Rock the Casbah: The Best in Middle Eastern Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for the best in Middle Eastern music? Look no further than Rock the Casbah! We’ve got the latest and greatest hits from all your favorite artists, plus some up-and-comers you’ll definitely want to check out.

Discovering the best Middle Eastern music

The Middle East is a large and varied region, with many different cultures and traditions. It’s no surprise, then, that the music of the Middle East is just as diverse. From the fast-paced rhythms of raï to the soulful sounds of Persian pop, there’s a whole world of music to discover.

If you’re new to Middle Eastern music, or just looking to broaden your horizons, here are a few of our favorite artists and albums to get you started.

The history of Middle Eastern music

Though the music of the Middle East has been around for centuries, it has only recently begun to gain mainstream popularity in the West. The region’s rich musical heritage is a result of its diverse cultures and influences, from the Arab world to Persia, Turkey, and beyond.

Middle Eastern music is characterized by its unique blend of melodic, rhythmic, and percussive elements. The region’s traditional instruments include the oud (a stringed instrument similar to a lute), the ney (a flute-like instrument made from reeds), and the darbuka (a hand-held drum).

Modern Middle Eastern musicians have been influenced by Western music, resulting in a hybrid style that combines traditional and contemporary elements. This dynamic fusion has produced some of the most exciting and popular music in the world today.

The different genres of Middle Eastern music

There is a vast and rich tradition of music in the Middle East, encompassing many different genres. Here are some of the most popular:

*Raqs Sharki: Also known as belly dance music, this genre is characterized by its strong rhythm, often featuring an Duff (a large drum played with the hands).

*Khalij: This genre originates from the Gulf region and is characterized by its use of traditional instruments like the oud (a type of lute) and the rabab (a type of fiddle).

*Andalusian: This genre comes from the Andalus region of Spain and Morocco and is characterized by its use of Flamenco instruments like the guitar and castanets.

*Khaleeji: This genre comes from the Gulf region and is characterized by its use of traditional instruments like the oud and the rabab, as well as modern drums and synthesizers.

The instruments used in Middle Eastern music

The oud, a short-necked lute with eleven strings, is one of the most popular instruments in Middle Eastern music. The instrument dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and was known in Greece as the barbiton. The word “oud” comes from the Arabic word for “wood,” and the instrument is usually made from walnut or rosewood.

The ney, a flute made from reeds, is another popular instrument in Middle Eastern music. The ney has been used in the region for over 3,000 years and was mentioned in the Koran. Throughout its history, the ney has been used by Sufis (mystical Muslims) as a tool for meditation.

The kanun, or zither, is a stringed instrument that has been popular in the Middle East since the 13th century. The kanun is usually made from wood or marble and has 72 or more strings that are plucked with the thumb and forefinger.

The vocal traditions of Middle Eastern music

From the earliest days, music has been an integral part of Arab culture. In the courtly music of the Ottoman Empire to the modern pop sounds of the Middle East, music is a vital expression of Arab life. The vocal traditions of Middle Eastern music are some of the most beautiful and emotional in the world.

The Arabic language is uniquely suited to singing, with a richness of sound and a wide range of expression. Arab singers have a great deal of control over their voices, and can produce sounds that are both powerful and delicate.

There are two main types of Arabic singing: muwashahat and ghina’. Muwashahat are songs that tell stories, often of love or loss. They are usually accompanied by an orchestra, and feature complex vocal runs and ornamentation. Ghina’ are simpler songs, often used for ceremonial purposes or as background music.

The best-known type of Arabic singing is probably Qur’anic recitation. This devotional practice is deeply respected in Muslim cultures, and Qur’anic reciters are highly trained vocalists who use their voices to create a powerful connection between the sacred words and the hearts of the listeners.

Whether you’re looking for devotional chanting or upbeat pop tunes, there’s an Arabic singer out there who will speak to your soul. Check out some of our favorites below.

The role of music in Middle Eastern culture

Since ancient times, music has played an important role in Middle Eastern culture. It has been used for religious and ceremonial purposes, as well as for entertainment and recreation. Today, music continues to be an important part of life in the region, with a wide variety of genres being enjoyed by people of all ages.

