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One Week Away – what are you doing?

April 6, 2011

Everyone – We’re just one week away from Muslim World Music Day.   So PLEASE if you promised, or I pestered you into doing something, do it!

The site is up at and is slowly being loaded up, the galleries are fun and nearly finished.  Have a look.

  • Send us your URL if you’re in the biz. All URLs and full websites of participants will be preserved by the Internet Archive in San Francisco.
  • Tell your friends. Blog, tweet, face, blab, space and post information about Muslim World Music Day, April 12
  • How to Contribute


  • Contribute information about you.
  • What’s your URL? e-mail?
  • Send a discography. It is becoming very difficult to find all the information necessary to correctly identify a sound recording through online resources. Make yourself immortal! Ideally, provide the following information in the following order: artist or band name / title of recording / record company / record company number / UPC number / year of release / format. You can send in Word as a tab or comma separated file, in excel or any database format.
  • Better yet, send ARC a copy of your recordings. We’ll catalog them and preserve them forever.
  • Record Companies

  • Provide press kits and info on your artists.
  • Send an electronic catalog of all your releases. Preferably as a word or excel document.
  • You could always send the recordings.
  • Libraries and Archives

  • Let us know about your collections. Size and scope, specialties and peculiarities. Send that URL.
  • Send metadata pertaining to music of the greater Islamic world. Provide the following information in the following order: artist or band name / title of recording / record company / record company number / UPC number / year of release / format . Not possible? Then a MARK record? word, tab separated? Excel?
  • Academic Institutions

  • Musicologists send an essay or give a talk. Tell us about your area of expertise.
  • Music schools can stage a recital, performance or seminar.
  • Let’s hear from some Middle Eastern Studies Departments!
  • Organizations

  • We would love to hear from any and all Cultural organizations.
  • Let your membership know about the project.
  • You could host a talk, a concert, or post info on your website.
  • Broadcasters

  • Host a show. Host an entire Day devoted to Muslim World Music.
  • Venues
  • Present an act.
  • Pre-Events : Muslim World Music Day

    April 1, 2011

    Muslim World Music Day is April 12, but we have a few pre-goings on of note.

    The first US event heralding Muslim World Music Day will be a radio program that ARC director B. George and Banning Eyre put together for Afropop Worldwide.

    Saturday, April 2, Public Radio, WNYE, 91.5, New York, 11pm or Listen online and on many other stations around the country

    Afropop is America’s longest lived and most remarkable radio survey of world music – great tunes, supurb radio, reliable scholarship – these are a few of my favorite things. Here you can listen to our show offering some rare recordings from both our collections, and follow the links below to Hip Deep, featuring in-depth podcasts, interviews and discographies related to music from the greater Islamic world. Have a look or listen. Explore this great site, and on the Muslim World Music Site we have made some easy links to some of their detailed explorations of Islamic music in sound, pictures and words.   They ARE organized, there’s a discography, a podcast and an interview to boot!

    On the weekend you can attend a concert by Al-Andalous Ensemble, on Saturday, April 9, 7:30pm at Reed College, Kaul Auditorium, Portland, Oregon

    Led by oudist Tarik Banzi, the Al-Andalus Ensemble is internationally known for a creative fusion which etches a fine line between the exquisite and raw, the passionate and powerful while treating the listener to a confluence of the best of the East and West.  This is great stuff – go if you’re in the neighborhood.


    Finally, rumor is, but I can’t find it, that today, down under, Australian radio, ABC 666 Canberra, The Drive Show. on Thursday, March 30, 3-6pm local time (midnight-3am in NY) features a little talk with Graham McDonald at the National Film and Sound Archive about MWMD.  There’s a ‘Listen live’. I’ll look for the blog

    Logos + Website beta

    March 19, 2011

    Everyone who is presenting, blogging, reporting or enjoying Muslim World Music Day on April 12, here are various logos you can attach to your blogs, websites, promotions or T-shirts!  And you can see the beta of our website @

    All these wonderful graphics are from Amit + Scott over @ Open

    Radio Free Tobruk + Muslim C&W

    February 28, 2011

    We’ve been trying to get an online feed for Radio Free Tobruk, according to NPR yesterday, playing a great deal of anti-Gadhafi songs emerging day by day, chronicling the Libyan liberation.

