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Islamic music


Listers:
Apparently there is quite a bit of interest in this topic! Here is
what was sent to me. I have eliminated responses that were essentially
duplicate. Thank you all for your combined wisdom!
Joy Hirokawa
Founder and Artistic Director
Bel Canto Children's Chorus
www.belcantochildren.com
hirokawa(a)fast.net

The original post:

I am trying to put together a program that would honor all the major
faiths of the world and include something representative of each faith.
The difficulty I am finding is music of Islam. I must confess that I
am totally ignorant as to the musical tradition here, and am searching
for someone who might be able to shed some light on this for me or
point me towards some quality resources. Internet searches are very
difficult, as most of the ones I have found have music, but not really
a description of what it is, or the tradition behind it. Also, in the
world climate of today, I want to be sure that what we present is
honoring the tradition.

Is there anyone who has knowledge of this subject? Thanks so much!

Responses:

-You have probably heard this by now, but you won't find any success
(to my knowledge) looking for Islamic music. The only "music" that is
Islamic is the chants for prayer, etc. You will have more success
finding mid-Eastern folk songs. Islam does not have a music tradition
outside of the chants, and they are not really considered music. Many
veins of the faith believe that art forms are a glorification of man
instead of Allah.

-From what I understand, Muslims consider it very disrespectful to
perform sacred music (or settings from the Koran) in a concert setting.
So although it may go against the inclusionist grain, I'd advise you to
stay away.

There are a few secular Arabic children's songs and the like published,
however.

-You have probably heard this by now, but you won't find any success
(to my knowledge) looking for Islamic music. The only "music" that is
Islamic is the chants for prayer, etc. You will have more success
finding mid-Eastern folk songs. Islam does not have a music tradition
outside of the chants, and they are not really considered music. Many
veins of the faith believe that art forms are a glorification of man
instead of Allah.

I am no expert, but this is what I've found when I've looked around for
the same thing.

-
I am no expert on this, but I think you will have a very hard time--we
faced
a similar challenge a few years ago, and came up with nothing. Islamic
music consists of solo chanting of the Koran (Q'ran). It is not set for
choirs--there are no Islamic choirs. You might be able to find
somebody to
do this in a concert setting, but I think you might find it hard to.

I recently attended a World Sacred Music Festival in Fez, Morocco. The
choral music was Christian and Jewish; all the Islamic music was solo
recitation of the Koran.

-I can quickly tell you that many branches of Islam do not respect music
in most of its forms, considering it earthly/unholy/what-have-you.
There are two Arabic words for what westerners consider music: one for
the stuff they don't like, the other refers specifically to chanted
Koranic passages (which they do like, but don't consider "music").

The best I can suggest is to seek out a mosque and ask if they have any
notations of Koranic chant. From that source, you can simply teach your
choir the chant. Or better yet: find a composer with a background in
and/or appreciation for Islam to make a setting based on the chant.
(American Composers Forum can be a resource for
finding such a composer.)

Hope this helps a bit. Good luck.

-This is a tough question. Music is an issue of
controversy in Islam. It is considered forbidden
(haraam) in orthodox circles. Don't know if the
Qur'an addresses it directly, but the hadiith
(commentary on the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet)
does address it, and it is generally not recommended
to the faithful, if not forbidden.

Of course, music is hugely important throughout the
Muslim world, and there is loads of it, much great.
However, due to this marginal status in religion,
there is no "Muslim" music as there is Christian,
Jewish, Hindu, etc. music. Very importantly, the
Qu'ran is NEVER set to music. The call to prayer and
chanting of the Qur'an are not considered music, but
rather elevated speech.

I wanted to do the same thing as you are trying when I
arrived here in Lebanon, and got straightened out
pretty quick.

There is a huge body of Sufi music, essentially music
for playing and singing while the dervishes turn.
However, this is heterodox, and considered
"unislamic," in some conservative circles.

If you are interested, I ran across a CD set, MUSIC IN
THE WORLD OF ISLAM, pub. Topic Records LTD, London,
UK. But I repeat, it is not liturgical music, but
rather music which is apart from Muslim religious
practice.

Check w. an Islamic scholar at a university near you
for more info. That's all I got.

-Also see:
choralnet.org > Repertoire > by Country or Culture > Arabic music

-Check out a recording by The Ivory Consort entitled "Music in the Land
of Three Faiths" - I believe on the Sepharad label.

-I have a piece (very short) about Ramadan. It is like our Christmas
carols, in that it Should be sung DURNING Ramadan (9th month of the
Islamic calendar), but close to it is okay, too. This piece is
being considered by Ron Jeffers for publication, but he takes a lot of
time for research before publishing.

