The Best Middle Eastern Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

If you’re looking for the best Middle Eastern Folk Music, you’ve come to the right place. This blog is dedicated to showcasing the best of the best in Middle Eastern Folk Music. From the latest releases to the hidden gems, we’ll take you on a musical journey through the best of Middle Eastern Folk Music.

What is Middle Eastern Folk Music?

Middle Eastern folk music is the music of the people of the Middle East. It is often passed down from generation to generation. This music is often played on traditional instruments, such as the oud, nay, and tabla. Middle Eastern folk music often has a distinctive sound that is different from other types of music.

Characteristics of Middle Eastern Folk Music

There are many different styles of Middle Eastern folk music, but there are some common characteristics that are found in most of them. The music is usually based on a distinctive minor key, and the melodies often have a Arabic or Persian influence. The rhythms are usually very complex, and the instruments used can vary from region to region.

The most common instruments used in Middle Eastern folk music are the oud (a type of lute), the ney (a type of flute), and the Arabian buzuq (a type of mandolin). Other instruments that are sometimes used include the tabla (a type of drum), the riq (a type of tambourine), and the darbuka (a type of percussion instrument).

Middle Eastern folk music often has a very spiritual feel to it, and many of the songs are based on religious themes. In fact, much of the music is used as part of religious ceremonies or as a way to express devotion to Allah. However, there is also a significant amount of secular music, which is often used for entertainment purposes.

The History of Middle Eastern Folk Music

Middle Eastern folk music has a long and storied history, dating back thousands of years to the early days of the region’s cultures. For centuries, folk music was an integral part of everyday life in the Middle East, used for everything from celebrations and religious ceremonies to storytelling and entertainment. Today, Middle Eastern folk music is enjoyed by people all over the world, and its popularity continues to grow.

The Origins of Middle Eastern Folk Music

The origins of Middle Eastern folk music can be traced back to the times when Arabs, Persians, and Turks inhabited the region. Each group brought with them their own musical traditions, which blended together over time to create the distinctive sound of Middle Eastern folk music.

The Arabic tradition is perhaps the most well-known, thanks in part to the popularity of belly dancing. Arabic music is characterized by its use of instruments like the oud (a type of lute), rebab (a bowed string instrument), and tabla (a pair of drums). Melodies are often repetitive and ornate, making them ideal for dancing.

Persian music, on the other hand, tends to be more mellow and lyrical. The Persian tradition makes use of a variety of string and wind instruments, including the tar (a type of lute), ney (a type of flute), and santur (a type of hammered dulcimer). Persian melodies often tell stories or convey emotions, making them perfect for listening as well as dancing.

Turkish music is a blend of Arabic and Persian influences. Like Arabic music, it makes use of instruments like the oud and rebab. However,Turkish melodies tend to be more monophonic (having only one melodic line) than those in other Middle Eastern traditions. This makes Turkish music ideal for both dancing and listening.

The Spread of Middle Eastern Folk Music

The Spread of Middle Eastern Folk Music

Folk music has always been an important part of the cultural heritage of the Middle East. Over the centuries, it has been passed down from generation to generation, spreading across the region and beyond.

Today, you can find Middle Eastern folk music being performed in many different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Israel. This wide-ranging appeal is thanks to the fact that folk music is often based on simple melodies and beats that are easy to dance to. It is also often infused with elements of traditional Arabic music, making it even more catchy and infectious.

If you want to experience the impressive vocal range and dynamic rhythms of Middle Eastern folk music for yourself, then there are plenty of opportunities to do so. There are numerous festivals and events that take place across the region each year, celebrating this unique cultural tradition.

The Different Types of Middle Eastern Folk Music

Sufi Music

Sufi music is a genre of devotional music that is often created to inspire religious devotion and ecstasy in listeners. Sufi music often has a trance-like quality and can be found in many different Muslim countries, as well as India and Pakistan. The lyrics of Sufi songs are often based on mystical poems written by Sufi poets, and the music often reflects the themes of love and yearning for God that are found in these poems.

Sha’abi Music

Sha’abi music (sha’bi means “of the people”) is a popular form of music in Egypt and Sudan. It started as music for working-class people and quickly became very popular, with performers like Sayed Darwich, Mahmoud el Eskandarany, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Abdel Wahab. Sha’abi has influences from traditional Egyptian and Sudanese music, as well as Western pop and rock.