    While this am Al Arabiya has reported that a helicopter was shot down by anti-government forces defending the local radio station in Misurata, 125 miles east of Tripoli, the helicopter targeting the transmitter.

    Playlists?  Let us know about the songs of the revolution!

    On a whole different vast plane closer to home one of the greatest revelation of this project is the music of Oklahoman, Kareem Salama.  There are quite a few of these right headed, big time country and western productions on You tube, evoking themes similar to the Black civil rights message songs of the late 60, early 70s.  This is beautiful music by great singer, that can easily rival anything coming out of Nashville.  Have a look and a listen, and yes, he’s a Muslim, he’s seen the Pennebaker film, and that’s his real accent.

    Muslim Music Videos

    February 16, 2011

    Ben Howe here.  Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been adding hundreds of YouTube videos for the Muslim World Music Day Video channel. Here are two that I especially liked.

    Given the recent events in Egypt I thought it would be appropriate to feature a video of the legendary Egyptian vocalist Umm Kulthum. Born in 1898 Kulthum was known as Kawkab El-Sharq or the Star of the East. She is still considered one of the greatest singers in the Arab world. This clip is taken from her Amal Hayati concert circa 1940.

    Nass El Ghiwane is a popular Moroccan band that formed in the 60’s. The group is basically the Moroccan equivalent of the Rolling Stones. Here’s a clip of them performing to a packed stadium in the mid-70’s.

    B.George here.  Thought I’d add a brief bio of Oum Kalsoum (…also Umm, Um or Om; Kulthum, Kalthum, Kulsoum, or Koulsoum)  b : Ibrahim Um Kalthum.    aka: The Nightingale of the Delta’,  ‘The Star of the Orient’,  ‘As Sett’ (‘The Lady’).    b: 1904, 1908 or 1910, Tamayel (Tammy) el Zahayra, Sinbellawein (Simballawen), d: 2/3/75)

    Q: “How are things in Egypt?  A: “Fine.  Three days of football, three days of Oum Kalsoum, one day of meat.”

    To fill the year with a string of such exquisite weeks – this was the dream of the Egyptian working man.  For decades Oum Kalsoum brought Egypt to a halt as millions listened to her weekly radio broadcasts.  Coups were delayed, parliamentary votes postponed, wars lulled into a cease-fire – the impossible became ordinary when “The Lady” was center stage.  Her name means ‘banner’ and she was never without her oversize scarf, her flag.   Like Piaf in France, or Judy Garland in the States, her emotional depths mined a nation’s soul, an isolated figure center stage, diminutive, vulnerable.  That a popular singer could so clearly define the national character is unparalleled.  To paraphrase the hyperbolic identification that many felt, more than a voice, she was Egypt.

    Bedouin born in the Egyptian rif, Kalsoum was the daughter of a rural Qur’an reader.  Trained as a young girl in the proper pronunciation and clear enunciation of the sacred texts, she brought these highly prized skills to her performance of Egyptian classical and religious music.  Dressed as a boy – different stories say because it was less expensive, other’s, to disguise the impropriety of a woman performing religious material publicly – it was the sacred material that comprised the bulk of her repertoire.  Both novelty and prodigy, the young girl was much in demand at weddings and celebrations.  In 1922 she attracted the attention of a well known teacher Shaykkh Abu al-’lla and brought to Cairo.   Here she underwent intensive vocal training and learn more material.  By 1925 she had cut her first 78 with Victor, _____________________ and was performing regularly in a city in love with concert vocalists.  While her earliest material was performed with male vocal quartet, by 1926 she was fronting a small instrumental orchestra ( ‘takht’), a format that would be her hallmark throughout her career.  A career that within a few seasons would eclipse all others.

    For many years she sang at the same theater, broadcast live over the radio the first Thursday of every month.  Her great accomplishment was not in performing popular songs like many of her peers, but in making her exclusively classical repertoire populist.  While she sang primarily in Arabic, some material was performed in the modern Egyptian dialect.  Occasionally she performed “qasa´id” – complicated poetic texts set to modern music.  Concerts were four hour passion plays before a devoted, exclusively male audience.  Kalsoum seemed the unlikely candidate for such male devotion – a bit plain, heavy set, and always wearing thick dark glassed to hide eyes disfigured by goiter.  But the audience saw her as a touchstone to their glorious past, her deep soul and rich communicating voice transporting them to an age of empire, heroes and perfumed gardens.  After an instrumental introduction, she would approach the edge of the stage, her long scarf in hand, trailing to the ground behind her.  This scarf acted as security blanket and stage prop, pulled up like a veil, crumpled to collected her tears, or undulating in rhythmic counterpoint to wave after wave of rising emotion.  By closing she was dripping with sweat under the theater lights, completely spent.

