Arabic Music: An Introduction to the Arab World’s Musical Culture

Arabic music is one of the most widely-known and widely-respected musical cultures in the world. From its ancient Arab heritage, it has developed into a sufi tradition with different instruments and melodies. From the medieval era to present day, Arabic music has influenced popular Western music through genres such as hip hop, fusion rock, and others.

The Arabic word for music is ‘ud. There is no exact English equivalent because Arabic words refer to specific instruments or groups of people playing them. Arabic words also have different meanings depending on their origin and use within the culture. For example, a stringed instrument can be called an oud in Lebanon; but in Egypt it would be called a lute or tarab stringed instrument (‘arabic lute’). These terms are often used interchangeably in English translations of articles about musical traditions from Arab countries.

What is Arabic Music?

Arabic music has its roots in ancient music, and its history can be traced back thousands of years. From the Arab tribes that settled in the Middle East and North Africa, various music traditions evolved, some of which are still practiced today. Arabic music consists of a variety of genres, including vocal, instrumental, popular, and traditional. It can be heard in the Arab world (the countries of the Arabian Peninsula) as well as the Persian Gulf states of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

Origins of Arabic Music

Arab music has existed for thousands of years, and has been influenced by many different cultures. From North Africa, the music of North Africa was brought to the Middle East by tribes such as the Berbers and the Arabs. However, the names of these tribes have been lost to history. As Arab tribes settled in the Middle East and North Africa, they brought their musical traditions with them. During the Middle Ages, Arab music was influenced by other cultures, including Persia, India and Europe. At various times, singers and musicians traveled between Europe and the Middle East, bringing with them the sounds of their musical cultures. This travel also helped introduce Arab musical traditions to new cultures and influenced Arab musical styles.

Classical Arabic Music: The forms and genres

Arabic classical music is deeply rooted in the traditions of the Arab world. It evolved over the centuries, and developed into an increasingly complex form of music. The classical music of the Arab world includes maqam and islam. These maqams are types of Arabic music that evolved over many centuries, and include the classical, Shadili, and the Safavid styles. Other Arabic musical forms include the music of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The music of these countries is diverse, with influences from Arab cultures as well as those of India and Persia. Popular music has also developed in parts of the Arab world, with popular singers and musicians influencing Western popular music.

Traditions of Arab music

Arab music features many traditions and forms of music, such as the maqams, islam, and the classical forms of vocal and instrumental music. Other traditions include the influence of Indian and Persian music, as well as the influence of other cultures through travel. Popular music has also evolved in the Arab world, influenced by local traditions.

Fusion of Western and Arab music in the 21st century

Western pop music has often been influenced by Arabic classical music. Many pop stars in the Arab world have been influenced by Western styles of music, including hip hop and fusion styles. Arab pop music has also been influenced by Western styles of music, including Western rock and roll and country music. At the same time, Arab music has also been influenced by Western music, including the growing popularity of electronic music.


Arabic music has influenced Western music over the centuries, and continues to do so through the growing popularity of Arab pop music. Modern Arabic music also incorporates influences from other cultures and musical forms. These influences have helped develop Arabic music into a complex musical form, with diverse styles and forms.