral part of ancient Arabic magic and exorcism. It is believed to be the means through which Jinns, or genies in Arabian folklore, revealed messages to humans.
Through the years, Arab music began to be influenced by other cultures. Soon, Arab music began to take different forms and genres.
Pop Arab music
Western influence on Arab music came in the 1950s and 1960s. Songs in this genre are often combinations of Eastern and Western music.
RnB, reggae and hip hop Arab music
This genre is another product of Western influence on Arab music. Incorporating raps from rappers, reggae beats and R&B rhythms, this genre also became popular.
Jazz Arab music
Music in this genre is often characterised by the use of jazz musical instruments such as saxophone. The early influences of Arab jazz began when Samir Suroor, an Arab musician started using sax in the "oriental" way or style.
Rock Arab music
With its popularity in almost all countries, rock music also took the stage in Arab music scene. Using Arabic musical instruments, Arabic rock bands also hit the Arabic music hit charts.
There are other forms and genres of Arabic music. With the continual exchange of information between nations, as well as each culture's exposure to other cultures' there would surely be more concepts that would influence Arab music as we know today.