Arabic Music: Then and Now

Explore the rich tapestry of Arabic music, a reflection of centuries of cultural and artistic evolution, and discover how Quartertonez, a premier Arabic music school in Washington DC, continues this legacy.

The Historical Roots of Arabic Music

Arabic music’s journey began in ancient civilizations, where it played a pivotal role in social and cultural rituals. This music, deeply intertwined with the people’s daily lives and spiritual practices, has evolved through a rich history Initially manifesting as oral poetry, Arabic Music was accompanied by a drum or oud, adhering to specific poetic meters. 

Songs during this time were characterized by simplicity, often utilizing only one maqam or melody. A maqam is a combination of mini scales called jins. You create maqam music when you put multiple jins together in different ways and emphasize different notes. Over time, the complexity grew as multiple jins were combined in innovative ways, creating a rich collection of sound.

Image of Egyptian OUDs

The Influence of Islam and Translation of Greek Music Principles

With the emergence of Islam in the 7th century, the recitation of the Qur’an adopted these maqams, adding a melodic dimension to the spiritual practices. This period also saw the translation of Greek music principles into Arabic, notably by scholars like Isḥāq al-Kindī and Abū Naṣr al FaArabī. Isḥāq al-Kindī paved the way for the introduction of the term “mussiqa” into Arabic vocabulary and Abū Naṣr al FaArabī further documented the pure Arabian tone system of maqams in the Great Book of Music, a foundational text that continues to influence Arabic music to this day. Their work laid the groundwork for the development of a distinctly Arabian tone system

The Ottoman Era and Its Musical Fusion

During the Ottoman Empire, from the 13th to the early 20th century, Arabic music experienced a significant transformation. The empire’s diverse cultural landscape, enriched by Byzantine, Armenian, Persian, and Arabic influences, created a melting pot of musical styles. This period was marked by a flourishing of arts and music, thanks to the empire’s extensive trade routes and cultural exchanges.

Arabic Music Today

Image of man reading music

Today, with the highly connected social environment, Arab artists can reach and connect with listeners around the world. Through music festivals, contemporary fusions (the mixing of traditional Arabic music with contemporary genres), and music education, Arabic music has garnered international recognition.

At Quartertonez, we preserve the cultural heritage of Arabic music through education. As the premier Arabic music school in DC, we leverage our expert faculty to provide authentic instruction to our students. Through countless concerts and the recent Arab culture festival (organized by our artistic director, Farouz Foty), music enthusiasts and aspiring musicians have found a haven for learning and appreciating the art of Arabic music. We are proud of the community that we have built here at Quartertonez. Our students thrive as we cultivate their passion for music.

Discover Quartertonez’s Offerings

Personalized lessons in a diverse curriculum

Led by highly skilled and experienced teachers, students can expect personalized lessons tailored to their skill levels. Quartertonz provides a diverse range of courses covering various aspects of Arabic music, including instrument instruction, vocal training, and music theory. Our curriculum integrates traditional Arabic music with Western classical pedagogy, oral tradition, improvisation, and world music influences. This approach allows students to explore and master various aspects such as instrumental techniques, vocal training, and music theory.

Ensemble Training

Quartertonez emphasizes the importance of ensemble playing, providing opportunities for students to collaborate with others. Ensemble training enhances musicianship and fosters a sense of community among students At the end of each semester students present a showcase performance alongside DC professional musicians and specialists. Check out our Flying Notes Children’s Choir at their debut concert. 

We also hold adult classes in Adult Beginner Oud 1 and Oud 2, and “Arabic Music Theory for Adults.” Each course is designed with a curriculum specifically tailored to address the subject matter and meet the unique needs of its group of students.

Cultural Immersion:

Beyond the notes and rhythms, We offer cultural immersion experiences. Students gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural context of Arabic music, fostering a holistic appreciation for the art form. Our commitment to building a vibrant musical community is evident through regular recitals, workshops, and ensemble programs. These events serve as valuable platforms for students to showcase their talents, engage in mutual learning, and evolve as musicians. Our students benefit from the opportunities to collaborate with fellow musicians, learn from experienced instructors, and develop insights into the world of music.  

Performance Opportunities and Growth Beyond:

Quartertonez organizes quarterly recitals, creating a supportive and encouraging platform for students of all proficiency levels to showcase their musical talents. These performances play a crucial role in offering students valuable stage experience, helping them overcome stage fright, and fostering self-confidence. Whether it’s a novice’s inaugural performance or an advanced student’s solo, these recitals are fundamental to our educational approach. 

We take pride in our collaborations with local venues, extending opportunities for our students to perform beyond the walls of our school. These partnerships open doors for our students to display their skills to a wider audience through participation in community events, local concerts, or music festivals. With these opportunities, our students experience the thrill of performing in diverse and dynamic settings.

Join Us Today

Quartertonez is a beacon for Arabic music enthusiasts in Washington DC. In addition to our in-person and online classes, where students can fully customize their curriculum, we have a Choir Scholarship Fund. As an educational institution, we understand the financial inequities many families face, and want to do our part. To date, we have been able to provide 11 full-tuition scholarships. You can learn more here about how you can get involved in this opportunity. 

Whether you are a beginner looking to embark on a musical journey, an experienced musician seeking to refine your skills, or simply want to join a network of people passionate about cultivating a musical community, Quartertonez is the go-to destination for you to delve into the captivating world of Arabic music.

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