Tag: Middle East

Early Arabic Sound Recordings and the Public Domain

Happy Public Domain Day! Copyright has a limited duration, and it’s a moving wall – every January 1st, here in the United States, more items enter the public domain, meaning that they can be freely shared, reused, and remixed into new works by anyone. This year, books, musical compositions, and films from 1926 join the public domain.

A calendar display showing the last digit of 2021 rolling over to 2022, and the text "Public Domain Day".

Public Domain Day logo by wikipedia user Cienkamila, slightly modified by wikipedia user odder, CC BY-SA 3.0

And thanks to the Music Modernization Act (technically, one of its components, Title II, the Classic Protection and Access Act), sound recordings published prior to 1923 enter the public domain in the United States. This is a really big deal! Since pre-1972 sound recordings didn’t have federal copyright protection until the passage of the MMA, they’ve been languishing in copyright limbo for decades – in some cases, for well over a century – and there are a lot of them: by some estimates, over 400,000 early sound recordings are now part of the public domain. This change to the law dramatically expands our ability to share early 20th-century sound recordings from our collections for listening, research, and reuse.

The Arabic 78 Collection at the Loeb Music Library

The label of a record produced by Columbia Records, with a drawing of a woman in a headscarf and two solemn-faced children clutching her skirt. The woman is looking backwards, at a building being consumed by a raging fire.

Visit our new digital collection to listen to selections from the Arabic 78 Collection!

To celebrate, we’re releasing a small subset of our early 20th century Arabic 78 collection on our new Aviary site. Acquired over many years, the Arabic 78 Collection currently contains nearly 600 cataloged recordings of Arab and Arab-American music spanning the first half of the 20th century, from roughly 1903 through the 1950s, valuable not only for their musical content, but also as artifacts of the early sound recording industry. We’ve been working to digitize this collection over the past several years, and we’re excited to begin sharing it!

A blue paper record label in English and Arabic, reading "International Talking Machine Co. m.b.H. Odeon Record.

“Asl al-Gharam nazra,” recorded in 1905 on the German label Odeon. Loeb Music Library, AWM 78-101

Many of the earliest records date to the late Nahda era, a period of “renaissance” in Arab literature and culture. Among the renowned performers represented in the collection are Egyptian singers Yūsuf Al-Manyalāwī (1847-1911), Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī (1857-1912), Salāmah Ḥijāzī (1852-1917), Sayyid Al- Ṣaftī (1875-1939), Munīrah Al-Mahdiyyah (1884-1965) and Sayyid Darwīsh (1892-1923), and instrumentalists such as Sāmī Al-Shawwā (violin, 1889-1965) and Naʻīm Karakand (violin, 1891-1973). Stars such as Umm Kulthūm (1904-1975), Muḥammad ʻAbd al-Wahhāb (1902-1991) and Asmahān (1912-1944) are also represented, alongside less well-known performers like Faraj Allāh Afandī Bayḍā, Aḥmad afandī Al-Mīr, and Zakiyyah Akūb, likely the first woman to record in Arabic in the US.

A record label with a drawing of a seated, mostly nude woman playing a lyre. The label reads "Opera Disc Company. Syrian Male Song."

This rendition of “Khallayānī bilawʻātī” was recorded in 1910 on a Gramophone Co. master. The pirate label Opera Disc operated in New York in the early 1920s; the original Gramophone matrix number, 11-12490, is barely visible underneath the right side of the paper label. AWM 78-232

The recordings were made by large multi-national American and European record companies such as Gramophone Company, Columbia, Victor and Odeon, but significant local companies such as Baidaphon (the first independent record label in the Arab world) and Fabrik Mechian are also included, as well as Maloof and Macksoud from the US. The collection even includes discs issued on early pirate labels like Opera Disc Company. Later Arab-American record labels such as Alamphon, Arabphon and Al-Chark are also to be found in the collection. Genres cover a wide range of Arab musical forms including al-mawwāl (vocal improvisation), qaṣīdah (sung poems), taqsīm (instrumental improvisation), film music, ṭaqṭūqah (pop songs) and Qur’anic recitations.

For more about the collection, see our 2017 post, Arabic 78 RPM Records Collection: A Newly-Catalogued Treasure by graduate student assistant Farah Zahra, who researched and catalogued many of the recordings.

How We Dated These Recordings

Resources for dating the early discs in this collection are limited. In only a few cases has data come down to us from original company records, as is true with the multinationals Victor, Columbia, and the Gramophone Company. In those cases, a wealth of metadata was painstakingly researched by early discographers and has now made its way into database form for use in determining recording dates. Two examples are the Discography of American Historical Recordings and the Kelly On-line Database (Gramophone Company). But in some cases, ethnic or foreign series are missing or incomplete in these resources, which means we rely on the work of discographers who have focused on ethnic recordings. In the case of Arab-American recordings, we have used Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic music on records: a discography of ethnic recordings produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 (University of Illinois, 1990) and his online Columbia Records E Series, 1908-1923 discography.