    With the establishment of Egyptian National Radio in 1934, Oum found her ideal medium, one that she would forever be identified with.  From 1937 on she combined her stage and radio audience through live broadcasts from the theater.  Now she could present her full concerts over the airwaves, moving beyond radio show length and the even more restrictive three minutes on her recordings.  As her Thursday night broadcasts became more and more integrated into the life of the country, all activity ceased on “ Oum Kalsoum night”.  Even though Kalsoum only occasionally offered material in the Egyptian dialect, this was first time that the average person could hear everyday language in song on the radio. Her business acumen seemed to equal her singing skills as her increasing popularity earned her more money and power.  Unlike most of Africa, Egypt had a well developed recording industry, where money could be made from sales and royalties.  And Kalsoum had enough clout to negotiate strong contracts with record companies. As Chairman of the Board of the National radio, Kalsoum used her influence to improve equipment, facilities, and the quality of the broadcasts, and perhaps to kept younger talent at bay.  It was about this time that she also began appearing films, from 1936 – 1948 a star in this medium also.

    Oum Kalsoum had been first choice to both celebrate and console the nation.  In 1952 when independence was won, she performed at a victory concert, General Neguib and Colonel Nasser in the front row.  After the loss of the Six Day War, she urged Bikbashi not to resign.  Around 1963, and at the insistence of the government, she began working with Abdel Wahab, a onetime rival and major star.  Their first collaboration, “Inta Umri”, was a hit and possibly the first classical piece to use an electric guitar.  They continued to work together until the mid-70s when they released, “Laylat Hob”.  Other well known composers who penned material for Kalsoum include, El Qassabghy, Zakariya Ahmed, and Riad El Sonbaty.

    Kalsoum seldom toured outside of Egypt.  When she did it was always a mob scene and major event, as was Paris’ Olympia Concert in the winter of 1967.  Another apocryphal tale surfaced when she gave a concert in Libya in 1969.  It seems Muammar Gadaffi had to cancel his scheduled coup to overthrow King Idris, because the date conflicted with a Kalsoum appearance.  Oum gave her last performance in Cairo in 1973, and her fans sensed the end was near.  She had married late in life to a Dr. Hisnan Hifnami who had been caring for her.  When she died three years later, the nation, and the entire Arab world was visibly shaken.  The radio announced her passing with passages read from the Koran, an honor usually reserved for Heads of State.  The funeral procession brought several million people into the streets of Cairo, Egypt completely closed down for days.  Testament to Kalsoum’s enduring appeal are sales approaching a million copies with each new CD package or rerelease.

    There will be an extensive discography posted on the database on Muslim World Music Day.

    recent visual contributions – Muslim World Music Day

    January 18, 2011

    A lot of very nice graphics have come into the ARC office recently and will be a part of Muslim World Music Day (sure wish we had the recordings also!) on April 12.   Here are a few nice ones.

    Chris Bishop, a record collector who originally contacted us about an unusual 45 insert, will provide a few Turkish record images, these circa 1967…

    I recently discovered the South African Audio Archive,  “…a non-profit project developed by flatinternational. This website is dedicated to establishing a visual archive of rare and sometimes unusual South African audio documents as artifacts.”  Swell stuff here and they will be sending along their holding on Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) and other artwork from recordings created by Muslims hailing from South Africa.   By the way there are over  30  Abdullah Ibrahim recordings at the ARC that will be included in the MWMD database.   I’ve loaded in a few covers from South African pressings below.

    In Jordan I discovered shelf-loads of LPs, 78s and 45s.  Here’s a row of the seven-inch singles…

    And this from our collection – by the revered Egyptian singer,  Oum Kalsoum   (…also Umm, Um or Om; Kulthum, Kalthum, Kulsoum, or Koulsoum).   Translation of this cover anyone?