One of the most distinctive aspects of Middle Eastern music is its use of microtones, or notes that are played between the standard Western notes. This gives the music a very unique sound that is often instantly recognizable. Other distinguishing features include the use of intricate rhythms and frequent use of percussion instruments.

Middle Eastern music has been influenced by a number of different cultures over the centuries, including Persian, Turkish, and European. This can be seen in the wide variety of musical styles that can be found in the region today. From traditional folk music to modern pop, there is something to suit every taste.

If you’re looking to add some Middle Eastern flavor to your musical collection, there are a few artists that you should definitely check out. Hassan Hajji is a popular Moroccan singer who performs a wide range of genres including traditional folk songs, chaabi music, and modern pop. His lively performances are sure to get you on your feet and dancing along.

For something a little different, why not try out some Persian electronica? Amirali is an Iranian-born producer who combines traditional Persian instruments with modern electronic sounds to create something truly unique. If you’re looking for something chilled out and relaxing, his music is definitely worth checking out.

So whatever your taste in music, there’s sure to be something from the Middle East that you’ll enjoy. Why not give it a try today?

The best Middle Eastern music festivals

The best Middle Eastern music festivals offer a chance to experience the rich culture and traditions of the region. From vibrant Sufi celebrations to traditional folk music gatherings, thesefestivals offer a taste of the music and dance of the Middle East.

Sufi festivals are among the most popular, with Sufism being a mystical form of Islam that emphasizes love and tolerance. Sufi music is often deeply spiritual and moving, with a focus on singing and dancing as forms of meditation. The largest Sufi festival in the world is the annual Urs in India, which attracts over a million people each year. Other popular festivals include the World Sufi Festival in Pakistan and the International Sufi Music Festival in Morocco.

For those interested in more traditional forms of Middle Eastern music, there are plenty of festivals that showcase folk and tribal music. The Persian New Year celebration of Nowruz is one of the largest and most important festivals in Iran, with music and dance performances taking place throughout the country. The Palestinian village of Qalandiya hosts an annual festival celebrating Palestinian folklore, while Lebanon’s Baalbeck International Festival features a mix of traditional and contemporary performers from across the Arab world.

With so many great options to choose from, there’s sure to be a Middle Eastern music festival that’s right for you.

The best Middle Eastern music clubs

The Middle East is a hotbed of musical talent, and there are plenty of great clubs and venues where you can enjoy live music. Here are some of the best:

The Camel Club – This club features a wide variety of Middle Eastern music, from traditional to modern. They also have a great selection of food and drink, making it the perfect place to enjoy an evening out.

Al-Bustan – This club is one of the most popular in the city, with a great atmosphere and a wide range of music on offer. If you want to experience the best of Middle Eastern music, this is the place to go.

The Dome – This iconic club is famous for its stunning architecture and incredible sound system. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to experience live music in an unforgettable setting.

The best Middle Eastern music radio stations

Looking for the best Middle Eastern music radio stations? Look no further! Here are our top picks:

-Nawaret FM: Based in Cairo, Nawaret FM is one of the most popular radio stations in Egypt, playing a mix of contemporary Arabic and international hits.

-Radio Sawa: A project of the US government, Radio Sawa is a pan-Arab station that plays a mix of news, talk shows, and music.

– Arabian Nights: Based in Dubai, Arabian Nights is a 24-hour radio station that specializes in classic and contemporary Arabic music.

– Desert Isle Radio: Desert Isle Radio is a non-commercial station based in the United States that specializes in Arab and Middle Eastern musicians.

The best Middle Eastern music TV shows

There are many great Middle Eastern music TV shows available today. Here are some of the best:

-El Mahalla: This show features traditional and contemporary Egyptian music.
-Fasلكلب: This Iraqi show showcases a variety of local musicians.
-al Jamal: This Lebanese show features a mix of traditional and modern music.
-Nawer: This Moroccan show focuses on traditional music from the region.
-Sūq al Qarāwīyīn: This Tunisian show spotlights a variety of local talent.

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