It was premiered last Ramadan (October) by the Piedmont Children's
Choir, Robert Geary, Dir. at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The
San Francisco Girls Chorus has also expressed interest in it. The
main chant melody is really a children's song, sung after the fasting
of Ramadan, in order to collect treats for the children.
(Something like treat - or - treating at Halloween, same concept,
anyway.) So this melody is easy enough for all levels to sing. The
piece ultimately ends in 8 parts, so a more advanced choir needs to
fill out the other parts.

The title is "Haaloo ya haaloo". The translation is roughly, "Hey!
(or Hello!) generous Ramadan Hello!"

If you're interested I can send you the PDF and a recording (not so
easy to hear) or a midi file to hear it.

My website is www.earheadmusic.com. My music has been performed at
the Ft. Worden Festival in Washington state (Seattle Girls Choir,
Northwest Girls Choir, Cappella Choir, etc) and by the Peninsula
Women's Chorus, Vivace Children's Chorus and my choirs.


Thanks, Sue Bohlin, Director
Piedmont Children's Choir Training Dept.
Anchor Bay Children's Choir
415-339-8809
707-884-5477

-Are you aware of the songs of Universal Peace? Some, composed in the
last 30 years, are in Arabic, sung by a Sufi Choir. I have them on an
old LP from years ago, but they might exist as a CD now. YOu could
teach the song by rote if you can find a recording. ("A salaam
aleikum").

-I believe that you will not find anything comparable to the Christian
tradition, for the simple reason that Islam does not use music as
Christianity does. But I would suggest finding a nearby mosque and
speaking with the clergy there.

-I have a work that was commissioned to continued dialogue between
Christianity and Islam based on the story of Hagar entitled Hagar's
Prayer. Might you be interested in seeing it? It is unfortunately not
for children's choir, but for soprano, piano and trumpet, which may or
may not fit in with your group. Please let me know if you would be
interested in a complimentary copy and I would be more than happy to
send you one.

Most sincerely,
Amy Scurria
Composer
mail(a)amyscurria.com
http://www.amyscurria.com

-In Islam, the predominant attitude is that "music" is not what happens
in
the worship service. Anything that has pitch or melody to it is "chant"
and is part of prayer. "Music" is a secular concern that is considered
entertainment and has no place in the worship service. Instruments
(which
are secular) also do not have a place in worship. The exception to
this is
the Sufi tradition, especially in India, which does allow some songs and
the use of instruments. However, all of this tradition, sacred and
secular, has been an oral one and it is not easy to find transcriptions
of
things. The western idea of a choral piece with different parts written
out and a piano accompaniment is not readily available in the Islamic
tradition. Also, if you find something, you want to make sure that if
it
comes from the sacred tradition you are not profaning the "music" by
performing it in a secular context.

-I couldn't tell from your post what level of difficulty or what
voicing you are looking for, but I recently heard the first performance
of a new work at the Leipzig Bach Festival which might interest to you.
Heinz Werner Zimmerman wrote a piece called Marienlob, consisting of
three movements praising Mary from different religious traditions. The
third movement, "Das Islamische Marienlob" is a beautiful six-voice
setting of the 3rd Sure of the Koran.
It shows my ignorance that I didn't know there was such an intersection
between the two faiths...Mary is specifically referred to as the mother
of the Messiah in the Koran verse.

I guess this is off the beaten path, but I thought it was interesting
enough to share.

-There was a collection of Muslim songs for chorus from the Phillipines
that I encourntered at an ACDA hgh school event. I am looking for the
collection. it was pub in the phillipines.

-I saw your posting on Choralist. I don't know how
helpful this would be, but there is a great book by
Michael Sells: "Approaching the Qu'ran", which
includes a CD with recitation along with line-by-line
transliterations in the book. The CD contains a lot
of different styles of recitation from around the
world.

Also, I am a composer and wrote a choral (SAB) piece
on a text from the Koran, translated into English. I
would be very happy to mail you a score or email a PDF
if you're interested in looking at it.

