Arab influence ???

Arab influence ???

Read an interesting book about Baltimore in Co. Cork. In the 17th century many of the inhabitants were taken as slaves to I THINK Algiers. It’s such a long time ago but I believe quite a few did trickle back. They would have absorbed Arab culture and maybe given something back to Irish music. Not to the same extent as the way the Moors influenced music and the arts in Spain of course. Just wondering? (By the way there seem to have been local political reasons for this pirate raid).

Re: Arab influence ???

That may be so, but since the majority of Irish music today is based upon imported forms from 17th and 18th Century Britain, I’d be surprised if the influence is more than negligible. For example, I don’t notice any of the maqam that are such a defining feature of Arab music. The modes are essentially Western church modes. The influences that make Irish music Irish would probably come from the Gaelic traditions which include sean nós singing, where I don’t see too many commonalities with Arab music other than some tendencies in both traditions toward non-pulsital forms.

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Just as a cautionary by-the-way:- Many Algerians would object to being *classified* as ‘Arabs’. This quote explains it pretty well:- https://www.quora.com/What-race-are-Algerians
"Algerians are just mixed!! You can find Arabs, Berbers (the indigenous inhabitants of the Maghreb) , Europeans due to the Roman, Byzantin and Vandal settelment, you can also find people from carthaginian descents ( Carthaginians are the Phoenicians who setteled in North Africa, and it’s really rare to find People from Turkish descent, So don’t believe those who claim that Algerian are only berbers or only arabs, We’re Mixed."
My Algerian brother in-law tells me that most Algerians are proud to be ‘mixed’, just as most of us in Australia feel proud of our growing multicultural population.

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Re: Arab influence ???

What little I know of Arab music doesn’t seem to correlate to what I hear in Irish trad.

However! There is a track on the Usher’s Island CD named "Heart in Hand" where John Doyle sings about being an Irishman captured by pirates, and learning to be a goldsmith in Algiers. Then he brings the Celtic Knot back to Ireland as a wedding band. I don’t know if this tracks some legend or not, but it was the first thing I thought of when I saw your post:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPZPrNdoBqw

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According to a couple of wikipedia accounts (c.f. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbary_pirates) most of the people taken from Cork by the Barbary pirates (so-called as they were associated with the Berbers), were English settlers, and only two people were ever recorded as getting back to Ireland. Not much chance of them even being musicians I would imagine. But beyond what I could only imagine, I can ultimately only agree with Conical bore’s comment;- "What little I know of Arab music doesn’t seem to correlate to what I hear in Irish trad."

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Re: Arab influence ???

There have been similarities identified between the ornamentation in Sean-nos singing and that in the vocal music of the Bedouins (sorry, I can’t provide any references). This does not necessarily indicate a direct influence of one on the other, though; it could simply be something that ‘comes naturally’ in unaccompanied, non-metric*, narrative singing. It could be that this was once a far more widespread way of singing that has been supplanted by newer styles in most places (which would make the term ‘Sean-nos’ - ‘old style’ - all the more fitting). Having grown up Jewish, I hear echoes in Sean-nos of the Hebrew cantillation (reading of the Torah and Prophets).

*I am aware that Sean-nos singing does have poetic meter, so ‘non-metric’ is not strictly correct but I use it to mean something like ‘not in strict time’. I am reluctant to use the Italian term ‘rubato’ (literally ‘robbed’); the suggestion is that one note ‘steals’ time from another, which implies strict, even time as a norm that is being deviated from.

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Take the point about not calling Algerians Arabs Gobby.

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I have a (musician) friend from Morocco. He says there are multiple types of music. Old Berber music, played in the rurals, while modern Moroccan music and modern Arabic music is played in the cities. There is even a french and Spanish influence, flamenco, for instance. Folk music styles are very much a niche genre.

I imagine the music diversity is, and has been for a long while, very similar in Algiers.

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FWIW, my friend asked me not to use the term ‘Berber’ when conversing with him. Apparently it has a negative connotation in modern times. ‘Native Moroccan’ or ‘Amazigh’ (Tamazigh) is preferred.

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Dia dhaoibh! Greetings one and all!

Some years ago, before he joined The Dubliners, Seán Cannon did a lot on the folk circuit. He had a brilliant lilted version of The Bunch of Keys which was influenced by Middle Eastern music modes. I don’t think it was released as a recording to the best of my knowledge; likewise I don’t know if it’s on youtube.

All the best
Brian x

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The very comfortable idea, that Middle Eastern lands developed in a pure mutual-isolation from European lands, is an invented history that remains in our European hearts and heads to this day.

These lands developed in the same thought sphere, and theological tradition, despite invested development of the idea that these places are fundamentally different at the root.

The life of Thomas Keith 1793-1815, the Scottish governor of Medina, is a great example of how connected, similar and mixed our cultures are and always have been.

The purity myth is not only false - but dangerous.

For this reason, I’d find it difficult to believe that there is absolutely no influence back and forth. We’ve been connected for centuries. Though it may just be commonalities that we share that are broad across large sections of the globe.

I like Al Firdous Ensemble and their mixing of Moriscan music with Irish music.

