(improvised music) has musical measure
After many years of practising music, I realized that the "Taksim" or else
(improvised music) has musical measure.
Maybe for some people it looks weird, but I believe that is true.
This I figured out by writing many times, various "taxims" on rythm.
After then by analyzing some phrases of music, I found out that some phrases
sounded good , and others did not .
I believe that only by making many recording we can understand it perfectly,
by Nikos Dimitriadis
And if this can be understood by musician , then the results of "Taksim"
will be spectacular.Arab music tradition
is the urban-based music of the eastern Mediterranean region ranging from
Cairo to Beirut, Damascus and Aleppo. This music consists predominantly of precomposed songs that is, pieces in which a composer has determined the form
and content of the music to be performed. With such a repertoire, the
musician's role is that of interpreter, charged with artistically rendering
someone else's creation. The Arab instrumentalist is, however, accorded the
opportunity to improvise his own creations in a genre called taqasim (singular
and plural in this usage). Individual taqasim are not simply free-formed
products of the instrumentalist's fancy; instead, the instrumentalist
improvises according to a complex set of preestablished rules and conventions.
Because taqasim gives the instrumentalist the opportunity to present his own
creation rather than rely on another's composition, it is a highly valued
Individual taqasim commonly last from three to five minutes but may end within
a single minute or extend to eight or ten minutes, and rarely may be even
longer. The length of a specific taqasim is often determined by the amount of
time alotted to the performer, and also by the performer's mood at the time of
A taqasim is multi-sectional, with sections separated from each other by
moments of silence. The musical coherence of each section is achieved by the
instrumentalist focusing on one melodic idea, usually a specific melodic mode
(maqam; plural, maqamat) and, commonly, on only one aspect of a maqam's
melodic features. (Each maqam has a unique scale and special melodic
features.) The entire taqasim is thus a gradual unfolding of a specific mode's
unique characteristics. Generally, such unfoldings follow an ascending
progression, with the musician beginning at the bottom of a modal scale and
slowly working his way up to the higher notes (often those in a higher
octave). Showing more than one maqam in a single taqasim is also common.
Listeners take special delight in the moves from maqam to maqam (modulations)
and in the eventual and obligatory return to the maqam with which the taqasim
The various sections of a taqasim generally end with cliched cadential phrases
called qaflat (sing., qafla), another source of particular enjoyment for the
listener. Forceful qaflat are commonly met with cries of approval from
audience members. It is commonly said that a good qafla can make up for a bad
taqasim, but that a bad qafla can spoil an otherwise strong taqasim.
The taqasim genre thus gives the instrumentalist the opportunity to show his
abilities and sensitivities as a composer. Listeners judge the shape and
structure of a taqasim, the performer's ability to bring the improvisation to
dramatic climaxes at appropriate points, his use of modulations and silences
and his mastery of the various maqamat.
In addition, taqasim allows the musician to demonstrate the extent of his
technical mastery of his instrument. Musicians take care to show moments of
technical virtuosity (e.g., dazzling picking or bowing displays by string
players) as well as moments of softer, more tender musical expression.
Young musicians learn taqasim performance by imitating performances of friends
and any senior musicians with whom they come in contact. Commercial recordings
have also come to play a major role as students often memorize the
commercially recorded taqasim of the greatest masters. While this helps to
develop technical proficiency and a knowledge of both the taqasim genre and
the various maqamat, the aspiring musician must, in time, develop his own
style, his own improvisations, for taqasim are, above all, an expression of
individual creativity. The greatest performers have developed their own unique
styles and approaches, so that their improvisations are clearly marked as
Taqasim are an important part of most gatherings of musicians. At informal
parties or whenever one musician visits another, the casual and spontaneous
playing of one song after another will be broken occasionally by one musician
or another launching into his own taqasim. This provides variety of sound and
mood and allows for moments of highly valued personal expression.
In more formal concerts, the position and frequency of taqasim performances
have changed over time. At the beginning of the 20th century, urban-based
performances were structured in terms of suites (waslat, sing. wasla) of
instrumental and vocal pieces. Taqasim were featured in the opening moments of
wasla performances. A late example of such a performance is found on the
cassette Layali wa Ughniyyat Layh Ya Banafsaj featuring the Egyptian singer
Salih 'Abd al-Hayy (1896-1962). In this studio recording, we find excellent
examples of taqasim performed on the `ud (the Arab lute), the violin and the
qanun (a trapezoid-shaped zither). The recording begins with the `ud taqasim.