Thanks,
Robinson McClellan
www.newmusicjukebox.org/composers

-

This list was also sent to me regarding Music of Islam. As it was in
itself fairly lengthy, I am sending it separately.
Again, Thanks so much for all the input!
Joy Hirokawa
Founder and Artistic Director
Bel Canto Children's Chorus
www.belcantochildren.com
hirokawa(a)fast.net

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Helene Whitson
> Date: June 22, 2005 9:13:31 PM EDT
> To: Joy Hirokawa
> Subject: Re: [CHORALIST-L] searching for music of Islam
>
> HI, Joy!
>
> I'm not sure there IS an Islamic musical tradition, in terms of sacred
> music. There is an Arabic community chorus here in the Bay Area:
> Aswat:
> http://www.zawaya.org/aswat.html, and you might contact that chorus to
> see
> if they can point you in the right direction. I'm not sure if they
> sing
> sacred or secular music. I'm including two Choralist messages I saved
> from
> several years ago.
>
> Cheers,
> Helene
>
> ***********************************************************************
> Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 17:31:16 -0400
> Reply-To: pmurray(a)jersey.net
> Sender: owner-choralist(a)lists.colorado.edu
> From: Polly Murray
> To: Choral list
> Subject: Islamic compilation
> Status:
> Here's a list of responses to "Islamic Music". Polly
>
> there is no such thing as Islamic music (other than their "chanting"
> the
> Qu'ran). In fact, it seems that music is offensive . . . !
>
> Subject: Compilation of responses: Arabic Folksongs/Choral Music (fwd)
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 11:16:02 -0400
> From: Elizabeth Parker
> To: Choralist
> Subject: Compilation of responses: Arabic Folksongs/Choral Music
> Here they are...
> Here's a little (very little) about Arabic Music. First, the
> tradition is soloistic, or heterophonic, and improvisatory. Thus,
> there's
> not a true "choral tradition." I've heard tell of Arabic tunes being
> harmonized and set chorally. I haven't seen them, but more
> importantly,
> it's really not "done" very much as far as I can tell. It's rather
> "outside" the classical Arabic tradition, even though popular and folk
> music
> has a great deal of group singing, largely unison.
> THAT SAID, the very good choir of Notre Dame University in Louaizeh,
> near
> here(Beirut), does interesting arrangements of largely Maronite
> Christian
> tunes,in Arabic, which include both harmony and choral unison. But the
> harmonic stuff is pretty western sounding.
> IMPORTANTLY: The Qur'an (Koran) is NEVER set to music. The call to
> prayer
> is not considered "music," rather cantillation, sort of heightened
> speech
> not unlike the Gregorian psalm tones. I sort of "stepped in it" when I
> first
> arrived here, hoping to find musical settings of the Koran,and was
> told (by
> an American scholar, thankfully), "it ain't done." Indeed in Islam, the
> subject of music itself is controversial. The jurists have debated for
> ever
> and anon over whether music as such is desirable for a Muslim.
> OF COURSE though, music plays a HUGE role in Arab society (the pop
> music is
> the most fun you've ever heard), esp. in the liberal Arab countries.
> So to sum up (my opinions mixed here)
> 1.I know no published arrangements, but I haven't looked very
> hard.Trying to
> get the choir here to tune a triad without screeching.
> 2.Be aware of the unison, heterophonic Arabic music tradition. You
> should find something at the NYPL perf. arts, or Mid-Manhattan, where
> you
> can browse several world music cds. Not sure tho.
> 3. Don't let no. 2 keep you from having your kids do some Arabic
> tunes.For
> something really authentic, have a musician come teach your kids the
> song -
> it's really "in the tradition," and you build social bridges with the
> Arab
> community. You can find musicians I'm sure in Brooklyn, or other
> places.
> Sorry, I don't know exactly where. Common traditional instruments are
> the
> 'oud (lute), naiy (end-blown reed flute), and derbekki (hourglass hand
> drum), and the voice.
> Also look at Earthsongs publishers - they have the most world music for
> choir.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> There are a few books there that might be of interest to you. Some of
> them
> are:
> Bulos, Afif Alvarez, Handbook of Arabic Music [Arabic Folk Songs],
> Beirut
> Librairie du Liban 1971.
> Touma, Habib, The Music of the Arabs, Amadeus Press 1996.
> Farmer, Henry, The Minstrelsy of The Arabian Nights: A Study of Music
> and
> Musicians, 1945.
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> There is a popular Arabic folksong called "El Bulbul."
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> Sally Monsour and Lois Land have a booklet of arabic folk songs that
> Sally
> collected. I cannot remember the title (Songs of Arabic Children,
> maybe).
> However, it is published by Alliance Music, Houston, 1-800-335-7750 or
> 1800-833-8432. Also, alliancemusic.com
> Elizabeth Parker
> Director
> The Children's Aid Society Chorus
> 219 Sullivan St
> NY NY 10012
> elizabethp(a)childrensaidsociety.org
> -----------------
> I have translated a beautiful Hebrew canon by Cantor Debbie
> Friedman so that its second voice is in Arabic. The sentiment is "May
> the
> One who causes peace to reign in high places bring peace to us, to all
> Israel, and to all the world." Can you download a Finale file? You'd
> need
> to get permission from Debbie's publisher, Tara Publications, to
> perform
> her piece, but you can use my Arabic interpolation for free. The tune
> will
> be familiar to any of your Jewish kids, as it's sung very often in
> camps,
> at Shabbat services, etc. Let me know if you're interested.
> - Elizabeth Hanger
> --- bhanger(a)earthlink.net
> ------------------
> I am not sure of that song, but I do know of a song called Peace in 12
> Languages. I have used it several times before. It is very beautiful
> and
> effective. It can be be done in two parts or in unison. Here is the
> description which I copied from the JW Pepper website:
> PEACE IN TWELVE LANGUAGES ( PALMER )
> Choral TWO-PART ....Grade-2
> Hal Leonard Corporation
> Craig Palmer. A different but very moving two-part number with lyrics
> that
> consist simply of the word "peace" in languages from English and
> Vietnamese,
> to
> Hebrew and Arabic. It's a simple song with a powerful message that's
> in good
> taste any time of the year.
> Good luck with your concert!
> Michelle Brodsky
> Park View School
> Morton Grove, IL
> ---------------------------
> I don't know of any "Islamic" pieces, but there is a Hindi piece made
> popular by Gandhi call Ragupati Ragavah Rajaram. In the second verse
> it
> talks about "Ishwere Allah tere nam" Whether you call him Ishwere or
> Allah,
