There is no word in English that accurately translates the word
Tarab from Arabic to English, which makes it very diffi cult to defi ne.
Tarab is used in Arab culture to describe the emotional effect of music,
but it is also associated with a traditional form of art-music. The
word ‘Tarab’ … refers to an older repertoire, which is rooted in the pre
World War 1 musical practice of Egypt and the East- Mediterra- nean
Arab world and is directly associated with emotional evocation.
Tarab sessions are known to last hours where both enchantment and
ecstasy play an important rule within the Tarab performance. Tarab
is a musically induced state of Ecstasy, an enchantment roused by of
music, whereas Spanish Duende depicts the state the musician may
experience during his performance – it is called in Arabic Saltana-,
Tarab describes the enchantment of the audience.
The starting point of this project is the private music collection of
Kamal Kassar who owns the biggest library of Tarab and classical
Arab music in the world.
His collection is constituted of old 78 rpm shellac discs and studio
tapes of music between 1903 and 1950, largely covering the Arab
renaissance period that started early in the nineteenth century and
continued through the 30th of the twentieth century.
This collection contains around 5500 discs and more than 6000 to
6500 hours of tape recordings we fi nd for instance, the fi rst Arab
music discs ever recorded in the Middle East representing the
prolifi c and genuine golden era of the renaissance, as well as Arab
music that is uninfl uenced by western instruments, arrangements
The library is now in Lebanon, but a lot of its material was found
in old record shops and old private collections in Cairo Lebanon
and Syria. Some of it was in very bad condition. For the last 2 years
Kamal Kassar has been digitizing and preserving this collection
through the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving & Research
(AMAR), that he recently founded.
A lot of the material has been digitized and noise reduced, but
original versions with very particular noise grains and signal
distortions are available.
The project for Performa is about revisiting Tarab as musical genre
and form as well as looking at it from a sound & performative
A Performa 2011 commission with the Sharjah Art Foundation
in partnership with Amar Foundation.
Date: to be announced between the 3rd and the 20th of Nov 2011
Download Full Project Presentation