2.     Research Questions:


In this research study I will explore ways in which Arabic maqam and jazz merge to create hybrid musical forms. I will investigate this through asking the following main research question:


  • How can elements of jazz and maqamat be deeply merged to create new hybrid musical outcomes?


Other areas of interest in my project include:

  • How does including Arabic maqam within a jazz context affect my composition process and the musical outcomes?
  • How can musicians from different traditions learn from each-other and in which ways can this affect their musicianship?
  • What are the distinctive differences between maqam and jazz improvisation and what are the effects of combining them?
  • How can you teach maqamat to jazz musicians and jazz harmony to maqamat musicians?
  • How did this journey affect me?
  • How can I apply these lessons learned within the context of my teaching?


3.     Methodology


I chose to write this qualitative study using a combination of research methods, the autoethnography research method using some aspects of autoethnography as a research method, as well as the method of participant observer employed within ethnomusicology and the artistic approach. This method combines ethnography  where the researcher  describes and interprets (“graphy”) cultural texts, experiences, beliefs, and practices (“ethno”) with the researchers personal experience (“auto”) (Adams et al., 2017). 

Ethnographers observe, participate in, and write about a culture, they enter the cultural “field” for an extended amount of time, take “field notes” and interview cultural members (“insiders”) about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings to make these practices familiar for cultural “outsiders'. This is done through writing what is referred to as thick, vivid, and concrete description, which offers readers a sense of being there in the experience. (ibid)

The autoethnographer offers accounts of personal experience to complement, or fill gaps in, existing research. In addition, autoethnographers can articulate insider knowledge of a cultural experience and inform readers about aspects of cultural life that other researchers may know. (ibid) 

The field of ethnomusicology is also relevant here, where the study is not of cultural texts but of music as culture.

 Ethnomusicologists, according to Bruno Nettl (2010, pp.12-13) are concerned with four main areas summarized below: 

  1. Music must be understood as part of a culture; how the culture musically defines itself and how it changes its music
  2. Ethnomusicology studies music from a comparative and relativistic point of view. 
  3. Fieldwork with face to face interaction is essential -intensive work with a small group of informants is recommended.
  4. Ethnomusicology is the study of all the musical manifestations of a society. (Nettl, 2010).


In addition, as an ethnomusicologist using the methodology of participant observer, the researcher can compose and be part of various musical groups and performances and reflect on the process (Baily, 2001). Furthermore, I draw on interviews, observations of my own artistic processes, and the resulting musical outcomes as research data.



4.     My connection with jazz and maqam:



In this section, I will offer an introduction to my background as a way to position myself and for the reader to understand more about the context of this project.    

I was born into a diverse cultural environment, but as far as I was concerned, I was born in a village in Israel. My grandparents were from Yemen on one side and on the other side from England. Jewish music was an important component in our lives. My family’s daily playlist included. Klezmer, Yiddish, classical music, Israeli folk, old Arabic Yemenite music, the songs from the Synagogue from Ashkenazi and Sepharadi traditions, in addition to English folk and pop songs and jazz music. My family were also big fans of musicals and Disney music as well. In short, I grew up with all this mix of music which can be summed up as “east meets west.” 

When I began to study music at a professional level, I left behind the old and traditional songs I grew up on and embarked on opera, then moved to jazz. When I completed my bachelors jazz performance degree. and started to compose my own music, I realized my compositions didn’t fit into any popular category. My compositions were sometimes in scales that I couldn’t explain in words. I knew that my classical and jazz musical background couldn't account for a large portion of my compositions; I didn't have the terminology to describe the music.  I knew for example that in a melody I composed sometimes I used the note 9b of the scale and sometimes the 9# on the same chord and sometimes I sang something in-between the 3 to the b3 I knew that it is a micro tone but didn’t know how to  accompany this line. I also noticed that odd meters come naturally to me, and later on I realized that the traditional music I used to sing at home was mostly in odd meters in 7/8 or 9/8 or 10/8. 


I performed my new compositions with my trio, but it bothered me that I wasn't able to put into words and explain some of the scales I was singing and improvising on. It took me two years to slowly come to the conclusion that I needed to study Arabic music- maqam.  I contacted Yair Dalal, a master in Arabic composition and oud player in Israel. During our first conversation Yair asked me what took you so long?  


Every class with Yair was inspirational. I gradually realized and understood what was missing in my understanding of my own music. I learnt the maqamat system and I began to analyze the Arabic maqam and figure out which jazz chords would work with them. Later, I grew to understand how to make the scale in different motifs by adding chords and I learned how to keep the same scale and motif. It was mind boggling for me. Suddenly there were so many more scales and composition opportunities. I composed many new songs in our classes and started to mix between the two styles I now possessed: Maqamat with jazz harmony. It opened my world as a composer, arranger, vocalist and also in my vocal improvisation.


Finally, I felt at home. I found a balance between my cultural backgrounds. Using my inside voice and knowing the names for the scales I was able to sing, mixing with my western music knowledge, harmony and colour that I love. I continued forming and composing a new type of hybrid music, but I needed to find suitable musicians to play these compositions. I was in a quandary.  Should I work with musicians with a jazz or an Arabic background?  How can I work with a piano or a bass player who cannot play the micro tones I’m singing? How can I work with musicians who don't come from a mixed background?  

How will the musicians play my songs naturally and how can I teach my music to others?

During my time at Sibelius Academy I have had the opportunity to collaborate and work with musicians from jazz and Arabic backgrounds, with folk, klezmer and classical musicians. I have learned that musicians who are open minded to listen, appreciate and love this kind of music can play it as their own style.


In this thesis I invite you to join me on my journey through my master's studies, travelling to different countries, discovering new things, meeting people, cultures, and working with musicians.


photo by Devi Anna