In our fifth article following our armchair travels, we move ever westwards across the globe to the Middle East. The ‘cradle of civilisation’ covers a vast geographical and cultural area and includes the countries of Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar.
The Middle East forms a land bridge between the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe and migration, trade and religion (including Islam, Judaism and Christianity) have played a major role in the music of the area. However, as Islam is the religion of the majority, folk music differs less here than in other parts of the world and in fact, music is seen as the great unifier of traditions.
Middle Eastern music includes the Iranian traditions of Persia, the Hebrew music of the diaspora, Armenian, traditional Turkish and Assyrian music as well as Cypriot music, Egyptian Coptic ritual music and Andalusian (Muslim Spain) music.
In this article, we will try to gain a clearer glimpse of the music of the Middle East past and how music has evolved into the present day. We will then shine our spotlight on 3 pianists who were born in the Middle East and who are combining their heritage with their passion for music.