> he still one God. Can be found in the Reprints from Sing Out and in
> the
> Fifth Grade Silver Burdett Text Series "The Music Connection"
> Melissa Roth
> -----------------------------
> I found a Palestinian folksong. It has no text, just "tumba" and lots
> of
> la's. It's a 3 part canon and I've done it with my 5th graders using
> Orff
> style accompaniment to nice effect. I don't remember where I got it.
> If
> you're interested, send me your addess. I'll jot it down and send it
> to
> you.
> Karla Cole
> St. Paul, MN
> -----------------------------
> There aren't any. I bet it's not Muslim parents bringing this up, but
> politically-correct do-gooders. Tell these parents it's considered
> sacrilegious to set the verses of the Koran to music, and they don't
> have choral music at all in those countries. See the recent Choralist
> post on this subject at:
> ChoralNet > Repertoire > Lists > By Country or Culture > Arabic
> --
> Never underestimate the ability of children. They can surprise you
> when
> presented with a challenge!)
> Polly Murray
> Founder/Artistic Director
> ChildrenSong of New Jersey
> http://www.ChildrenSong.org
> pmurray(a)jersey.net
>
> ***********************************************************************
> ***
> Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 10:03:07 -0500
> Reply-To: choraltalk(a)lists.colorado.edu
> Sender: owner-choraltalk(a)lists.colorado.edu
> From: "Jason Shelton"
> To:
> Subject: RE: Islamic 4-part music (long)
> X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
> Status:
> It's been most interesting to see how the interest in Islam has just
> gone
> through the roof in the last few weeks. It's well nigh impossible to
> find a
> copy of the Qur'an in your local bookstore, and choral directors
> across the
> country (and beyond, I'm sure) are searching for Islamic choral music
> to
> include in their programs.
> The learning curve here is a steep one. While we may have the best of
> intentions in our searching for "Islamic music," our doing so
> underscores
> how little most of us actually know about this religious tradition. I
> would
> recommend that you find a copy of "Enchanting Powers: Music in the
> World's
> Religions," ed. Lawrence Sullivan (Harvard UP, 1997), which has two
> very
> fine articles on the relationship between music and Islam. What
> you'll find
> is that only a few kinds of "music" are acceptable as "religious,"
> though in
> Islam one would never speak of these forms as "music" at all. Some of
> these
> forms are Qur'anic recitation, the Adhan (call to prayer), and poetic
> texts
> in praise of the prophet, Mohammed. While these may sound like music
> to
> western-trained ears, Muslims would say that the person is simply
> reciting
> the text according to the tradition handed down over thousands of years
> (some say the tradition can be traced back to King David).
> What's more, these forms of recitation are always "performed" by a
> solo male
> reciter (muezzin). To speak of 4-part Islamic music is to ask for
> something
> that simply doesn't exist, and which, accrding to the tradition,
> shouldn't
> exist.
> This does not mean that there is not a musical tradition outside of the
> religious context, however. The Persian classical tradition is
> well-established, and there has been a boom in recent years of
> "popular"
> music coming from the middle east and southwest Asia. But just
> because the
> music comes from predominantly Muslim countries does not mean that all
> of
> the music is "Islamic" or somehow religious in nature.
> There is also the Sufi tradition, which often uses a mix of recitation
> with
> instrumental accompaniment (instruments are strictly taboo in
> "traditional"
> Islam). Though some of those pieces are of a call-and-response
> nature, I
> don't know of any that involve part-singing.
> I would imagine there have been some modern composers who have set the
> words
> of Sufi poets (like Rumi) in choral works, but you should be clear in
> understanding that this is something which would be very foreign to
> Muslims,
> and perhaps even offensive. Even more offensive would be a choral
> setting
> of text from the Qur'an - please beware of any such pieces.
> I'm sorry if that limits your options. I was searching for similar
> material
> for my choir several months ago when I began learning more about Islam
> and
> its traditions. Perhaps coming to greater understanding is the more
> important lesson to be learned right now.
> Regards,
> Jason Shelton
> Director of Music
> First Unitarian Universalist
> Church of Nashville, TN
> music(a)firstuunashville.org
>
>
>> I am trying to put together a program that would honor all the major
>> faiths of the world and include something representative of each
>> faith.
>> The difficulty I am finding is music of Islam. I must confess that
>> I
>> am totally ignorant as to the musical tradition here, and am searching
>> for someone who might be able to shed some light on this for me or
>> point me towards some quality resources. Internet searches are very
>> difficult, as most of the ones I have found have music, but not really
>> a description of what it is, or the tradition behind it. Also, in the
>> world climate of today, I want to be sure that what we present is
>> honoring the tradition.
>>
>> Is there anyone who has knowledge of this subject? Thanks so much!
>> Joy Hirokawa
>> Founder and Artistic Director
>> Bel Canto Children's Chorus
>> www.belcantochildren.com
>> hirokawa(a)fast.net
>
> *************************************************
> Helene Whitson
> President, San Francisco Lyric Chorus
> Co-Author, San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory
> Founder, San Francisco Bay Area Choral Archive
> 1824 Arch Street
> Berkeley, California 94709
> 510-849-4689
> hwhitson(a)choralarchive.org
> http://www.choralarchive.org
> http://sflc.org
>
>
>
on July 12, 2008 10:00pm
That there are no Islamic choirs is not entirely accurate. Some Islamic scholars may be inclined to condemn all forms of music, others scholars feel that music that is deemed to be free of un-Islamic and unethical themes and messages, the same is true of musical instruments so long as they are not used for the above, have been considered as permissible. This also pertains to group singing. I found this information by Googling the subject of Islamic music and choirs. From What I gather, music in general, doesn't play a predominant historical base in Islamic culture, like it does in western culture. There may not be choral music as we know it with western culture, though it is definitely worth researching. Check out the work of Hussein Janmohamed for some interesting Ilsmic choral work.
on January 7, 2009 10:00pm
Hi Joy,

