Monday, July 12, 2010

The Maqam's of the Athan - an interesting discussion

video

Thank you M for sending me this very informative interview about the scales used for the different Athans. Unfortunately the clip is not the complete interview, but it is still very interesting. A maqam is the Arabic word for a musical scale. There are many maqams in Arabic music, unlike in Western music which, according to my limited understanding of music, consists either solely or mainly of the Major and Minor Scale. These Maqams are grouped into some key parent maqams and mostly branch out with slight variations. These variations amount to the immense diversity we hear in different Muslim calls to prayer around the world. Except for Riyadh, where no scale is used, unless you can call awful a scale that is...

3 comments:

idnavigator said...

Western music does have a lot of scales, but their application is spotty. There are the Modes (which are scales shifted to start in a certain place, rather than the usual beginning), then there are special scales. Blues is a special scale, for example. Then there are even more specialized scales not unlike the Maqamat, but they are just not used frequently.

SiSi said...

That's very interesting Wassim- thanks for sharing with us. But I do wonder if this principle is more theoretical than something put into practice. I am sure we have all heard some amazing examples of the athan but by the same token we have all heard some travesties to the athan- for instance in Cairo, one can often hear a guy, who is clearly a smoker, who will spend the first 2 minutes loudly clearing the phlegm out of his throat before starting and then commencing with no sense of melody rhythm and one often wonders if the guy has any concept of the task he is performing.
3mooman...it would be fantastic if we had a central body which enforced muazzins to keep to such guidelines

Maysaloon said...

idnavigator,
Thank you for enlightening me about this. I'm not very music literate and I'm happy you took the time to tell me.

SiSi,
Not so sure about central control for the muezzins, I guess it's just a matter of individual taste for each one, or lack of it for Mr Phlegm!!