Listen To An Over 110 Years Old Recording Of A Syrian Song

Arabic Music

Middle Eastern music refers to different various music styles that span across the Middle East. The various nations of the region include the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East. The Iranian traditions of Persia. The Hebrew music of Israel and the diaspora. Armenian music, the varied traditions of Cypriot music, the music of Turkey, traditional Assyrian music, Coptic ritual music in Egypt. And the Andalusian (Muslim Spain) music very much alive in the greater Middle East (North Africa). They all maintain their own traditions. It is widely regarded that some Middle-Eastern musical styles have influenced Central Asia, as well as Spain, and the Balkans.


Often, more traditional Middle-Eastern music can last from one to three hours in length. Building up to anxiously awaited, and much applauded climaxes, or tarab, derived from the Arabic term طرب tarraba

Mohamed Effendi El-Achek

Today’s post is an example of the thriving market in the Middle East, ca. 1909-1910. Nearly 115 years old! It is a genuine artifact. Even in beautiful shape, the surface noise that is normal from recordings of this vintage is unavoidable. A tangent: if you are interested at all in old recordings of any stripe. You must learn to love surface noise. It has, in a way, become part of the music itself. I’m speaking of the inherent sound of needle on shellac groove. Not necessarily damage to the record itself. (If you’re not already familiar, there’s a whole arcane language that has evolved around 78rpm damage: tics, pops, lams, hairlines, stressed grooves, edge chips…sigh.) Remastered CDs that remove all semblance of surface noise inevitably end up removing much of the music itself, and a crucial part of the listening experience.

Mohamed Effendi El-Achek was from Damascus. And he recorded this and numerous other songs ca. 1909 or so, in Beirut, which was a center of Middle Eastern recording. He sings over a subtle accompaniment of kanun and violin. The musicians shouting encouragement throughout! (Both sides are included here.) The title translates to “Be Happy, My Heart”. So, it is a love song. A total of seven minutes of true immortality.

Image: Ebrahim Al-Hajj

Media File: Free Music Archive

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