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Firkat Alnoor Orchestra, in cooperation with the Museum for Islamic Art

The Firkat Alnoor Orchestra, in cooperation with the Museum for Islamic Art, present a series of fascinating encounters, which open up a window onto classical Arabic music.

The musical tradition of the Middle East is a rich and varied tradition which comprises a millennia-long cultural treasure that traverses cultures, religions, nations and languages. From the songs of the Levites in Jerusalem to the courtyards of Andalusia, and from the palaces of Baghdad to the opera house of Cairo, classical eastern music underwent developments, influences and reciprocal contributions until it took on its current form. Sayad Darwish, Najib al-Riahani, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Oum Kulthoum, Farid al-Atrash, Abd el-Halim Hafez, Layla Morad – all these figures and others are part of the cultural and musical revolution that took place in the first half of the 20th century, and impacted on the entire Arab world, and beyond.

Moderator and lecturer: Ariel Cohen

Editing and content writing: Hannah Patya

The sessions will take place on Tuesdays, between November 20 and December 19, 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Each session will feature archival items with photographs, video clips, live demonstrations of music by members of the Firkat al-Noor Orchestra.

A festive closing concert will take place on December 19.

Cost per session: NIS 50

For tickets for the first event:

For tickets for the second event:

For tickets for the third event:

For tickets for the fourth event:

Series (4 sessions) subscription: NIS 150:

Series subscription + concert: NIS 200:

Tickets for Concert: NIS 70:

* Prior knowledge not necessary

About the sessions:

Session 1:

How It All Began – the Qanoun, the Oud and the Violin

Tuesday, November 20, 8 p.m.

What, in fact, is Arabic music? Can the music of all the Arab countries be viewed as Arabic music? Is all music suing in Arabic considered Arabic music? And, what is the connection between music from Persia, Yemen, Morocco and Syria? What instruments are used in Turkey, Persia, Iraq and the Khallij countries? Are there differences between the percussion instruments and rhythms of the different Islamic countries? What are a santour, dumbuk, and yayli tambur? What differentiates western music from Arabic music? Is it the harmonies? The written notes? These are the main points we will discuss in the first session.

Session 2:

King Farouk and the Revolution: From Religious Song for Songs of Love and Dancers

Tuesday, November 27, 8 p.m.

The great revolution of Arabic music took place in Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century. The Egypt poet, the composer and writer Sayad Darwish, who is considered the forefather of classical Arabic music, was the first Arab composer who broke out of the confines of conservative religious music and made the transition to lighter songs – love songs and patriotic songs –and drew it closer to people, with the emphasis on the members of the younger generation. Music began to become popular in cafes and clubs, and also theater begins to flourish. The famous belly dancer Badia Masabni opens clubs and a theater in Cairo, which was considered a revolutionary step and allowed women to leave the home and perform on stage. These were the initial seeds which Abdel Wahab, Oum Kulthoum and Riyad al-Sunbati, who change the face of Arabic culture in general, and the music in particular.

Session 3:

The Golden Age of Arabic Music: Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Oum Kulthoum, Farid al-Atrash, Abd el-Halim Hafez

Tuesday, December 4, 8 p.m.

Egyptian music flourished form the early 1930s through to the end of the 1970s. These four decades, in which Egyptian music reigned supreme, are the golden age of Arabic music. A significant change took place in the music from the 1930s. Works began to last an hour or longer, the structure of the works became complex and evolved, and comprised four movements, each of which was a separate work. Other changes include the transition from groups of five players to orchestras of 40 players or more. The style of singing changed, and western instruments began to feature – accordion, oboe or clarinet, drums, electric guitar, organ and saxophone.

The technological progress and development of leisure culture also played their part in the increased popularity of music. It was no longer just a matter of haflot (impromptu gatherings) and playing at clubs, there were now also concerts on respectable stages. Music became increasingly accessible. People had radios at home, records started coming out, and the movie industry prospered.

Session 4:

The Glory Days: Egyptian Cinema and the Arab Movie

Tuesday, December 11, 8 p.m.

Cairo of the mid-20th century was a cosmopolitan city which was considered the cultural capital of the Arab world, with cafes and bars, an opera house, night clubs and theaters.

Egyptian cinema started out in 1933, with the release of the first Egyptian musical, Al Warda Al Baida, starring and directed by Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Every single number performed in the movie became a hit and was enormously popular. The first decade of Egyptian cinema, in fact, shaped the Arab movie –a mix of music and humor, romance and unrequited love. The movies reflected life in Egypt of the day, and the unbridled cultural and social life there, feeding off a fascinating fusion of European influences coupled with Egyptian conservatism. The 1940s and the 1950s were the zenith of Egyptian cinema, and the stars of Egyptian song who played in the movies became increasingly popular and, in fact, turn Egyptian music into the soundtrack of the Arab world.  

The series is supported by the Department of Culture and Arts of the Municipality of Jerusalem, and by the UJA Federation of New York.

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