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Conference Morsel: Music of the Muslim World

(An excerpt from the interest session “Salamu Aleikum: Music of the Muslim World,” presented by André de Quadros during the 2014 Western Division Conference)
       Music of the Muslim world and its choral music are little understood or known. This is because of three elements that are misunderstood and contested: Muslim music, Muslim world, and Muslim choral music. The role of music in Islam is hotly disputed by Islamic scholars. In representing their divergent positions, they refer to the hadīth (حديث‎), the body of sayings ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad, and the fiqh (فقه‎), the code of Islamic jurisprudence. Both the hadīth and the fiqh are ways in which the Qur’an may be understood and explained. But, quite simply, the word “music” doesn't quite work when we speak about music in Islam. There is a large body of Muslim religious recitation, of which Qur’anic recitation is the most common. The iqama (إقامة‎), or second call to prayer, is another such example. Also widespread are the hymns, inshad, belonging within the category of religious recitation. Looking with Western eyes, ears, and concepts of music, we may incorrectly classify Muslim religious recitation as music.
       What then, is Muslim choral music? Choral music, as we understand it, consists of music that has emerged from seventeenth century European liturgical and secular life, generally consisting of a group of people singing together, frequently in parts. There are numerous examples of group singing in the Muslim world, almost all of which is non-notated. Many of these group singing genres date back several centuries, such as the genre of Arab music called the muwashshahat, a song tradition that started in Muslim Spain and has continued vigorously until our times.
       While there are numerous examples of Muslim group singing, notated part-singing is a product of colonization, Westernization, Christianization, and now globalization. It is becoming increasingly popular for composers in the Muslim world to arrange and compose music for the Western-style choir, and this then becomes the focus of this session. Thus, this session serves to introduce participants to the breadth of Muslim culture, some Muslim songs, and the great diaspora of music of the Muslim world through a selection of pieces from different social, and cultural contexts.  
Sample scores
     Adinu, Shireen Abu Khader and André de Quadros (Earthsongs)
     Entarisi ala Benziyor (Earthsongs)
     Fog Elna Khel Salim Bali (Earthsongs)
     Soleram Ivan Yohan (Earthsongs)
     Ai-yu, by Mohamad Abdelfatah (SSAATTBB). Earthsongs.
     Luk luk lumbu, by Budi Susanto (SSAATTBB) Earthsongs.
     Pok pok alimpako, by Francisco Feliciano (SSAATB) Earthsongs.
     Yal asmar ellon, by Edward Torikian (SATB) Earthsongs.
on April 25, 2014 1:28pm
The work of Muslim composers and arrangers for Western-style choir is beautiful, fascinating and worthy.  But why can we not also learn and use the music of the traditional group singing genres dating back several centuries?