elcome to the Digital Meltd0wn Music Blog. The aim of this blog is to introduce the readers to music that is out of print, commercially unavailable, released under a creative commons license, or with approval by the featured artist. The majority of the music posted here would be considered underground. Don't let that fool you into thinking that the music featured here might be any less enjoyable than that of the mainstream artists you hear on the radio, as this couldn't be further from the truth.
Please keep in mind that the majority of the artists that appear on this blog, along with their respective record labels, are not wealthy and need your support. If you enjoy the material that you find here, please support the artists/labels by purchasing their material afterwards. If you are an artist/label that would prefer to have your material removed from this blog, simply leave me a comment, and I would be more than happy to promptly remove the offending post.
In addition to running this blog, I also work on a few other projects during my spare time. You can find links to those, as well as a few other important links associated with Digital Meltd0wn in the menu bar above.
For those of you who missed it, in my last post I declared that I would be devoting my upcoming posts to the protesters and revolutionaries in Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and Egypt. I would like to reiterate the point that I usually remain apolitical in my posts on Digital Meltd0wn. However, the historic nature of the events unfolding in the Middle East peaked my interest, and the overwhelming odds the protesters were faced with and able to overcome captured my heart. I had hoped to get my posts up much sooner, but fortunately NØ was able to put up a couple of amazing posts already. I want to dedicate my first post to Tunisia, the nation that defied all odds, and successfully mounted a peaceful revolution, which inspired massive protests across the Maghreb region of Africa and into the Middle East.
Unfortunately the media didn't cover the historic protests in Tunisia nearly as well as they are currently covering the mass protests taking place in Egypt at the moment. I have attempted to read up on what has taken place there, and although I feel as if I have a decent grasp of what has transpired, I also realize that such widespread revolt occurs due to complex issues that an outsider such as myself wouldn't necessarily be aware of. What I do know is that I am in awe of the courage within the Tunisians who rose up and took back their country. It takes a tremendous amount of bravery to stand up against a regime which has a well-known reputation for using brutal force against all who dared to oppose them.
The period immediately following a revolution is a very crucial time, which will determine the shape of things to come for Tunisia. Only time will tell what the future holds for Tunisia. The world is watching Tunisia closely now, hoping that the same determination shown by the Tunisian people during their revolutionary actions will continue to be displayed. I sincerely hope that Tunisia will become a model of success in the turbulent Maghreb region, and continue to influence other countries in a positive way. Hopefully Tunisians will continue to fight to forge a fair and honest government, maintain a strong human rights record, build a strong economy and create jobs for those in need of them.
I will be the first to admit that I am not intimately familiar with music from the Maghreb region, nor the Middle East. I have managed to collect roughly a dozen albums from nearly every country in the region, but I realize that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. I am making an effort to gain a new understanding and appreciation of the art and culture of Middle Eastern nations. I hope that some of you living in Tunisia will take the time to leave a message. I would like to hear your stories about what is taking place in Tunisia, and what you hope your country will be like in the future. I would also be very grateful if any of you could recommend me some music from your country. I am particularly interested in music that is associated with your revolution, as well as the mass protests taking place in other Middle Eastern countries.
Now, on to the music. This album is the 8th volume in a 17 volume box set, compiled by producer David Parsons, and released by the Celestial Harmonies label in 1997. Each volume in the Music of Islam box set comes with a booklet containing extensive liner notes. The liner notes do a much better job of accurately describing the complex compositions and Tunisian instruments than this amateur Western blogger with an untrained ear for Arabic music could hope to do. As I mentioned before, the liner notes are rather extensive, so I'm not going to include them in their entirety, but below I have included a lengthy excerpt containing some of the most relevant information:
"Recorded in a house in the medina (old quarter) of the city Tunis, this volume features the traditional instruments and songs of the folkloric music of Tunisia which thrive as a living testament to the wide spectrum of cultures and practices across the world of Islam. Tunisia's location and history have made it a cultural and musical crossroads for the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Tunisia is part of the Maghrib, literally "place in the sunset," or time of sunset," which comprises the countries of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya in Northern Africa. Tunisia is bordered by Algeria on the west, Libya on the southeast, and the Mediterranean to the east and north (Italy lies across the Strait of Sicily, some 144 kilometers away). The semi-arid southern region of the country merges into the Sahara desert.
