Leading writers, musicians and critics come together to consider a number of pressing questions pertaining to Arabic music today at the two-day Ma3azef Symposium on Arabic Music. Organised by Sharjah Art Foundation and Ma3azef, the symposium features panel discussions along with a number of musical performances, including the foundation’s biannual music and film event Re|sound.

Symposium Questions

• How can we begin to critique music that has not benefitted from indigenous critical discourse, and how can such discourse be developed?
• Given the current dominance of social media and digital publishing, how do we build a lexicon of Arabic musical terms that can engage with this music and its audiences?
• What is the role of modern history in the recent transformations of Arabic music?
• What are the current realities and challenges facing alternative and independent music scenes?

Friday, 5 April 2019

2:30 pm

2:45 pm
Welcome and Introduction

3:00 pm–5:00 pm
Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts, Sharjah
Towards an Arabic Music Dictionary

This panel problematises the reductive use of foreign terminology by Arabic writers and music industry professionals and attempts to form an agreed method for the translation or reformulation of terms. Participants share their experience in writing and adapting contemporary music vocabulary, including names of musical instruments, their components and technical capacities, and various types of musical scenes and genres. The objective is the eventual creation of an Arabic dictionary of musical terms.

Panelists: Rami Abadir, Mazen El Sayed and Hasan Hujairi
Moderator: Amira Elmasry

5:00 pm–5:15 pm
Coffee break

5:15 pm–7:15 pm
Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts, Sharjah
A Discontinuity in Arabic Music

Until the late 1970s, the Arab world embraced traditional and classical forms of music—in production and marketing as well as composition and language—due to the prominence of a small number of classical vocalists on the radio, in cinema and in the press. The 1980s witnessed a break with this hegemony as new production and distribution models appeared, thereby allowing other music genres such as Khaliji, Nubi, Shaabi and Rai to gain popularity.

This panel will discuss the thorny relationship between the past and present of Arabic music and the crisis of authenticity and continuity with respect to traditional forms. Must there be a linkage with ‘the golden age’, or should we reject the past and acknowledge the impossibility of returning to a previous musical tradition?

Panelists: Fadi El Abdallah, Kamilya Jubran and Mustafa Said
Moderator: Fadi El Abdallah

Saturday, 6 April 2019

10:30 am– 12:15 pm
Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts, Sharjah
Establishing New Critical Discourses

Despite a long gap in Arabic music criticism, commentary about classical Arabic music dating from the middle of the last century can still be read today. Regional versions of globally commercial pop and rap are reviewed as well, though generally in the style of the Western press. However, the Arab world is also home to a range of idiosyncratic music genres that have not yet been the subject of keen critical discussion due to class concerns and a general lack of Arabic music criticism. Examples of these less analysed genres include Rai, Levantine Shaabi and Mahraganat as well as Iraqi and Maghreb Pop.

How can we write about such genres? To what extent is it necessary to conduct systematic investigations into their origins, compositional structure and relationship with genre definitions? What are the implications of evaluating these musical genres in comparison with others, particularly Western genres, as is the case in various documentary films on Mahraganat? How can criticism be wholly shaped by the particular aesthetic and stylistic system of each genre?

Panelists: Fadi El Abdallah, Ammar Manla Hasan, Mark Gergis and Amira Hassnaoui
Moderator: Zeina G. Halabi

12:15 pm–2:00 pm
Lunch break

2:00 pm–3:45 pm
Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts, Sharjah
Spaces for Alternative Music Scenes

In light of recent economic, bureaucratic and security conditions in the region, major obstacles to the sustainability of alternative music scenes have presented themselves. With the scarcity of venues, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold concerts and have artists meet with each other and their audiences—both essential activities for the development of any music scene. Despite the lack of spaces and other constraints, event organisers have found various solutions to ensure the continuation of alternative music scenes. This panel will elaborate on their experiences in creating and engaging with music venues, using a range of business models and establishing relationships between spaces and audiences.

Panelists: Laith Demashqieh, Muqata’a, Mohammed Sqalli, and Asem Tag
Moderator: Rami Abadir

3:45 pm–4:00 pm
Coffee break

4:00 pm–6:00 pm
Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts, Sharjah
The Music Industry in Alternative and Independent Scenes

Over the past ten years, the Arab world has seen the rise of several independent and alternative music scenes and the professionalisation and recognition of independent creatives in the fields of music and music video production. Distribution models for these scenes remain underdeveloped, however. Even with the spread of digital subscription platforms such as Anghami, Spotify and iTunes, the Arab music industry is still dominated by mainstream record labels that are able to manoeuvre better than independent labels, both legally and financially.

This panel explores various alternative strategies employed by independent musicians and record labels to distribute, market and promote independent music and concerts in a more competitive way.

Panelists: Abass El-hage, Sarah El Miniawy, Souhayl Guesmi, Makimakkuk, Ahmad Zaghmouri and Rami Zeidan
Moderator: Hala Mustafa

About Ma3azef

Ma3azef is an online music magazine dedicated to the critique and analysis of contemporary and classical Arabic music. Since its launch in 2012, Ma3azef has sought to develop independent critical discourse in Arabic and produce studied, bold and incisive long-form content.


This event is free and open to the public. To register your attendance click here.