Archive for September 13th, 2009

by JC

ziryab
“Oud Improvisation” by Naseer Shamma, from the album The Fire This Time.
———-

For this weekend’s Blackbirdabilia #5, we are going to journey back, way back to Baghdad, northern Africa and medieval Spain to explore the story of Ziryab, “Blackbird.”

Here is the intro from the story “Flight of the Blackbird” published in Saudi Aramco World. Yes, I am dredging up some culture provided via Saudi Aramco, one of the largest oil companies in the world. So consider this a return on your gas-guzzling commuting investments:

“If you eat asparagus, or if you start your meal with soup and end with dessert, or if you use toothpaste, or if you wear your hair in bangs, you owe a lot to one of the greatest musicians in history.

He was known as Ziryab, a colloquial Arabic term that translates as “blackbird.” He lived in medieval Spain more than a thousand years ago. He was a freed slave who made good, charming the royal court at Córdoba with his songs. He founded a music school whose fame survived more than 500 years after his death. Ibn Hayyan of Córdoba, one of Arab Spain’s greatest historians, says in his monumental Al-Muqtabas (The Citation) that Ziryab knew thousands of songs by heart and revolutionized the design of the musical instrument that became the lute. He spread a new musical style around the Mediterranean, influencing troubadours and minstrels and affecting the course of European music.

He was also his generation’s arbiter of taste and style and manners, and he exerted enormous influence on medieval European society. How people dressed, what and how they ate, how they groomed themselves, what music they enjoyed—all were influenced by Ziryab.

If you’ve never heard of this remarkable artist, it’s not surprising. With the twists and turns of history, his name has dropped from public memory in the western world. But the changes he brought to Europe are very much a part of the reality we know today.”

Life is too short to just sit around and argue politics all the time. So sit back, play the music, read the story of Ziryab, and enjoy. Blackbirdabilia at its best: obscure, yet enlightening!

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