It is important to note that U.S. copyright law, including the new Music Modernization Act (MMA) that has now taken effect (as of January 1, 2022), is based on publication/release date rather than recording date. Precise data about release dates is even more scarce, though we do have information about U.S. Columbia releases. In theory, we can also use dated record company catalogs and supplements to help confirm release or publication date, but these are rare for ethnic/foreign releases. Although it cannot be taken as definitive, or as universal practice for the period, it seems an average of 8 to 10 weeks passed between recording and release date for early popular artists on Columbia (according to Allan Sutton’s Columbia Record Recording and Release Dates (1896-1934), p.6). But this timeframe could be rushed or held up based on the artist or demand.

We have made our copyright assessment based on all available data and specifically for use in the U.S. with regard to the new MMA laws. When we’ve made a reasonable determination that release dates occurred before December 31, 1922, the recording will be available to the public (and downloadable). For all others, users can request permission to hear the recording for a limited period (no download).

How to Listen

To share them, we’re using Aviary, a system that gives us a user-friendly way to create themed collections and add supplemental material, like high-quality images of the disc labels and matrix numbers (important sources for discographers and other researchers). As more recordings enter the public domain and we evaluate the copyright status of the discs in our collections, we plan to continue adding 78s to the collection. Many of the recordings on the site now are available for streaming and download; some are restricted. To request temporary listening access to those recordings, you’ll be prompted to register for a free Aviary account.

We hope you’ll enjoy this peek into the collections, and we look forward to sharing more!

Explore Further

-Kerry Masteller and Peter Laurence

Arabic 78 RPM Records Collection: A Newly-Catalogued Treasure

On the shelves of Loeb Music Library lie treasures. The 78rpm Arabic records collection is only one of many. The collection contains over 600 records belonging to the Nahḍah era (Arab renaissance) of the early twentieth century. The recordings represent voices and instruments that shaped the music scene and aesthetic taste during the period between 1910 and 1950. The collection joins another of newer Arabic LP records.

The discs feature recordings of famous performers and composers who are recognized for their distinguished contribution to Arabic music, such as vocalist Yūsuf Al-Manyalāwī (1847-1911), Sayyid Al- Ṣaftī (1875-1939) who was nicknamed the master of dawr (a form of Arabic music), Umm Kulthūm (1904-1975), and Faraj Allah Bayḍā, who established Baidaphon records company, the first of its kind in the Arab world in early twentieth century. It also features shadowed and forgotten voices such as Aḥmad afandī Al-Mīr, Naʻīm Samʻān, and many others. That era also marks the first recordings of women vocalists such as Munīrah Al-Mahdiyyah (1884-1965), ʻAliyā Al-Aṭrash, and Laure Daccāsh.

Jaddidī yā nafs ḥaẓak. I-II Gaddidi ya nafs al-Marḥūm al-Shaykh Yūsuf al-Manyalāwī (CRG 60061), AWM 78-60

One of the most important names of that period was the violinist Sāmī Al-Shawwā who introduced the violin to the traditional Arabic music ensemble (takht). Al-Shawwā performed with Yūsuf Al-Manyalāwī and Abd Al-Ḥay Hilmī whose voices were preserved on Gramophone Monarch Records and famous Baidaphon records.

Arab record companies, such as Baidaphon and Cairophon, are only a few among many other American (Columbia, Victor), European (Odeon, Orfeon), and Arab-American companies (Al-Chark, Alamphon) that recorded and released these notable Arab voices. Songs and performers from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Al-Maghrib exhibit the rich tradition of Arabic musical forms, namely the art of al-mawwāl (vocal improvisation), qaṣīdah (sung poems), muwashshaḥ (Andalusian sung poetry), ṭaqṭūqah (pop songs) and taqsīm (instrumental improvisation. Religious chants are also an important piece of the Arabic musical tradition. The collection includes Qur’anic recitation of Al-shaykh Ṭāhā Al-Fashnī and a rare record of a woman reciter Wadūdah Al-Minyalawī alongside Christian hymns of Father Gigis ʻAzīz Al-Jizzīnī.

Many items in the collections are rare and show distinctive inscription and information. What stood out the most was the first recording of plays’ songs in urban Cairo especially those performed by Salāmah Ḥijāzī (1852 – 1919). As soon as cinema was introduced to Egypt, recordings of the films’ songs were also released.

