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The Music of the Arabs Hardcover – March 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Amadeus Press; Expanded edition (March 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0931340888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0931340888
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,148,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This comprehensive book on Arabic music by a composer and musicologist now living in Germany is part technical treatise, with many musical examples; part history; and about half cultural description. Concerned that traditional Arabic music is in danger of being lost because of pressures to Westernize, Touma earnestly chronicles the presence and use of music in the contemporary Arab world, with detailed reports on song styles, musical instruments, art music, religious music, and popular music. He approves of musicians who preserve tradition while offering a distinctive voice of their own, such as composer Munir Bashir and singer Umm Kulthum. A bibliographic essay discussing sources in Arabic, French, German, and English ends the book. A specialized work by an expert; for large music collections.?Bonnie Jo Dopp, Montgomery Cty. Dept. of Public Libs., Md.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Fernand Ray on September 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As you can see, this is a complex and contentious topic. If you want to get your bearings, there is simply no better introduction to the subject in English, and that's not all good news. It would be silly to expect a small book like this to cover all aspects, let alone all personalities, be they "authentic" or not. This is certainly in the spirit of the great musicologists like D'Erlanger, who wanted to save Arabic music from itself, and in opposition to the inferiority complex that created the bizarre "arabic orchestra", in which legions of musicians play a single melodic line on as many western instruments as could be dragged onto the stage. It also sheds some light on why attempts to create pieces like symphonic "oud concertos" might sound silly and contrived.

At the same time, there is a touch of madness and bias to such polemics. Imagine a little book called "Music of the Europeans", and you get a taste of the problems. Touma also forgets that Western Art Music is in crisis. The old orderly image of "classical music" is failing because we are finding that there is no viable "contemporary classical music". Mozart and Beethoven were products of their economic/social context, and those norms no longer work. If you want to talk about the music we listen to, you have to include John Lennon, Andrew Lloyd Webber ... AND Farid El AlTrash.

Having relied on rote oral transmission from master to student, especially defenseless against distortions for having no system of notation of its own, Arabic music has been constantly evolving (or decaying) over the centuries, and changing under the influence of foreigners. At one point Touma makes the following tragic admission: "Most Arabs today, however, whatever their level of education might be, no longer know true Arabic music.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By "mimikanun" on March 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Touma's Music of the Arabs does not cover the subject. Although he states early on that he doesn't plan to cover folkloric music, nevertheless his photos seem mainly to focus on that area. He spends a lot of time on Iraqi maqam, which is quite different from mainstream Arabic music and not well known to most Arabs. He barely mentions the greatest artists of modern urban (traditional) Arab music such as Umm Kulthum, Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, Baligh Hamdi, Farid al-Atrash, Abdel Halim Hafez, and others; people wishing to get an overview of Arab music in the twentieth century will be somewhat misled by this book. Also, the CD that is meant to go with the book similarly focuses on non-mainstream traditional Arabic music. I suspect the man has a bone to pick and is purposely slanting his book away from what most Arabs would think of as typical Arab music. (I have written a extensive and detailed review of this work for "The Near Eastern Music Calendar." Furthermore, I am a musician who has played Arab music professionally for more than 20 years.)
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. Coutya on June 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Thanks God that the book doesn't mention Farid or Abdel Wahab, because Arabic music did exist before them, or before they changed it into Casino-like belly dancing arabesque musique rather than a decent creative music that didn't need their foreign and stupid influences such as Rumba and Tango, things that were cut and paste from the hollywood of the twenties, and that are so out of date now.

This book focuses on the Arabic music as a traditional inherited music, and does an excellent job at describing it.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Yearning to discuss technical specifications of the oud? Want to casually mention the influence of the maqam phenomenon at your next cocktail party?
Me either. That's why I bought this book instead of some dry pedantic musicological tome. (Besides, I hate cocktail parties.)
Arab music is fascinating to listen to, but it's great to be able to understand what's coming out of the speakers. Touma deftly handles major aspects of the music, and provides a layman's glossary and even a transliteration of the Arabic alphabet. Out of all the books I bought, this was the only one I could understand without a degree in musicology.
A fabulous and down-to-earth introduction to what is often a mysterious subject.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Shamoun on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a Syrian musician and also have studied my whole life the music of my culture and what i got from this book is that the writer covered a spectrum that took you back hundreds of years which was great because i learned about the stories I never knew such as the pearl divers and old islamic roots of music. For a person who doesn't understand music theory some pages are advanced with the maqam list and notation but for an arabic musician there is great historical information. My only issue is I feel that if you are going to mention "THE MUSIC OF THE ARABS" and only give 1 sentence about Sayyed Darwish, Zakaria Ahmed , 0 Information about Sheikh Abul ILLA Mouhamed also Briefly mention Umm Kolsoum "Saidet El Fen el Arabi", and Riyad Sunbati Mouhamed Abdel Wahab Farid "The Master" thats a rich history that is left out that didn't just changed arabic music but also helped every arab in tough times with the therapy the music brings to your soul. The book Is great for historical information to a musician and I enjoyed it and got a great history lesson on ancient arabic music.
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