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Middle-Eastern Influences on Celtic Music

topic posted Mon, January 16, 2006 - 9:30 AM by  Unsubscribed
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I've just been listening to a BBC radio programme about the Celtic church where it was claimed, in passing, that traces of Middle-Eastern influences can be heard in present-day Celtic music. It was also suggested that this might date back to trading links with Egypt that arose after the fall of the Roman empire.

Anyone care to comment on this idea?
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  • Re: Middle-Eastern Influences on Celtic Music

    Mon, January 16, 2006 - 10:01 AM
    Listen to the psalm-singing out in the northern Scottish islands. It's very odd, and has distinctly Middle Eastern and Greek Byzantine influences.

    The Coptic Egyptians did in fact trade with the Celts, so there is evidence of contact.

    Being found in "present day Celtic music" is more of a stretch, though. Most of what's heard now developed from the 15th and 16th centuries onward, though it's true that some of the techniques, note slurs, and slides might have older, non-Irish origins.
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    Re: Middle-Eastern Influences on Celtic Music

    Mon, January 16, 2006 - 9:53 PM
    <disclaimer>I'm not a musicologist or historian and probably know just enough information and trivial facts to be dangerous</disclaimer>

    It seems conceivable but it could, as Tim said, be related to the Greeks because it seems the Greek modal system had a strong influence on Middle Eastern music.

    A historic novel I read mentioned a story of the Tuatha de Danann an ancient people of Ireland who came from the East. However that was probably too ancient to be historicaly reliable or have any influence that would be noticeable in music today. A quick Google search yielded the dates being 1897 BC to 1700 BC and "They were men, gods, or fairies. They came, of course, from the East, calling in at Greece on the way, so as to increase their stock of magic"
    More of an interesting myth than an ethnomusicological fact.

    On a more recent note: one of my Turkish records has some notes about how the Turkish song Uskudar was possibly from a Scottish bagpipe band that played in Istanbul. But I've heard that there are lots of other places that claim this song, too.

    The more I think about it the more I feel that everything is so mixed up if we try to trace the origins of anything (myths, linguistics, music, dance) we will go insane.
  • Re: Middle-Eastern Influences on Celtic Music

    Tue, January 17, 2006 - 3:20 PM
    There are several connections between Celtic and Arabic music.
    First the Northern African instrument the Mondol is almost identical to the Citern or Irish Bazuki.
    Also the Celtic dance style called Morris Dance is actually Moors Dance and comes from the Magreb Arabs. There is even a section where the dancers create a star patterns with their swords that is very similar the Moroccan star patterns you there.
    The Arabs were dominant in Southern Europe for several centuries until 1492 when Spain kicked everyone (Jews, Arabs, Lepers) out.
    Check out the Andalousian Algerian music called Nuba. It is from the 13th to 16th century and has all of the modal elements of Celtic music.
    It should be noted that European music is actually much simpler modally than Arabic. I have heard the Church cleaned up the maqaam system in the Medieaval era.
    Europe's debt to Arabic music is very deep.

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