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Murād, Zakī

(376 words)

Author(s): Amnon Shiloah
The outstanding Egyptian vocalist Zakī Murād  was, along with Dāʾūd Ḥusnī, Ibrāhim Ṣahlūn, and Zakī Surūr, one of the Jewish musicians who helped to revive classical Arabic music in Egypt in the early twentieth century. Before undertaking a musical career he was a drapery merchant in Alexandria and ḥazzan (cantor) at the Great Synagogue. He entered the Egyptian music world at a time when the prevailing atmosphere was one of tolerance, so much so that an Egyptian critic later wrote:  “When Zakī Murād was singing for Egypt, he also sang at the same time…


(795 words)

Author(s): Amnon Shiloah
1. Ancient Israel The Bible, Mishna, and Talmud refer to dance in various contexts. Among the occasions that inspired dancing, for instance, were a festival during which it was customary to dance in the vineyards (Judg. 21:21), the group dances performed by women to the accompaniment of drums in celebration of military victories and to welcome the returning soldiers, and the notable event reported in Exod. 15:20, which tells how Miriam and the women burst into song and dance accompanied by drums to mark the miraculous parting of the Red Sea that saved the people of Israel. After the fall of…

Ḥusnī, Dāʾūd

(420 words)

Author(s): Amnon Shiloah
Dāʾūd Ḥusnī (Heb. David Khaḍr Ḥayyim Halevi) was born in 1870 into a Karaite family in Cairo. Attracted from an early age by the art of singing and music, he dropped out of school to study music and the oud. His talent and artistic creativity were soon recognized by the great masters of the time, but his father opposed his son’s decision to pursue his vocation as a musician. Known as “the artist with golden ears,” Ḥusnī was a genuine innovator in classical Arabic music, introducing new artistic forms and ingeniously blending in stylistic elements and characteristics of Turkish and Persian maqām…


(537 words)

Author(s): Amnon Shiloah
The poetic genre known as ʿ arūbī (coll. Ar. ʿarōbī) is popular throughout the Maghreb. Its language is dialectal but somehow refined and affected. Text and melody are closely combined in a creative process that derives its components from a traditional formulary stock but allows a margin of freedom to the performer. The melody is more or less stable, whereas the texts usually change and therefore must obey the accents of the melody. A scientific approach to this type of creativity has to consider the im…

Mawwāl (Muwwāl, Mawāliya)

(560 words)

Author(s): Amnon Shiloah
According to the famous Iraqi poet and musician Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Ḥillī (1278–1349), the Arabic verse form known variously as mawwāl (Middle East), muwwāl (North Africa), and mawāliya is a connecting isthmus between classical and colloquial forms—it is in classical meter and lends itself to compositions in both inflected and uninflected language. Al-Ḥilli cites a legend about the term’s origin: short songs invented in Iraq during the Abbasid period were picked up by mawālī (non-Arab clients) who sung them to their masters with the refrain: O mawālīya (holders of power). Pierre Cachia i…