What is the Maqam in music?
Jins, Maqam, Fasil, what does it mean?
The smallest unit in Arabic theory is the jins (plural ajinas), which is the Arabic interpretation of the Greek tetrachord. The word tetrachord comes from tetra- (four) and chord (group of notes). Arabic ajinas may alternately have three or five tones (trichords and pentachords). Even the same jins can be said to have three, four, or five tones, though this nuance of understanding is left to individual practise without consensus.
Two ajinas can come together to form a maqam (plural maqammat), which corresponds closely to the Greek concept of a mode. In addition to the two central ajinas, a maqam has other ajinas above and below its primary register. Unlike Western classical modes, maqamat are not restricted to an octave, nor need a mode ascend up to its octave. Several maqamat only span a sixth and are considered complete scales.
Maqamat are further grouped into families for classification. A family is a fasil (plural fasilah). Different teachers and theorists group the fasilah differently, but most agreeing on between 7-10 families of maqam. In composition and improvisation, performers may modulate within the fasil, but only rarely modulate outside.
Fasil Associations: Each family evokes particular moods in its listeners. While these moods are generally considered subjective, the moods are considered objective in the roots of the musical culture. Arabic theory developed under the influence of Persian culture, which itself was based in North Indian philosophy. North Indian classical music considers each raga (the rough equivalent of mode or maqam) to be a deity with specific attributes. Each raga is associated with a specific time of day, season or month of the year, forces of nature, and a specific human mood. Rather than the subjective associations of Western music, North Indian music teaches these associations objectively. Arabic music stands in between, admitting subjectivity but also emanating from a distinctly objective tradition.
Here are some of the most typical traditional fasil associations in Arabic music:
Maqam “Ajem” gives us feelings of strength, majestic, cheerful; used frequently in national anthems.
Maqam “Rast” gives us feelings of masculine love, pride, power, sound mind; used frequently in religious music.
Maqam “Nahawand” gives us feelings of drama, emotional extremes.
Maqam “Nawa Athar” gives us feelings of mysticism; Nawa Athar is often considered an extension of Fasil Hijaz in its mood.
Maqam “Bayat” gives us feelings of feminine love, joy, vitality.
Maqam“Kurd” gives us feelings of freedom, romance, gentleness; Kurd is often considered part of Bayyati in its mood.
Maqam “Hijaz” gives us feelings of the desert, solitude, enchantment, mysticism
Maqam “Saba” gives us feelings of sadness, pain
Maqam “Sika” gives us feelings of old days, ancient and religion songs
Video Examples of The Maqamat On The Oud
1- A Sense of Victory – Maqam Hijaz Kar Kord
This interview describes some of Ramy’s concerts and successful works along with his vision of the Oud. He also talks about how it was published in the United States. Ramy also talks about his School of Oud Online.
Following his early oud lessons, Adly relates, he studied intensively at the Arabic Oud House, a music school in Cairo, while pursuing a business degree at Assiut University, in his home town. He later worked as a music lecturer.
Also on Adly’s résumé: a busy teaching regimen via Skype. His School of Oud Online has reached fledgling players in at least 27 countries, including Norway, he says. Now that he is living in the Washington area, he dreams of founding a brick-and-mortar oud school.
“I’d love to add this instrument to American history,” he says.
On Aug. 28, noted oud player Ramy Adly appeared on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington, DC. The purpose of his performance was “to introduce the West to the oud” and to the beautiful sounds of this 4,000-year-old instrument. To showcase the oud for an American audience, Adly even performed a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which while beautiful, felt slightly forced. He excelled most in musical styles for which the oud is most known, but the range of styles he was able to showcase can be viewed as an invitation to incorporate the oud into genres that may overlook the versatility of this ancient stringed instrument.
This interview talks about Ramy Adly’s concert at the Kennedy Center. Radio Sawa interviewed Adly on his project, as one of the best musical projects of the Oud instrument in the world and talks about his band and his compositions. Ramy Adly released his album, “Mirage” at the concert.
This year’s event was attended by 600 guests, represented officials from the World Bank, Congress, U.S. Department of State, diplomats and Arab-American communities and organizations. While enjoying Egyptian oud player and composer Ramy Adly and international Syrian Opera singer Lubana Al Quntar mesmerized the crowd with music and song.
Ramy Adly starts his interview of talking about his childhood and his beloved Oud that he found at his family’s house in Assuit, Egypt. He headed to Cairo to learn more about the Oud instrument at the Arab Oud House, taught by Naseer Shamma. After Ramy’s successful graduation concert, he started his career of teaching the Oud at the world famous Alexandria Library. He has traveled studying the performing arts in Hawaii, USA and finally established his School of Oud Online based in Washington, D.C.