    Ahmed Abdul-Malik

    October 25, 2010

    Son of a Sudanese father and American mother, Ahmed Abdul-Malik (born Sam Gill.  1/30/1927 – 10/2/1993) was one of the first modern jazzman to explore a genuine African heritage in music, rather than just layering exotic titles over what he was going to do anyway.  As a child Ahmed studied violin, playing in various wedding bands performing for the Greek, Syrian and even Gypsy communities in his hometown, Brooklyn.  At the High School of Music and Performing Arts his primary training was on the bass.  He also played piano, cello and tuba.

    It was his bass work that launched his successful jazz career, beginning with Art Blakey and Don Byas in 48, Randy Weston from 54 – 57, and Thelonius Monk for a few years after that.  He also played with Fess Williams, Sam (the Man) Taylor, Coleman Hawkins as well as the Middle Eastern groups of Mohamed el Bakkar and Djamal Aslan.

    In the 50’s a growing interest in Islam and Arabic music lead to a name change and a serious investigation into North African and middle Eastern forms.  His explorations appearing on his premier LP, Jazz Sahara, – a recording without time signatures, chords, or any proscribed numbers of bars or measures.  More formal study followed in ‘65 as he went for his doctorate at the New York College of Music.  In 1960 he toured South America under the auspices of the State Department and in ‘61 visited Africa.

    The oud was now his primary instrument and he guested on many LPs, including; John Coltrane and Herbie Mann in ‘61, Odetta’s Odetta and the Blues (Riverside, ‘62), Earl Hines, 64, Ken McIntyre, ‘71.  In ‘72 he played the African Jazz Festival in Tangier and oud on Hamiet Bluiett LP, Orchestra, Duo and Septet, 1977.  In the 70s Ahmed taught at New York University, and in the 80s at the Dept. of African Studies at Brooklyn College.  Since the 60s Ahmed was active in hosting workshops in public schools and colleges.  In 1985 he received the BMI Pioneer in Jazz Award.

    Discography :

    • East Meets West , (RCA, USA, LSP-2015, 12” vinyl disc-Lp, 1960).  Short improvisations float above the solid Arabic modal structure to produce one of the best early attempts at synthesis without shortchanging either culture.  Benny Golson and Johnny Griffin (sax), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Lee Morgan (Trumpet), Al Harewood (drums), Naim Karacand (violin), Ahmed Yetman (kanoon), Mike Hamway and Bilal Abdurrahman (darabeka), with one vocal by Jarkarawan Nasseur.

    • Eastern Moods, (Prestige, USA, NJLP 8298, 12” vinyl disc-Lp, 1963. (Not Released, but have seen some pre-release copies listed for sale, Prestige PR 16003, RARE, yellow & black “microgroove” label, 1963)

    Jazz Sahara (Riverside, USA, RLP 1121, 12” vinyl disc-Lp, 1958).  Ahmed on bass and oud, with sax player Johnny Griffin who had worked with him in Monk’s quartet.  Al Harewood (drums), Jack Ghanaim (kanoon), Naim Karacand (violin), Mike Hamway (darabeka) and Bilal Abdurrahman (duf).  We also have a Rivereside LP with the # 12-287 , and the LP has been reissued on CD, Riverside, OJCCD-1820-2, 1993.

    • Jazz Sound of Africa    (Prestige, USA, 24279, 5”, CD, 2003).  CD reissuing the albums The Music Of Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Sounds of Africa.

    • Sounds of Africa, (New Jazz, USA, NJLP 8282, 12” vinyl disc-Lp, 1962 )

    • Spellbound, (Status, USA, ST 8303, 12”, vinyl disc-Lp, 1964).

    • The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik, (New Jazz, USA, NJ 8266, 12” LP, 1961).

    Iraqi Shellac

    May 20, 2010

    A friend referred me to a site I had never visited before, called Excavated Shellac.  Not only is it wonderful and well researched, the first post I saw was on an Iraqi Turkmen 78rpm recording of qoyrat music by Abdul-Wahad Ahmad.

    I’m stealing the image, but I’ll let Jonathan Ward tell the rest of the story and leave you to discover this treasure trove of lost and found sounds @ Excavated Shellac.

