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The lute was adopted from the Arab world. 1568 print.

Andalusian classical music (or Arabo-Andalusian music, moussiqua al-âla) is a style of Arabic music found across North Africa, though it evolved out of the music of Andalusia between the 9th and 15th centuries, during a period known as Al-Andalus.

It is now most closely associated with Algeria (Gharnati, San'a and al-Maalûf), though similar traditions are found in Morocco (Al-Âla and Gharnati), Tunisia and Libya (al-Maalûf).

The al-Maalûf is a mix of Arabo-Andalusian music and Turkish music which does not exist in Morocco; Indeed, unlike Algeria, Tunisia and Libya as well as almost all other Arabic countries, the kingdom of Morocco has not been subject to secular Turkish presence that has influenced the music of these countries.

The popular musics of chaabi developed in parallel to the classical expression.



Andalusian classical music was allegedly born in the Emirate of Cordoba (Al-Andalus) in the 9th century. The Persian musician, resident in Iraq Iraqi Ziryâb (d. 857), who later became court musician of Abd al-Rahman II in Cordoba, is sometimes credited with its invention. Later, the poet, composer and philosopher Ibn Bajjah (d. 1139) of Saragossa is said to have combined the style of Ziryâb with Western approaches to produce a wholly new style that spread across Iberia and North Africa.

By the 11th century CE Moorish Spain and Portugal had become a center for the manufacture of instruments. These goods spread gradually to Provence, influencing French troubadours and trouveres and eventually reaching the rest of Europe. The English words lute, rebec, guitar, and naker derive from the Arabic oud, rabab, qitara and naqareh, although some Arabic terms had been revived from the Greek and other cultures.

The classical music of Andalusia, al-ala reached North Africa via centuries of cultural exchange, the Almohad dynasty and then the Marinid dynasty and the Abdalwadid being in power both in Al-Andalus and North Africa (the Maghreb).

Mass resettlements of Muslims and Sephardi Jews from Cordoba, Sevilla, Valencia and Granada, fleeing the Reconquista, further expanded the reach of Andalusian music.

In his book " Jews of Andalusia and the Maghreb " (freely available on the net) on the musical traditions in Jewish societies of North Africa , Haïm Zafani says: "In the Maghreb and especially in Morocco, the Muslims and Jews have piously preserved the Spanish-Arabic music ..... In Spain and Morocco, Jews were ardent maintainers Andalusian music and the zealous guardians of its old traditions ...." Over Morocco in the same book, this author states have managed to get their hands on a copy of the directory of Andalusian music written in 1786 by Al Haik (of Tetuan Morocco) traveling in Muslim closed and insiders Jews (of the towns of Tetuan, Tanger, Casa Blanca, Meknes , Mogador-Essaouira, El Jadida-Mazagan ....) copying sparingly. He also succeeded in having put hands on a rare repertoire of songs maures of Granada and Cordoba printed in 1886 / 1887.[1]

If the term Gharnati refers in current Algeria, especially in the region of Tlemcen, the entire directory Andalusian scholar, in Morocco it designates a distinct musical style of the Andalusian in addition to the much larger directory of "Tab Al Ala" style as confirmed by the authors Rachid Aous, Mohammed Habib Samrakandi pages 15 and 24 in their book " Music of Algeria " [2]

The North African cities have inherited particularly Andalusian musical style of Granada are also mentioned (pages 72 / 73) in the book "The Literature of Al-Andalus" (freely available on the net) [3]

The Nuba of Morocco have been identified in the eighteenth century by the musician Al Haïk from Tetuan [4]

The music today

A suite form called the Andalusi nubah forms the basis of al-âla. Though it has roots in Andalusia, the modern nûba probably is a North African creation. Each nûba is dominated by one musical mode. It is said there used to be twenty-four nuba linked to each hour of the day, but in Algeria only sixteen nuba (but 4 are incheaved) and in Morocco eleven (bu long) have survived, which together include 25 "Andalusian" modes. Each nûba is divided into five parts called mîzân, each with a corresponding rhythm. The rhythms occur in the following order in a complete nuba:

  1. basît (6/4)
  2. qâ'im wa nusf (8/4)
  3. btâyhî (8/4)
  4. darj (4/4)
  5. quddâm (3/4 or 6/8)

An entire nuba can last six or seven hours, though this is rarely done today. Rather, in Morocco often only one mîzân from any given nûba is performed at a time. Each mizan begins with instrumental preludes called either tûshiya, m'shaliya or bughya, followed by as many as twenty songs (sana'i) in the entire mizan.

