5.     Short history of Jazz and Arabic music


5.1 Jazz is music that developed from the afro blues in the late 1800s in New Orleans, Louisiana. Its sources come from the African slaves who worked in the fields, The blues, the foundation of jazz, evolved from hymns, work songs and spiritual. The workers brought their music from the fields to their night life and festivals, and this is where the mix and development occurred using instruments like the trumpet, trombone, tuba, piano and later on saxophone. The result is the jazz style containing new harmonies rhythms and sounds. (Gioia, 2011) 


 "New Orleans had a great tradition of celebration. Opera, military marching bands, folk music, the blues, different types of church music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drumming, and all of the dance styles that went with this music could be heard and seen throughout the city. When all of these kinds of music blended into one, jazz was born."  (Marsalis, 2005)


By the mid-1930s and through the Great Depression, the swing appeared. Swing is the basic rhythm of jazz. Swinging means being in sync with the other musicians in the band when you swing you put the accent on the second and fourth beats. In order to know and feel the swing you need to listen to it, hear it and feel it.

The word that best defines jazz is improvisation. In most music, the tune and rhythm are set beforehand by the composer, but in jazz, the musician can change the melody and the phrasing, harmony, time signature and rhythm anyway they wish. So the same song can sound very different each time it is  performed. Jazz musicians agree that jazz is all about the attitude and approach of the musicians to a song. (Gopel, D. 2013) 


Jazz has changed greatly over the past 70 years and is presently in transition. In the 1950s the Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms were mixed with Jazz, and thus created a new style or musical heritage within jazz music. Today there are many different types of jazz which include ballads, swing, Latin, bebop, Afro Cuban jazz, bosa nova, and more. This immense variety available within what we term jazz is thanks to the improvisations and freedom  within the jazz style for solo parts, rich harmony and variety of rhythms. “Each generation of jazz musicians contribute their own unique ideas, feelings, and sound to the music and this is what creates the change.” (Aebersold, 2010). The history of jazz has been well researched and is clear, However, because jazz is constantly changing and developing, it is not easy to find a definition for jazz today that is accepted by all. As Aebersold says (2010) “.. If you equip yourself well, you may be one of those people who influence others and set new trends in jazz. “





5.2 Arabic music: stems from a much earlier period. It goes back to the old Arabian music found in many countries located in several regions: the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and more. Although the foundations and the organizations of the music is the same, there are some differences between the regions and within each dialect. For example there are different maqam names, differences in intonation and different local rhythms.

Arabic music includes a wide geographical area and a rich historical tradition. However, the concept of Arabic music  is difficult to define. Farraj & Shumays give a wide  description  “Any vocal music with Arabic lyrics, and any instrumental music played predominantly on traditional Arabic instruments, is considered Arabic music.”  (Farraj & Shumays, 2019) while others clarify  the difference between Arabic  music and music from another source by stipulating  that not only  should it be sung in Arabic or played on Arabic instruments, but in addition the  music must use the unique musical elements of Arabic music. (Farraj & Shumays, 2019)

  It is difficult to define clear periods in Arabic music. In the Encyclopedia Britannica, Arab music is divided into four main periods:

1. The pre-islamic period up until the  sixth century

2. The rise of Islam- the encounter with developed cultures like Persian and the Byzantine until the 16th century.

3. The "Modern" period - from the 16th century, where Turkish influence began, until the 19th century.

4. 20th Century, with strong Western influence.


Until the beginning of the 20th century, during the Ottoman Empire, Turkey was a major source of influence on art of Arabic music and its theory and dictated the artistic ways of thinking. From the beginning of the 20th century we enter “The Golden Age” in Arab music. Improvements in transportation and technology allowed music to travel easily and quickly. It was a time for a search to find the  "Arab voice" to free  Arab music from the Ottoman and later British empires’ influences. This culminated in the. creation of  heterophonic music  and collaborations within the Arab world  allowing the music from the different regions to reach the rest of the Arab world and beyond, initially.  through photography and later by radio, cinema television and today the Internet. The Golden Age shaped the Arabic music in the Arab world and abroad. (Farraj & Shumays, 2019) 

The beginning of the 20th century sees the beginning of larger ensembles at the same time when musical theatre became popular. From 1890-1920  we see the move from the traditional coffee houses, where only small ensembles could perform, to much larger venues where musicals were performed. “This created the need for larger ensembles, which caused the transition from the takht – the traditional smaller ensemble – to the firqah – the larger band, with more instruments and room for more western ones’ (from Hagai Bilizky’s notebook ). As Bilizky explains this new situation created both a need and the space “to experiment with new instruments such as piano, accordion, clarinet, and of course, the double bass, in addition to other changes such as the addition of a conductor, choir and more.” (Bilizsky, 2013)

The Arabic tradition, similar to the Persian and Indian traditions, is characterized by improvisation. This improvisation is related to a modal system whose sound frame contains "microtones". The modal framework for Arabic music is termed the "Makam". This refers to the various scales, used together with the melodic elements and motifs Arabic music also contains very complex "horizontal" drumming patterns originating from poetic meter.

Traditional Arabic music was not written down and the musicians learnt to play by ear. The maqamat (scales and modes) were given names. Each area in the Arabic world has similar maqamat but may contain  small differences in intonation quarter or micro tones. The prominent instruments used were the Oud,  Kanoun, Nai, Violin, Darbuka, Daf, Rik, Tabla and more unique old folk instruments. Much later on, in 1932,  Arabic music was developed into the 24 note system. ״The first detailed discussions of this scale, written by Syrian theorists, show that many considered the new scale to be composed of equal-tempered quarter tones in an equal- tempered quarter-tone system” (Marcus, 1993)



So where do maqam and jazz meet? What are their shared points of connection?How can you play these two styles together whilst respecting their differences? Is there a style that truly combines and merges the two styles of music or do they only influence one another on a surface level? In the next two chapters, I will give a short introduction to some of the theoretical concepts used in both jazz and Arabic music. Following on from this introduction, I will demonstrate how I used some of these theories in my own compositions and arrangements in order to try to create a deeper merging of the musical elements.