This setting has some lovely whistle at the end and the track of the same name on their album “Nur” also contains a song to the melody “Tenpenny bit.”

https://youtu.be/n7G0tvJzWf4

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To go back to the OP, let’s think about how this would have need to have worked in practice.
In order for this cultural transfer to take place, the "few who did trickle back" would need to have been
a) musically literate in the first place, i.e. either instrumentalists or singers who could remember tunes and ornamentation reasonably well;
b) actually interested in getting to know the form and style of the music in Algeria;
c) actually keen to impart that music to the locals once they returned to Ireland;
d) able to find locals interested in listening to and acquiring that music from them.

And even if all of these factors were in place, would this new style (which could only have been played or sung by a small number) have survived for any length of time within the dominant forms of Irish music? This all seems pretty far fetched. It reminds me of what I call the "Marco Polo theory of history":
Chinese people have eaten noodles for a long time;
Italians have eaten noodles for a long time;
Who do we know in history who was in both Italy and China? Yes, Marco Polo must have introduced noodles to Italy ….

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Bob Quinn the guy behind the Ashling Gheal series first shown on RTE in the early eighties and repeated through Come West Along the Road and Siar An Bothar on TG4, done a series of documentaries called Atlantean looking at Irish roots and connections with other countries, some in Africa and the Middle East. Worth checking out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C3GfVCqSN4

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Brian - you’re referring to "The Ayatollah Reel", a bit of fun by Sean Cannon. It is on "iTunes" - we will include it in our programme on "The Dubliners" on 27th March, should be available to listen to on the 28th for a week - I’ll remind you then. Not on "Youtube" as far as I could find.
PM coming to you very soon.
Regards, Kenny.

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Hi Kenny!

Yes, that’s it! It’s a very clever piece of lilting.
Seán has always been one of my favourite singers; I suppose his humorous introductions, along with those of the much missed Vin Garbutt, RIP, must rank as pure entertainment itself.
When Seán was doing Folk Festivals he often rocked up in a van, like an ice cream van, except that it was called The Kinetic Curry Van! He makes a mean curry.
I did joke with him about the name and if it was a pun about kinetic meaning movement? He roared laughing and hadn’t realised.

All the best
Brian x

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After posting the link above to the John Doyle song, I did a quick lookup of the name. It seems that yes, there was a Richard Joyce who was captured by pirates, spent time indentured as a goldsmith in Algiers, and returned to Ireland. He’s credited with the invention of the Claddagh ring, although apparantly that’s debatable. The Wiki link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Joyce

I’m still a bit skeptical that a musical influence could have traveled the same route. Joyce was just one of the English/Irish/Scottish enslaved in Algiers that were freed and returned home at the time. Maybe a few were musicians, but musical styles aren’t as easily transferred as visual motifs. There have been Western fads in Arabic and Chinese art over the years, but Western culture hasn’t adopted the music of those cultures to any extent. I just don’t hear it in Irish music, for as far back as I’ve seen written examples of the music anyway.

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I think it’s more likely that both Arabian music an Sean Nos style features certain stylistic elements that are uncommon in Western music now, but would have been very common and widespread in medieval times, such as non-metric rhythms or lack of adherence to the tempered scale. There doesn’t need to be a connection between the two traditions if such elements were so standard in bygone days that they would have cropped up in musical traditions all over.

I can imagine one middle eastern connection, but it goes back much further in time. It’s worth noting that Sean Nos singing is related to the medieval Chanson singing introduced to Ireland by Norman troubadours in the 13th century. Since the Normans were active in the Crusades and brought a lot of cultural and musical elements back with them, maybe there’s a connection, but that is a tenuous hypothesis at best.

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Lonnie the Harper : Never thought of the Crusades influencing Irish music (a bit) but of course the sea carried people around the world during the Middle Ages). Interesting.

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The Crusades, or at least trade with the Middle East, likely introduced bagpipes to Europe. The Lute and other plucked, stringed, instruments (guitar, bouzouki) originated in the East and made their way to Western Europe, too.

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The crusades are also said to have influenced (and potentially spawned) English Morris Dancing - said to be imitating dances and practices seen when Crusading. Though, unlike my last post, this is off the OP ;)

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I’m not hearing those Arabic modes— like where the first step in a scale is a half-step— in anything Irish. Although Fahey seems able to make reels and jigs sound absolutely foreign.

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I constantly change my mind about these things. Some musicians sound alike no matter what style or genre they play in.

I’ve been to a few Ethiopian weddings, when the masinko (Ethiopian fiddle) gets going, I hear a bizarre connection that is very difficult to explain. It might have been their honey wine poteen.

If we all come from Africa, Ethiopia is the only place that had never been colonized and assimilated. A good place, theoretically, for it to have started. Their most prized national symbol is a harp (begena) they have traveling Harper bards, fiddlers (masinko) and folkloric north African
Style reed flutes and pipes. One of our first queens was Aifric no?

Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Portuguese ships were always coming to Irish ports. They’ve even found Eskimo genetics in the west of Ireland so the music was an organic mix of language, genetics and memory of these invaders and traders. Art is memory. Genetics is memory. I forgot what am I talking about?

Look up “chalachew ashenafi”.

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After recently turning 72, I haven’t energy enough to look up "chalachew ashenafi" but do find the sound of it a bit magical…

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Chalachew Ashenafi - Ethiopian Contemporary Traditional Music