    Sufi Music

    March 26, 2010

    Sufism is notoriously hard to define.   Often described as Islamic mysticism, Sufism (tasawwuf in Arabic; tasavvuf in Persian and Turkish) is a Muslim tradition of contemplation and worship organized around a diverse group of religious orders or brotherhoods, known as tariqas or tarikats.  Sufi practitioners seek spiritual communion with the divine through study, meditation, and worship, often involving music and poetry.   Jalaladdin Rumi, Hafez,  Yunus Emre, Bulleh Shah, and Omar Khayyam are some of the famous Sufi poets whose poems have also been turned into songs.  For more information about Sufism, check out Dr. Alan Godhas’s resource page on Sufism and Sufi orders.

    Most Sufi orders conduct worship ceremonies focused on dhikr or zikr (rememberance), an Islamic devotional practice of reciting the names of God.   While not all Sufi orders use music, in most Sufi dhikr, the presence of the divine invoked through chanting, singing, playing musical instruments and sometimes dancing.  Here’s an example of the sema ceremony conducted by the so-called “whirling” dervishes of the Mevlevi order in Turkey:

    One of the most famous Sufi musical styles is the South Asian tradition of qawwali, which stretches back some seven centuries in what is now Pakistan and northern India.   Qawwali songs, usually performed by groups of singers and musicians at shrines and saints’ tombs, focus on themes of praise, thanksgiving, and love.  As in much Sufi poetry, the Beloved, for whom the speaker expresses devotion and longing, is taken to represent God.  Here’s the late Pakistani qawwali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his group performing Bulleh Shah’s “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya” (“My Beloved Came Home”), with English subtitles:

    Moroccan Gnawa music is performed by members of a Afro-Arab community descended from former slaves.  The word “gnawa” can refer to the community itself, the Sufi order associated with it, and their musical tradition.  Gnawa fuses Arab, Berber, and sub-Saharan African sounds with religious influences from both Islam and animist African traditions.  Gnawa musical ceremonies, called lila, often involve trance, possession, and healing.  This clip shows part of a lila in Marrakesh:

    For more on Sufi music, see this article by Dina Lahlou at MidEast Web, and check out the’s extensive music page.

    Taqwacore on the Screen

    March 19, 2010

    The raucous, revolutionary sound of taqwacore–Muslim punk–is coming to a theater near you.   Two new movies, a documentary and a feature film, have been making waves at festival screening rooms from Sundance to SXSW.

    The Taqwacores is a feature film (directed by Eyad Zahra) about a Pakistani-American student who finds himself drawn into a Muslim punk subculture in Buffalo, New York when he moves into a house inhabited by a straight-edge Sunni rocker, an often-intoxicated Sufi with a mohawk, a burka-wearing riotgrrl, a skater kid from Indonesia, and other decidedly untraditional young American Muslims.  It screened to sold-out houses at Sundance, and recently landed a screening deal with Strand Releasing.  Here’s the trailer:

    The film is based on the novel The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight, who also co-wrote the film.  Taqwacore might be the only musical genre that started out as fiction and became reality–while other Islam-identified punk bands existed before, especially in the UK, the name (a combination of the Arabic word taqwa, meaning “piety”, and “hardcore”) and the North American scene were directly inspired by the novel.  Knight, an American convert to Islam, wrote The Taqwacores in 2003 to reach out to other young Muslims struggling to reconcile their faith with an alienation from both orthodox Islam, and mainstream American culture–an alienation for which punk music seemed like a perfect fit.  The self-published novel, circulated in photocopied form and later republished by Soft Skull Press, became an underground hit.  When its fans found out that the punk bands in the book were fictional, they responded by starting their own, creating the flourishing scene populated by bands like Vote Hezbollah, the Kominas, Secret Trial Five, Al-Thawra, and more, some of whom provided the music for the feature film.

    The emergence of the real-life tawqacore scene is also the subject of Omar Majeed’s documentary film Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, which follows Knight and several taqwacore bands on their first North American tour, and beyond, as they take the music to Pakistan:

    The taqwacore scene has gotten a lot of media coverage over the last few years–here’s one article from The New York Times–but you can also follow it through the words of taqx musicians and fans themselves, at the Taqwacore webzine.  As they write,

    Taqwa (Arabic for ‘God Consciousness’) + Core. Punk Islam? Muslim Punk? A haven for Junkie Sheikhs, Retarded Muslims, Queer Alims, Masochistic Muftis and Guttermouth Maulaunas? Just a bunch of confused desi’s and estranged arabs? A sincere appropriation of the 77 punk ethos in a post 9-11 world? Just a joke, auntie?

    Yes. All of the above.