Art and Ecstasy in Arab Music

by A.J. Racy (2010)

Dr. Racy explores the idea of tarab, or musical ecstasy, in Arab music. "The word tarab refers to both the ecstatic  state evoked by traditional Arab music and the music itself," he writes. "[This is] a clear testimony to the close association the culture has made between the music and emotional transformation." He discusses the unique bond formed between the master performer and his most dedicated listeners (the sammai'ah), and the specific musical qualities that help produce the state of trance-like ecstasy. Dr. Racy addresses the potential of Western-style music in the Middle East to weaken tarab, but he also expresses confidence in the "music's power to cross geographical, and often cultural and political, boundaries."

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