Anā mush ḥilwah by Nūr Al-Hudá (1924-1988) from the film Magd wa-dumūʻ, 1946 (Arabphon 503A), HOLLIS # 015109446

Acquired over a period of ten years, the Arabic 78 Collection joins the increasing yet still limited interest in the preservation of early Arabic music recorded heritage. Individual donations to the collection include the notable personal collection of Boston-based expressionist visual artist Kahlil George Gibran (1922-2008).

-Farah Zahra

The Archive of World Music is a special collection within the Loeb Music Library. Many of its rare and fragile recordings (other than commercial CDs, VHS tapes, and DVDs) must be reformatted for research use. Requests for in-library listening copies of recordings may be made at any time, but require additional time to prepare. To make best use of your time at the Archive, please contact Peter Laurence, Librarian for Recorded Sound and Media, in advance.

Browse the Arabic 78 collections in HOLLIS Classic:

 

أسطوانات جرامافون العربية: كنز يضاف إلى مجموعة مكتبة لوب للموسيقى

رفوف مكتبة لوب مرتع لكنوز فكرية وموسيقية. مجموعة أسطوانات جرامافون العربية هي واحدة فقط من بين العديد من الكنوز. تحتوي المجموعة على  أكثر من ٦٠٠ اسطوانة تعود إلى حقبة النهضة العربية في أوائل القرن العشرين، كما أنها تشمل تسجيلات  لأصوات وآلات شكلت أساساً للحياة الموسيقية والذوق الفني لفترة ما بين ١٩١٠ و١٩٥٠. تضاف هذه المجموعة إلى نظيرتها من الأسطوانات العربية الفينيل.

الأسطوانات تحفظ تسجيلات لمطربين وملحنين ذاع صيتهم بفضل مساهمتهم الموسيقية. نذكر منهم: الشيخ يوسف المنيلاوي (١٨٤٧ – ١٩١١)، سيد الصفتي (١٨٧٥ – ١٩٣٩) الذي لُقِّب بسيد الدور، أم كلثوم (١٩٠٤ – ١٩٧٥)، وفرج الله بيضا الذي أسس شركة بيضافون للإسطوانات التي تعتبر الأولى في مجالها في المنطفة العربية. كما تضم المجموعة عدداً من الأسماء اللامعة المنسية، منها: المطرب أحمد أفندي المير، المنشد نعيم سمعان وغيرهم. من أهم فناني تلك الحقبة كان الكمنجاتي سامي الشوا الذي بفضله أصبحت آلة الكمان من الآلات الرئيسية في التخت الشرقي العربي. اصطحب الشوا الشيخ يوسف المنيلاوي وعبد الحي حلمي في حفلاتهما التي سجلت على اسطوانات شركة جراموفون مونارك.

شركات الإسطوانات العربية كشركة بيضافون وكايروفون هي فقط بضع شركات إنتاج أضافت جهوداً اعتنت بتسجيل التراث الموسيقي إلى جانب شركات إنتاج أميركية (كشركة كولومبيا) وأوروبية (أودييون وأورفيون)، وعربية-أميركية (الشرق، الأهرام). مطربون ومؤلفون من مصر، سوريا، لبنان، فلسطين والعراق مثّلوا تنوع وغنى التراث الموسيقي العربي عبر فن الموال، القصيدة، الموشح، الطقطوقة والتقاسيم والإرتجال. التواشيح والتراتيل الدينية بدورها أيضاً من أهم الأشكال الموسيقية العربية.  فالمجموعة تضم تسجيلات لكبار قرّاء القرآن كالشيخ طه الفشني وتسجيل نادر لقارئة القرآن ودودة المنيلاوي صاحبة الصوت الشجي الذي تتناغم عذوبته مع تراتيل الأب جرجرس عزيز الجزيني. العديد من أسطوانات هذه المجموعة نادرة وتحتوي على أقصوصات وعلامات مميزة. أكثر ما يجذب الإهتمام هو التسجيلات الأولى لأغاني المسرح الغنائي القاهري الذي كان سلامة حجازي من رواده. كما أن بعض أغاني الأفلام الأولى حفظت على هذه الإسطوانات كأغنيات نور الهدى (١٩٢٤ – ١٩٨٨) في إطلالاتها السينمائية الأولى.

مجموعة الجرامافون العربية تنضم اليوم إلى الجهود المتزايدة المعنية بالحفاظ وتوثيق التراث العربي الموسيقي. التبرعات الفردية للمجموعة، كالتي قام بها الفنان التشكيلي اللبناني الأصل خليل جورج جبران (١٩٢٢ – ٢٠٠٨)، تبقى من أهم المصادر التي تساهم في بناء مجموعة الأسطوانات وغيرها.

فرح زهرة

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