Next, a small ensemble plays a piece called "sama`i Rast" composed by the
Turkish/Armenian musician, Tatyus. The performance of the sama`i is then
interrupted by the violin taqasim, after which the sama`i is completed. This
is in turn followed by a short taqasim on the qanun which serves as an
introduction to a vocal improvisation called layali. The qanun player
intersperses additional taqasim phrases within the layali when the singer,
Salih 'Abd al-Hayy, rests after completing individual sections of his
improvisation. Finally, the singer presents the song "Layh Ya Banafsaj" with
instrumental and choral accompaniment. While full-blown waslat would have been
substantially longer, commonly including a number of chorally performed songs
called muwashsha hat, this Salih 'Abd al-Hayy recording provides a
high-quality example of the common repertory context for late 19th/early
20th-century taqasim performances. Following common practice, the names of the
individual musicians on this recording are not given, the only names given
being those of the singer and the song's composer and poet.
From about the 1930s, the wasla lost favor in Arab music performance and was
soon replaced by a new genre called ughniyya (literally, "song"). Of
approximately the same length in performance as the earlier wasla, the
ughniyya featured a multi-sectional song sung by a solo singer, with an
instrumental introduction for the song as a whole and for each of the song's
internal sections. The ughniyya has reigned as the dominant genre of
urban-based Arab music up through the 1970s and 1980s. Taqasim were seldom
included in such compositions and thus came to be relegated to more informal
gatherings of musicians, to small parties and to dance routines where dancers
liked the change of mood that taqasim offered from the often rhythmically
It was in this setting the virtual loss of taqasim from mainstream
performances that Farid al-Atrash (1905-1974) found a way to create his own
personal niche, his own claim to fame, in terms of taqasim performance. A
movie star, singer and composer of phenomenal fame, as well as a virtuosic
`oud player, Farid would commonly sing only his own compositions. When
composing his songs, he would compose the instrumental introduction (muqaddima)
in such a way that he would give himself a lengthy `ud taqasim within the
muqaddima. After the taqasim, his ensemble would finish the muqaddima and he
would then sing the vocal sections of his compositions. This format proved so
successful that Farid al-Atrash soon came to be the single-most famous `oud
player in the Arab world, and more specifically, the most famous performer of
`oud taqasim. In time he came to be referred to as malik al-`oud, i.e., "the
king of the `oud." Among his most famous taqasim is one he performed in a live
concert, during the muqaddima of his song "al-Rabi". The entire song with the
taqasim can be heard on cassette or CD.
One of the most interesting aspects of taqasim performance is the dynamic
relationship that often exists between the performer and members of the
audience. When someone in the audience likes a specific moment in a
performance, he might call out any of a number of cliched words or phrases
with which to show his appreciation ("Allah," "ya habibi," "ya 'ayni" or
simply the performer's name: "ya Farid," i.e., Farid al-Atrash). The performer
is thus encouraged and, ideally, moved to greater heights of creativity.
Recordings of Farid al-Atrash's public performances are excellent examples of
enthusiastic audience response. The above cited recording is no exception:
wild cheers erupt with the initial phrase of his taqasim and reoccur
frequently throughout the improvisation.
While the "Rabi" recording is an excellent example of a taqasim set within the
muqaddima of a lengthy song, those interested in hearing a number of taqasim
by Farid al-Atrash are referred to a separate release of five taqasim
extracted from various muqaddimat. Audience response is heard in each of these
live taqasim. The quality of the individual recordings is uneven, with none
having the clarity of sound that studio recordings can offer. However, this
does not detract from the importance of this release as documentation of
Farid's taqasim. (The tape begins with a studio recording of one of his `ud
Back-to-back listening to a number of Farid's taqasim clearly reveals the
recurring features that characterize his style and technique. He is especially
known for the displays of right-hand picking virtuosity with which he ended
all of his taqasim performances. A consummate crowd pleaser, he still reigns
as king of the `oud for most in the eastern Arab world some twenty years after
his death. In the present day, young `oud players are often greeted by cries
from members of the audience, calling out "ya Farid" -- that is, they
compliment the young performer by comparing him to the great one, Farid al-Atrash.
While Farid al-Atrash is without question the favorite `oud player of the
common folk, musicians commonly recognize Riyad al-Sinbati (d. 1981) as the
consummate musicians' musician. A prolific composer and respected singer,
Riyad al-Sinbati made a cassette of six studio-recorded taqasim for the
Egyptian government's Sono Cairo label. Here the `ud is ideally miked and thus
has a deep, rich sound. Al-Sinbati's taqasim have a slower-paced, more relaxed
style than those of Farid al-Atrash. Among al-Sinbati's characteristic
stylistic features is his frequent use of lower octave drop notes (i.e., when
playing a phrase in a higher octave, he periodically echoes individual notes
by playing the same note in a lower octave).
Other important taqasim recordings include those by the Egyptian violinist
Ahmad al-Hifnawi, the Iraqi `oud player Munir Bashir.
Middle East Studies Association