Part 1: Underway through the Arab Spring
What began in December 2010 in Tunisia soon spread to many countries in northern Africa and the Near East: protests, insurgencies and rebellions unsettled the autocratic systems of the region, whereby the rapid political upheaval in Egypt, the most populous Arab state, early in 2011 came as a complete surprise for many observers. In his series Unterwegs (Underway), Roger Willemsen invites us on a musical journey through the Arab spring.
In countries like Tunisia and Egypt, ancient music traditions are being discovered anew and revived – traditions that date back to the Arab conquest of northern Africa and were influenced by the music of medieval Spain. Their roots, however, are considerably older, since already in 3000 BCE the ancient Egyptians had the most varied of harps, lutes, lyres, the Pharaonic double flute the kawala, fifes, tambourine, drums and the kanun.
Even today it is primarily the “exotic” instruments that give oriental music its unmistakable sound: the oud (lute), the ney (flute), the mezoued (bagpipes), the darbouka (drum), riqq (tambourine) and the kanun (zither). Of course, Arab music also differs significantly in melodic structure and rhythm from European archetypes. On the lively music scene of our time, old songs and the traditional instruments are encountering present-day instruments, leading to an exciting mixture, particularly in the generally energised atmosphere.