Andalusian classical music orchestras are spread across Maghreb, including the cities of :

They use instruments including oud (lute), rabab (rebec), darbouka (goblet drums), taarija (tambourine), qanún (zither) and kamancheh. More recently, other instruments have been added to the ensemble, including piano, contrabass, cello, and even banjos, saxophones and clarinets, though these are rare.

Influence of Andalusian music

Andalusia was probably the main route of transmission of a number of Near-Eastern musical instruments used in classical music; the rebec (ancestor of violin) from the rebab, the guitar from qitara, naker from naqareh and psaltery from the santoor or qanun.[5] Further terms fell into disuse in Europe; adufe from al-duff, alboka from al-buq, anafil from al-nafir, exabeba from al-shabbaba (flute), atabal (bass drum) from al-tabl, atambal from al-tinbal,[6] the balaban, sonajas de azófar from sunuj al-sufr, the conical bore wind instruments,[7] the xelami from the sulami or fistula (flute or musical pipe),[8] the shawm and dulzaina from the reed instruments zamr and al-zurna,[9] the gaita from the Rhaita, rackett from iraqya or iraqiyya,[10], geige (German for a violin) from ghichak[11] and the theorbo from the tarab.[12]

The troubadors, courtly composers of mediaeval love-songs, may have had Arabic influences. Ezra Pound, in his Canto VIII, famously declared that William of Aquitaine (an early troubador) "had brought the song up out of Spain / with the singers and veils...".

According to historic sources, William VIII, the father of William, brought to Poitiers hundreds of Muslim prisoners.[13] Trend [14] acknowledges that the troubadors derived their sense of form and the subject matter of their poetry from Andalusia. The hypothesis that the troubador tradition was created, more or less, by William after his experience of Moorish arts while fighting with the Reconquista in Spain was also championed by Ramón Menéndez Pidal in the early twentieth-century, but its origins go back to the Cinquecento and Giammaria Barbieri (died 1575) and Juan Andrés (died 1822). Meg Bogin, English translator of the female troubadors, also held this hypothesis.[15] Certainly "a body of song of comparable intensity, profanity and eroticism [existed] in Arabic from the second half of the 9th century onwards."[16]

See also

[1]Al-Andalus Ensemble


  1. ^ Haïm Zafrani (2002). Juifs d'Andalousie et du Maghreb. Maisonneuve & Larose. p. 228. ISBN 9782706816291. 
  2. ^ Rachid Aous; Mohammed Habib Samrakandi (2002). Musiques d'Algérie. 47. Presses Univ. du Mirail. ISBN 9782858166572. 
  3. ^ María Rosa Menocal; Raymond P. Scheindlin; Michael Anthony Sells (2000). The literature of Al-Andalus. 4Arabic literature to the end of the Umayyad period (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 72-73. ISBN 9780521471596. 
  4. ^ Arab-Andalusian Music of Morocco during the Centuries / scientific publication of D. Eisenberg (Hispanic Journal of Philosophy 1988)
  5. ^ Rabab Saoud (March 2004). "The Arab Contribution to the Music of the Western World". FSTC Limited. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  6. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 137)
  7. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 140)
  8. ^ (Farmer 1978, pp. 140-1)
  9. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 141)
  10. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 142)
  11. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 143)
  12. ^ (Farmer 1978, p. 144)
  13. ^ M. Guettat (1980), La Musique classique du Maghreb (Paris: Sindbad).
  14. ^ J. B. Trend (1965), Music of Spanish History to 1600 (New York: Krause Reprint)
  15. ^ Bogin, Meg. The Women Troubadours. Scarborough: Paddington, 1976. ISBN 0 8467 0113 8.
  16. ^ "Troubadour", Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, London: Macmillan Press


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