In an endeavour meant to highlight the richness of the Arabic Music Library archives, the first Musical Publications and Instruments Exhibition was organised February 15th-18th at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Mount Lebanon.
The unique exhibition was an occasion to showcase the invaluable contents of the Arabic Music Library archives, including publications, manuscripts, as well as old and modern musical instruments.
It also brought back to the spotlight two Arab cultural themes, the first one being the role that Iraqi music and musical instruments played in the progression of Arabic music. The second is the leading role played by the Arab Academy of Music, which was launched in Baghdad in 1971 and was temporarily moved to Amman, Jordan.
Dr. Ratiba Al-Hefni, former head of the Um Kulthum Ensemble for Arabic music talked to Al-Shorfa about these two elements of Arabic music.
"Iraq is the cradle of civilization and art, with music in the forefront," Al-Hefni said. "Since ancient times, Iraqi music and musical instruments have played a prominent role on the Arabic music scene. Iraqi music was a reference."
She added that "just as Iraq has always taken pride in its singers and performers, it continues to present the Arabic music scene with songwriters, composers, musicians and singers. Owing to all these reasons, the Arab League selected Baghdad as the seat for the Arab Academy of Music back in 1971."
However, due to the current situation in Iraq, the academy's operations were temporarily moved to Amman, Jordan, according to Al-Hefni.
"While the headquarters are still in Baghdad, we can only acknowledge the leading role played by the Arab Academy of Music from the Iraqi capital. Since its foundation and until its forced relocation, the academy was very much the focus of Iraqi attention, given that the Iraqi people are educated and art savvy," Dr. Al-Hefni said.
She reminisced about the long discussions she used to have with Anwar Rachid, the renowned maker of musical instruments, about the origin of musical instruments.
"We used to argue for hours about the origin of musical instruments. I would insist that they originated in Egypt while he insisted that they originally came from Iraq."
This musical row, Al-Hefni said, was settled in one of the sessions in favour of a compromise: musical instruments originated in ancient times during the Pharonic and the Assyrian rule, which both influenced ancient Arab civilization.
She added, "There is no doubt that Iraq boasts original music, instruments and even musical books. The richness of the Arab Academy Library can be attributed to the references that the Iraqi library holds on this topic. Even the Iraqi people have their own libraries which contain many music publications."