Music, Literature, Dance and Fashion
Composers and musicians of the Arab and Ottoman world
Sayed Darwich’s (1892–1923) “songs speak vibrantly of hawkers, craftsmen, water carriers, waiters, boatmen of the Nile .... It is hardly surprising therefore that he has come to be seen as a musician of the people.” (From Gabriel Saadé)
Because musical notation was generally not used by the traditional musicians of North Africa and the Near East, conservatories developed late in these regions. A pioneer in music education was Wadih Sabra, the composer of the Ottoman and, later, the Lebanese national anthems, who founded the Institute of Music in Beirut in 1910 and, in the 1930s, the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music where the emphasis was on European symphonic music. Photographs of anonymous musicians from the late 19th and early 20th centuries attest to the popularity of ensembles with musicians playing the violin, introduced from Europe, the tambourine, the lute and drums or flute. Some images depict women ‒ playing the daff, a frame drum, or the tanbur, a variety of lute ‒ but shown as types, not as known performers. Likewise, a “Turk” playing a kettle drum, which was introduced to European music from the Ottoman Empire, would have been a source of interest as a type rather than as a member of a military or imperial band.

c. 1790

The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

This picture of a man playing a kettle drum, or köş, appears in a two-volume collection of images of “Turks” of various walks of life compiled around 1790. Although he may have played in the Ottoman military band, the fact that the drum is placed on the ground and that he is not in uniform suggests that he played for royal entertainment.

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