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“Don’t be misled, we play southern, but it’s Arab style”

“Don’t be misled, we play  southern, but it’s Arab style”

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(29:03, 26.6MB; S1576 T83-16, T83-26, T83-50)

Jacksonville natives Rick and Mark Bateh perform traditional Arab music at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs.

Transcript of the Introduction

Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. Florida’s population is culturally diverse, and home to immigrants from around the world. The city of Jacksonville has long been an adopted home for peoples from across the Arab world. In fact, Jacksonville has the 10th largest Arab population of any city in the United States, with substantial communities from Syria, Ramallah, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. Over the past 100 years, these immigrants transported rich cultural histories and music to Jacksonville.

The Arab world is vast, consisting of peoples with diverse heritages who have contributed to, and carried on, Arab musical traditions throughout its complex history. Dating back to before the seventh Century, the development of Arab music ebbed and flowed with the rise and fall of empires. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Western cultural influences, authentic Arab music declined in practice and popularity, which remains the pattern evident today.

Though its popularity may have diminished, the music’s essence is not lost, but rather carried on by tradition bearers, some of whom were born and raised in Jacksonville, and are perhaps just as familiar with Southern culture as with their Arab roots.

Rick and Mark Bateh are two of these tradition bearers. The Batehs, whose parents immigrated from Ramallah in 1947, embrace both their regional heritage as well as that of their ancestors. As Rick Bateh explained to folklorist Betsy Peterson and the attending crowd at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival: “Don’t be misled; we play Southern, but it’s Arab style. ” Let’s take a listen to that brief introduction and one of the brothers’ songs. The recordings included here are taken from several different performances, all of which took place at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival.

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Arab music is characterized by its modal homophony, ornamental flare, modal rhythm, and often, improvisation. Two of the instruments prominently featured in Arab music are the Doumbek drum and the Oud. The Doumbek is a single head drum that resembles the shape of a goblet, a name the drum is also known by. The Oud is a stringed instrument that is very similar in shape and style to the lute, a European instrument. The Oud has a pear shaped body with a relatively short neck as compared to a guitar.

In the following clip Rick and Mark Bateh explain styles, techniques, and rhythms used in Arab music and demonstrate their skills to the crowd at the Florida Folk Festival.

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Now that you’ve heard some background about the Bateh brothers and Arab music, sit back and enjoy a few tunes from their performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival. Thanks for listening.

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For more information about Arab music:

H. Touma, The Music of the Arabs (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1996).
Bateh Performances:
Friday performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival (Main Stage) (Reel 3)
Saturday performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival (Main Stage) (Reel 6)
Saturday performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival (Old Marble Stage) (Reel 8)