The traditional arabic music was first established in Damas during the 8th century A.D. and went on to reach its glory during the 9th century A.D in Baghdad. Then it was exported to Andalusia by the famous artist Ziryab. It can be recognized by its use of the quarter tones and the half tones. Four tones framing over three intervals give rise to a mode (maqâm).
If the music of Near-East likes to mix the modes, the one of the Maghreb prefers to keep the unit of the maqâm. There is no polyphony in the Arab music.
One finds the usage of many musical instruments according to the rhythm and type being played: the ‘oud‘ (lute) with four or six cords, the qanoun (zither), the quadrant, the nay (flute in reed), the darbouka (drum in skin) and the douf (drum on framework).
The classical Arabic room music ook a new beginning mainly because of, amongst others, Mounir Bachir from Iraq.
The Arab song is nowadays in full rise. The first generation of singers has updated the heritage of melody by the introduction of new instruments such as Violin and by the introduction of modern texts.
Oum Koulsoum (or Oum Kalthoum) from Egypt, specializing in Tarab (extase poetic) and having the ability to mesmerize a vast audience for hours, along with the very famous Fayrouz from Lebanon can be considered amongst the greatest of Arab singers.
The most common theme for lyrics is love. Thanks to the installation of the orchestration, along with the use of recent instruments like the electric guitar, and with the exploration of new themes, the landscape of Arab songs has been completely revolutionized. Also, with Cheb Khaled, the raï has accelerated this revolution. In the same way, thanks to artists like Marcel Khalifé from Lebanon, inspired from the poetry of Mahmoud Darwich, the Eastern melody has found a new direction, at times poetic and at times patriotic.