Tunisia's history has been characterized by conquest: Carthage, Rome, the Vandals, and Byzantine, followed by Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and the French. Nearby the capital of Tunis is the site of Carthage, an ancient city-state formed in the 8th century C.E. By the 6th century C.E., the kingdom encompassed most of present-day Tunisia. Carthage fell to the Romans in 146 C.E. and became part of Rome's African Empire. The Vandals, a Germanic tribe from Spain, captured Carthage in 439 C.E. and perpetuated the impact that the norther Mediterranean now had on Africa. The Byzantine heirs of Rome eliminated the Vandals as a force in Africa by reconquering the provinces in 533 until the Muslim invasions of the 1/7 century. After the Arabic conquest in 26/647, the capital was moved from Carthage to al-Kaiouan. At this time, Arabic replaced Latin, Islam replaced Christianity, and new customs associated with Islamic life were introduced. Tunis became the capital city under Aghlabids (184-297/800-909) and attained its greatest prosperity under the Hafsid dynasty (625-982/1227-1574). The Turks took possession in 946/1539, followed by the Spaniards (981/1573) and the Ottoman Empire in 982/1574. It remained in the hands of the Ottoman Empire until Tunisia became part of the French colonial administyration as a protectorate in 1298/1881. The Republic of Tunia claimed its independence from France in 1376/1956.
Thirty centuries ago, Phoenicians established colonies on the coast of the land inhabited by people who would later be referred to as Berbers. The Greeks referred to the people using a derogatory term bararoi (barbarian) simply because the indigenous Burber people were so culturally different. Berber is actually the name of a language which has almost completely died out. Today, Berbers make up about two percent of the population and live in isolated villages in the south. Modern Tunisians derive their ancestry from a variety of ethnic groups who came to the region in waves of migration. In 897/1492 the last Arabs left in Spain and took refuge in the Maghrib. Later, Turks contributed to the population, Sub-Saharan lblacks, many of whom entered Tunisia as slaves, are yet another part of the population, as well as southern Europeans, many from Sicily. Among the population of 8.5 million, the majority are Arab-Berber who practice Islam as the dominant religion. Arabic is the official language whereas French is still the lanuage of commerce and in the press.
Tunis, the capital and largest city of Tunisia, situated along a coastal lagoon that opens into the Mediterranean Sea. The city was built by Arabs embellished by Turks, and is now flanked by the architecture of the French colonial period. The nucleus of Tunis is the densely populated medina (old city) with its low white buildings, inner courtyards, and narrow streets. In the X/16th century, Tunis became an important site for cultivating the nubah (classical Arabic: nawbah), an Andalusian form of art music popular in the Maghrib. It is also known in Tunisa as ma'luf.
Folk music is played for a variety of occasions, including weddings, festivals, and parties for celebration and dance. Like folk music in other parts of the Arabic world, the folk music of Tunisia features collective singing, small and large forms of solo singing, and instrumental music. The instruments and music played in folk ensembles are described in the following section.
The main melodic instrument heard on this recording is the mizwid (also called mezwed), a bagpipe played in the central regions of Tunisia. A bagpipe is a reed instrument with an airtight skin reservoir (bag). Various types of bagpipes are known in Asia, North Africa, and Europe. The wind enters through a blow pipe supplied by the lungs of the player or through a bellows. Melody is produced by manipulating fingered melody pipes (sometimes called chanters). The player compresses the bag to produce enough air to resonate through the reeds of melody pipes. An uninterrupted sound can be produced as the compressed wind from the bag passes therough the reeds. Oftentimes a drone pipe (unfingered) is inserted into the bag. The mizwid has two melody pipes and no drone pipes. Each pipe has five holes and at the end of each pipe, a section of cowhorn is attached which serves as a sound opening (thus, the more accurate name "bag-horn-pipe"). In instrumental music, the long flowing melodies of the mizwid seem to soar above the pulese of the percussion group. In vocal music, the mizwid echoes, punctuates, and connects individual vocal phrases.
The tabal (Arabic: tabl) is a double-headed cylindrical drum that comes in different sizes. The heads are covered with goatskin. It hangs across the player's chest and is beaten with the hand of a palm branch. The bendir (also called bandir or bindir), is a type of circular frame drum approximately 40-60cm in circumference. A frame drum consists of a membrane stretched over a light wooden frame. Drums of this type originated in the Middle East. The bendir has "snares" stretched across the inside of the head which vibrate against the membrane. The goblet drum darabukkah is traditionally made of wood or clay; however, newer models are made of brass or metal. Fresh skin, goatskin, or sheepskin, often glued to the rim of the body, cover the larger opening of the drum. The drabukkah may be held under the arm in a standing position or resting on the thigh when played in a seated position. The head is struck with both hands. Heavy beats are played in the middle of the drum and lighter beats are payed on the outer rim. Used for folk music, art music, in city and village settings, the darabukkah is a ubitquitous instrument in music of the Middle East. The tar is a tambourine (a type of frame drum) with five pairs of cymbals. It is normally held in the left hand and struck with the right. The tar may be played with fingers, knuckles and palms."
Year of Release: 1997 Label: Celestial Harmonies Catalog #: 13148-2 Genres: Arabic Music, Traditional Folk,
2. Mawwal 1
3. Baba Salem
4. Leliri Ya Mana Lotfi Jormana
5. Hay Leli Leli & Ala Bab Souika
6. El Guelb Ely Yehwek
7. Mawwal 2
8. Dhaouit Ayemek & Ma Indich Zahar
9. Nemdah Laktab