Islamic Music & Genres
Islamic music is religious devotional music and expressions that are related to the praise of Allah, His Messenger (s) and the noble pious predecessors. The classic heartland of Islam is the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Central Asia, Horn of Africa and South Asia. Due to Islam being a multi-ethnic religion, the musical expression of its adherents is vastly diverse. The indigenous musical styles of these areas have shaped the devotional music enjoyed by contemporary Muslims. The following are just some of the current genres of Islamic music:
Nasyid (or Nasheed)
The people of Southeast Asia or Nusantara region is very familiar with nasyid or sometimes spelt as nasheed – songs whose contents deal with Islamic precepts, stories about the Prophets or in the Qur’an, and Islamic messages and reminders. Nasyid has been made popular by many groups from Malaysia, in particular Raihan. In Singapore and the region, the nasyids appear more commonly in the Malay or Bahasa Indonesia.
Qasidah or Ilahi or Na’at
Qasidah is a form of lyrical poetry that originated in Pre-Islamic Arabia. Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (s) used to recite qasidah or poetry in praise of Allah and His Messenger (s). As Muslims migrated from Yemen and the Arab world to spread Islam in Southeast Asia, they brought with them popular qasidah such as the well-loved Tala’al Badru Alayna that the members of the Ansar community sung to Prophet Muhammad (s) upon his arrival at Yathrib. Also popular are verses from Imam al-Busiri’s Qasidah Burda. In Turkey, such Islamic songs or poetry are called ilahis. In Pakistan such songs are called na’at.
Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in South Asia, particularly in the Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan, Hyderabad, Delhi and other parts of India. It is a musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years. Originally performed mainly at Sufi shrines or dargahs throughout South Asia, it has also gained mainstream popularity. The qawwali music received international exposure through the work of the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. A typical qawwali ensemble consists of one or two lead vocalists; a chorus of hand-clapping ‘qawwals’ who sing the refrains; a harmonium (a small, hand-pumped, portable organ) player, who supports the fixed melody as well as the melodic improvisations of the soloist; and a percussionist, who articulates the metric framework using a dholak (double-headed drum) or a tabla (a pair of single-headed drums). They are always performed energetically and aim to lead the listeners to a spiritual ecstasy. The central themes of qawwali are love, devotion and longing (of man for the Divine).
In the western countries like America, United Kingdom and Europe, Islamic Music also exists in the more modern form of hip-hop music such as rap. Rapping refers to “spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics” that is performed in time to a beat.