[This guest blog post comes to us from EarthMoments.]
To journey into the realm of Middle Eastern music is to unveil a tradition that is inextricably linked to religion—a uniting factor that brought together people of several different countries, languages and cultures.
The prevalence of Islam enabled the Arabic influence to spread across areas including Morocco, Iran, Egypt, Turkey and North Africa from the 7th century onward—a cultural influence that also permeated the region’s musical framework. There are various elements that give Arabic music its distinctly otherworldly quality—the music often features quarter tones between notes, the Arabic scale is based on various maqamat or modes, and complex rhythmic patterns play an essential role in the tradition.
In order to connect producers to this region’s exotic spectrum of instruments and rich sonic diversity, EarthMoments has released a bundle that grants them exclusive access to an otherwise elusive musical tradition.
EarthMoments’ Hamsa Vol. 02 – Arabic Percussion showcases several percussion instruments from the Middle East, North Africa, and Arabic musical traditions.
Forming the mainstay of the percussive practice are a variety of hand drums, instruments like the dumbek—a classic goblet-shaped drum traditionally made of ceramic clay and with a deeply resonant sound; the darbuka – also ‘goblet’ shaped, and said to be a modern variation of the dumbek; and the riq—a frame drum with 5 sets of cymbals, usually skinned with goat or fish skin – all of which are included in the bundle.
These traditions are heavily steeped in rhythmic patterns that perhaps at first listen are unusual to the Western-trained ear—complex time signatures that evoke a sense of the mystical realm from which these sounds emerged. In creating the bundle, the EarthMoments team made it a point to go beyond a surface level depiction of the ‘exotic Orient’—and chose instead to showcase both traditional commonly heard rhythms, as well as less conventional, rare folk rhythms that stray far from the mainstream.
Included are rhythms like the Malfuf—a fast pattern that originates in Egypt and Lebanon and is often played as an intro for classical orchestral compositions, specially created for a belly dancer’s entrance and exit;
the Baladi – an urban folk rhythmic style, a derivative of which is the Maqsoum rhythm (the most common rhythm in Arabic belly dance music);
the Shiftateli – a hypnotic rhythm often used for the sensuous movements of the belly dancer such as undulations of the torso, floor work, or when the dancer moves with snake like arms;
and the Karachi – a fast rhythm that originated in Pakistan but is commonly found in modern Egyptian and North African music.
In unlocking this enigmatic world of sound, new doorways open up for the curious producer looking for unusual creative leads – and herein lies great potential to create truly unique, offbeat compositions.