Tarab Music

Tarab is a type of folk music from the Middle East. It is known for its beautiful, hypnotic melodies and complex rhythms. Tarab music is often used in wedding ceremonies and other special occasions.

Tarab music typically features a small ensemble of instruments, including the oud (a type of lute), the qanun (a type of zither), the ney (a type of flute), and the riq (a type of tambourine). The music is usually led by the oud, with the other instruments providing accompaniment. The melodic line is often highly ornamented, with elaborate trills and turns.

The rhythms of tarab music are complex and often irregular. They are typically played on the off-beats, which gives the music a syncopated feel. The rhythms can be quite difficult to follow, but they are essential to the music’s distinctive sound.

Tarab music originated in the Arab world, but it has also been popular in Turkey, Iran, and other parts of the Middle East. In recent years, it has begun to gain popularity in western countries as well.

The Instruments Used in Middle Eastern Folk Music

The best Middle Eastern folk music is often made with a variety of different instruments. These instruments can include the oud, which is a string instrument, as well as the qanun, which is a type of zither. Other popular instruments used in Middle Eastern folk music include the ney, which is a type of flute, and the darbuka, which is a type of drum.

String Instruments

The baglama is a stringed instrument of Turkish origin. It has a long neck and three strings and is held vertically. The saz is an Iranian, Turkic and Anatolian string instrument. It has many different variations and is played in Folk music throughout Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East. The kanun is a stringed instrument of Arabic origin. It is played with a plectrum and has 77 tuned strings. It is found in different forms across the Middle East. The Arabian oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 6 or 5 courses

Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments play an important role in Middle Eastern folk music. There are many different types of percussion instruments, each with its own unique sound. The most common percussion instrument is the drum, which is used to keep the rhythm of the music. Other popular percussion instruments include the zurna (a type of flute), the tabla (a type of drum), and the doumbek (a type of drum).

Wind Instruments

The Middle East is home to some of the oldest musical traditions in the world. Folk music is an important part of the region’s musical heritage, and it is still performed by many traditional musicians today.

There are a wide variety of folk music instruments used in the Middle East, including wind instruments, string instruments, and percussion instruments. Wind instruments include the ney (a type of flute), the mijwiz (a type of double-reed oboe), and the zurna (a type of trumpet). String instruments include the oud (a type of lute), the kanun (a type of zither), and the rebab (a type of bowed string instrument). Percussion instruments include the darbuka (a type of drum) and the riq (a type of tambourine).

Folk music from the Middle East is often accompanied by dance. Common dances include the dabke (a line dance), the khaleegy (a circle dance), and the sword dance.

The instruments and dances of Middle Eastern folk music are an important part of the region’s cultural heritage. They are still enjoyed by many people today, both in the Middle East and around the world.

The Famous Middle Eastern Folk Musicians

The best Middle Eastern folk music is Arabic music. Arabic music has a long history and is still very popular today. There are many famous Middle Eastern folk musicians who have made Arabic music what it is today.


Fairuz is a Lebanese singer who is often referred to as the “Voice of Lebanon”. She has released numerous studio albums and has performed throughout the Arab world, Europe, and America. Fairuz is one of the most popular folk musicians in the Middle East and has been credited with helping to revive traditional Lebanese music. Her music has been a source of inspiration for many other artists and has helped to promote understanding and unity between different cultures.

Abdel Halim Hafez

Abdel Halim Hafez was an Egyptian singer, musician, and actor. He was one of the most popular and revered singers in the Arab world and nicknamed “The voice of Egypt”. He recorded 542 songs in his career. Hafez’s songs incorporated different instruments not traditionally used in folk music, such as the violin, oud, qanun, and piano.

Umm Kulthum

Umm Kulthum was a world-renowned Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress. She is considered by many to be the greatest female singer of the 20th century. Her voice was described as “honey-throated” and “orchestral”. She had a range of five octaves and was skilled in improvisation.

Kulthum was born in the village of Tamay e-Zahran in Egypt in 1904. Her father, an Imam, taught her to recite the Quran. She began singing at an early age and was soon recognized for her exceptional vocal skills. She rose to prominence in the 1920s and 1930s with her hit songs “Inta Omri” and “al-Atlal”. She toured Egypt and the Middle East, performing to large crowds.

Kulthum’s popularity transcended religious and national boundaries. She was revered by Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. After her death in 1975, she was mourned by millions of people around the world.

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