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Nation Home > Entertainment
Soothe your soul with free music

Ahmed Shaaban / 22 March 2013

Enjoy listening to very rare Arabic music, songs and poems back from 1903 by browsing the web for Rawdat Al Balabel, meaning the garden of nightingales.

The Sharjah Art Foundation on Thursday announced the project, a series of podcasts on classical Arabic music that consists of 104 episodes posted online over the course of 52 weeks.

While new episodes will be available at www.sharjahart.org and www.amar-foundation.org every Thursday, the podcast is divided into four programmes — Audition, Our Musical System, History and The Paths of Melody — and each programme consists of 26 episodes.

Founded by Kamal Kassar, the Foundation for Archiving and Research in Arab Music (Amar) holds the largest and most unique collection of classical Arabic music in the world containing recordings from the Arabic Renaissance period (1903-1930s).

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Kassar said he started collecting his priceless collection since 1970 from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Paris. “It took me and my 10-member team much time, effort, and money up to hundreds of thousands dollars to professionally do the job covering the works of up to 300 singers.”

Targeting local and international audience across the world, he affirmed that the podcasts are totally free with no subscription; however “the door is open for donation, particularly with rare recordings.” Kassar added

that they are mainly dedicated to protect this unique audio heritage which comprises up to 7,000 CDs and 6,000-hour magnetic tapes. “We do this by digitising, fixing, processing and posting our recordings in new, durable CDs and on the web, along with a detailed transcription on every masterpiece.”

Born in Lebanon in 1949, Kamal Kassar is specialised in Lebanese and French law at Saint Joseph University, Lebanon, where he graduated in 1971 and pursued his career as a lawyer.

Having a passion for music since his early years, he attended the Lebanese Conservatory, taking classes in western Classical music and learning to play the flute. He composed the music for two of Jalal Khoury’s plays: “Al Rafiq Sejan” 1976 and “Hindiyeh” 2001.

In 2009 he acquired the Annani Arab Music Collection, and created Amar. With more than 7,000 records, mainly from the “Nahda” era (1903-1930s), and around 6,000 hours of recordings on reel, Amar Foundation is considered the largest Arab music archive in the Middle East.


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