Monday, March 14, 2011

The Man Behind Great Arabic Music

Mohamad Qassabjy (1892-1966)

The man who broke the molds of traditional Arabic music that had few established musical schools and styles that have not been changed for decades. Either there was no creativity of Arabic musician or they were too intimidated to rock the boat. Until in the early 1900s came this young talented man with the name Mohammad Qassabjy, the song of a local lute player and music instructor.

As a young man Qassabjy learned the existing traditional schools of Arabic music and has mastered those styles that go deep in history. But to him, the traditional styles of music were lacking a scientific method, it was more arbitrary. So he went on a quest to study the music of the world and its rich tradition of renovation, free style and its various styles of melodies and musical instruments. This Cairo boy will be the legend to free Arabic music from the limitations of outdated molds.

The fruit of Qassabjy effort to revolutionize Arabic music had to debut some were and it was for an Oum Kalthoum song, Ana Kont Asami'h Wa Ansa Al Asyah in 1928
"إن كنت أسامح وأنسى الأسية " The song was fresh and it sounded like a monologue played to some new style of music that broke all the previous molds and ushered a new era of Arabic music. He moved Arabic music into a more expressive mode, a style the often teases the listener and engages them on more than one level. He challenged all his contemporaries in race to make Arabic music better, and he clearly won this race. Those who lost to him either recognized his supremacy and rare talent or just spent their lifetimes trying to copy him.

His influence wasn't limited to Egypt, he has influenced Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese composer of his time of the likes to Tawfik Al Pasha. With Oum Kolthoum he formed an explosive due that often has rocked Arabic music and kept it progressing and interesting. Qassabji had a knack of symphonies and opera grade music, he can write musician notes and memorize long lines of his latest material. The great influence on Qassabji was the German composer Bach. Qassabji studied the school of Harmony and its leader "The Father of Symphony" Joseph Haydn from Austria. A song by Asmahan "Al Toyor" of 1941 reveals that influence were Qassabji did a fine fusion of Arabic and Western melodies.

Since most songs back in the day were poems, there was a musical format that comes from the poem as the music has to be driven from the poem itself. Qassabjy came along and broke free from that by writing his own musical intros incorporating a wide range large number of musical instruments (violin, lute, Nai, Qanoon) and simplifying the composition. This legend loved his 3ood "Lute" so much that he would be intimidated not to do it justice even though was a master in it. All chords for his lutes had to be 60 centimeters in length.

Famed Egyptian musician Mohammad Abel Wahab stated that he learned a great deal of fusion of Arabic and Western musical notes music from Qassabjy who was a pioneer. Abdel Wahas would study music with Qassabjy for five years and so did Riad Al Sinbatty, an accomplished Egyptian musician. The greatest Qassabjy legacy is his incorporation of the Italian monologue style and verses into traditional sounding Arabic songs. You can see those elements in pretty much every Oum Kalthouom song he composed. Some scholars like Dr. Rateebah Al Hafny believe that Oum Kalthoum brought the best in him and they have formed a very dynamic duo. But it was not always love affair, Oum Kalthoum was reported to have been upset by Qassabjy's collaboration with Asmahan, the arch rival of Oum Kalthoum. So for 22 years they have not collaborated. Later Qassabjy in a compromise and a good will gesture agreed to play the lute right behind the diva. That way Qassabjy was able to add new delightful flavors to the old school and otherwise bland music.

He has 360 songs in his archive and 35 musical compositions for poems and wrote the music 5 theatrical plays. He also has 91 movie songs in 38 movies. Asmhan, Laila Morad, Asmhan, Mohamad Fauzi and Oum Kolthom have sang some of his finest tunes. But it seems that this composers humble ways kept him away from the spot light as he has never gotten the attention he deserved. He loved his solitude and did not have a good voice to perform songs of his own. He left this world with not family of his own as he never married.

محمد القصبجي حوار نادر Rare Radio Interview with Mohammad Qassabjy

محمد القصبجي مدام تحب بتنكر ليه

معزوفة ذكرياتي للقصبجي (أصلية)


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