Love of music is very deep-rooted in the Egyptian people. Ancient Egyptian frescoes and paintings show many pictures of singers, lute players, drummers and other performers on either wind or string instruments. Rhythmic singing as an accompaniment to manual labour probably helped the builders of the monuments of Ancient Egypt to get through their laborious and tiring work just as today the Egyptian boatman, the peasant in raising water, the porters carrying weights, the mason and carpenter will enliven their daily toil by song. The comparative rarity of musical records makes it difficult to arrive at an exact idea of the growth and development of Egyptian music as it exists today. While it is doubtless derived, in great extent to the music known to Ancient Egypt it has certainly borrowed something from Persian and Indian sources. Indeed many of the technical terms used by Egyptian musicians are of Persian and Indian origin.

To European ears the great peculiarity of Arab music is the division of tones into thirds. These delicate gradations of sound give a plaintive softness to the melodies in which they are incorporated but their perception takes time and study if the "thirds" are to be appreciated. In other words Arab music is to the Western ear an acquired taste.

There is a great variety of Egyptian musical instruments. Those generally used for chamber music are the "Kemengah" (closely resembling the viol) the "kanoon" (a species of dulcimer) the "ood" (lute) and the "nay" (a kind of flute). A very curious one stringed instrument, the "rabab" is used to accompany the reciting of romances, a very popular form of entertainment in Egypt though, of late years the radio has almost superseded it in popular favour. The body of the rabab is of wood, the front of parchment, the foot of iron and the string of horsehair. The tone is deep and somewhat monotonous but it forms a most pleasing accompaniment to poems and epic romances with which it is associated. Of the instruments mentioned the first four are often used for concert music and only occasionally as accompaniments to the human voice. But the really characteristic music of Egypt is singing in unison and this is more usually accompanied by drums and tambourines of which a very great variety exists -kettledrums of every size, drums made of earthenware vessels of which the bottom has been removed and replaced by skin or parchment. Tambourines and caStanets are owned by nearly every family and the village circle is poor indeed that cannot raise at least six drum-beaters.

Homely, and often home-made is the reed-pipe which Nile boatmen often use to accompany their chants. It is known as the "zummarah" and its high-pitched plaintive music is very pleasant when heard from a distance over the water. Boatmen also use another reed-pipe, the "arghool" which serves as a continuous bass.Songs to which the above instruments provide the accompaniment
are, like most folk-songs, very simple in metre and composition. They deal with the fields, the crops, with the longing of the peasant for his native village and with the primitive emotions that are common to all humanity. But there is a solemn grand music which falls every day upon Egyptian ears : it is the call to prayer chanted from the minaret of every mosque. First comes the profession of the Moslem faith and then the words "Comeye, come to prayer; come ye, come to consolation". At night-time are added the words "Prayer is better than sleep". Most of the muezzins (men who chant the call to prayer) have harmonious and powerful voices and their rendering of the familiar call is often very impressive especially when heard at night.

A school of oriental music has been opened in Cairo and it has done much valuable work not only in training musicians but in printing and distributing oriental music works. Its students past and present are in great demand as radio artists as well as for concert and theatre work. In this connection it may be mentioned that Egyptian music and musicians are eagerly awaited by radio listeners in Morocco, Algiers, Tripolitania, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq.

It is no exaggeration to say that Egypt, the intellectual centre of Islam, is rapidly becoming, if she has not already become, the fountain-head of musical art in the Near-East.


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