I will reaffirm that to make an arrangement of chants from the Quiran would be sacrilegious. However, Morocco has a great tradition of music which includes singing. Classical Moroccan music has its origin in Andalucia where there was a strong Moorish empire before the Spanish inquisition in 1492. This music is loved and is considered very important in the Moroccan musical tradition. Secondly, there is the music of the Sufi, a tradition which is frowned upon by the Islamic faith but is alive and well in Morocco. In fact I believe there is a Sufi Center in Fes. There is also the folk music of all the Berber tribes, the indigenous people of Morocco, which is primarily call & response and is ancient. There is also the Gnaoui tradition which is, if my memory serves me, music that was brought by the sub-Saharan Africans and mixed with the traditional Moroccan music. It is also trance music which is used for healing and, I believe, includes some of the Sufi traditions. There is a big Gnaoui music festival in Essaouira every June which draws people from all over the world. Lastly, there is the popular music which incorporates all the musical traditions of Morocco. As a final note all the music is very rhythmic and usually includes some sort of drumming using polyrhythms. If you google music of Morocco you will come up with many good examples with sound samples. If you want more information, e-mail me.

I don't know if this will help you.

Carol de Vries
Casablanca American School
Casablanca, Morocco
cdvsingin@yahoo.com
on February 11, 2009 10:00pm
Our local Islamic chaplain (who is from Syria, if you're wondering) told me that, in addition to what you were told, that to set Qu'ran verses like we set scripture would be redundant, since the Qu'ran is considered to be its own music.