Arab Culture and Civilization: A collaborative web project created by NITLE and sponsored by MEPC
Musharaka [ Cooperation ]  Calligraphy by Khaled Al-Saai

Popular Culture and the Performing Arts

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A website for K-12 educators featuring innovative resource on the culture, geography, history and religions of the Middle East, including essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.


This section contains video and audio materials, most of which have not appeared online before. While we have made an effort to keep the file sizes and running times small, some of the clips may take a long time to download, particularly from a dialup connection. Each clip comes with a text description, and many of the interviews have been transcribed. To view clips on our site, you will need the free QuickTime plugin

Collections of related audio and video materials are listed in tan. Items listed in grey are in the process of being digitized, and will be available soon.

QuickTime Audio and Video Clips

Music | Film | Dance | Theater

Marcel Khalife in Concert
Though born in Lebanon, Marcel Khalife is a cultural icon throughout the Arab World. Perhaps no other contemporary artist has so changed the face of Arab music.

Classically trained on the Oud (lute) at the National Academy of Music in Beirut, Khalife refused to be limited by the rigidity of tradition, thus significantly expanding the possibilities of Arab Music. Yet for such an innovative composer, Khalife is amazingly popular. As the clips in this selection demonstrate, in almost any corner of the Arabic speaking world it is not unusual to find audiences numbering in the thousands singing along with Khalife.

This composer, singer and musician has released more than 20 albums during his career. In 1999 he was tried in the Lebanese courts for “defaming” Islam by singing a line from the Qur’an that was included in the lyrics “I am Yusuf,” a poem by Mahmoud Darwish set to music by Khalife. He was acquitted, but he has always been a politically engaged artist using his art to comment on issues such as the Palestinian cause, the crisis in Lebanon and the cause of human rights in the Arab world.

The songs below are also adapted from Darwish poems and were originally released on the album “Promises of the Storm,” which was first released in 1976 and was Marcel Khalife's first lyrical album. It endeared him to millions in the Arab world. It contains some of Marcel's most popular songs such as "Rita" and "Mother"(Oummi) and "Passport" (Jawaz El Safar). Marcel Khalife and Mahmoud Darwish met for the first time 7 years after the first release of "Promises of the Storm". Darwish wrote of Khalife, "Marcel Khalife's music eliminated the gap created by the poets between poem and song. He restored to exiled emotion its rescuing power to reconcile poetry, which glorified its distance from people and was thus abandoned by them. Poetry, therefore, developed the song of Marcel Khalife, While Khalife's song mended the relationship of poetry with people." The two tracks included here were recorded live at the Carthage International Festival in Tunisia on July 19, 2002 in front of an audience of 12,000 people. See Marcel Khalife's website for a full biography as well as performance dates, other song clips and much more.

"Maqam: From Cordoba to Baghdad"
In this five part series, Palestinian composer and virtuoso Simon Shaheen discusses Arabic Music with Barbara Nimri Aziz, the host of Radio Tahrir on WBAI radio. Part One introduces some of the instruments used in Arabic music. Part Two introduces percussion and wind instruments. Part Three deals with vocal and instrumental forms of Arabic music. Part Four begins a discussion of Arabic Music theory and the final part, Part Five, talks about Classical, Pop and Folk music.

Arabic Music Videos: Past and Present
Video of musical performances from Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt and other parts of the Arab World.

Arabic Music Recorded by the Institut du Monde Arabe
The Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) or the Arab World Institute in Paris was created by an agreement between the French government and the Arab states with the goal of raising awareness of and interest in Arab culture in France. Today, it has become a true "cultural bridge" between France and the Arab world promoting cultural and scholarly exchange in technology and the sciences, as well as the humanities.

Among the many activities of the IMA has been an effort to present the diverse musical tradition of the region to new audiences in France and beyond. In addition to concerts and festivals, the Institute has released a collection of compact discs by artists representing all facets of Arab music-popular and classical, sacred and secular, urban and rural-from places across the region from Morocco to Iraq. Though this series contains recordings by some of the most important artists and music of recent decades, some of this music has never been available before except, perhaps, on cheap audio cassettes that were often very poorly recorded. These CDs, however, are digitally recorded and mastered under the supervision of Mohamed Métalsi, and distributed by Harmonia Mundi. Each is accompanied by a booklet containing extensive liner notes in English and French. In the section below you will find sample tracks from many of these CDs along with information on the piece and the artists.

For more information on Arabic music, see "Arab Musical Life throughout History as well as the links and bibliography of this unit. In addition, the radio series Maqam with Simon Shaheen provides a five part explanation of the Arabic music tradtion, its forms and the instruments used in it.

Interview and Instrument Demonstration with Dwight Reynolds [Video Clip: 32.7 M]
In this interview Professor Dwight Reynolds talks about his research on Egyptian epic poetry, the basics of the Arabic musical tradition and its various strains. He also demonstrates some of the most important instruments used in the tradition and the   more...

A Concert of Arabic Music [Video Clip: 7.1 M]
In this video of a live performance for the al-Musharaka conference in the summer of 2004, Ken Habib (`ud), Anne Elise Thomas (qanun), and Stephanie Miscovich (riqq, tabla, and daff) present musical selections from the Mashreq region. The video primarily   more...

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