The Early Records of Arabic Music

Episode 375

hosted by Maryam Patton, Abdul Latif and Shireen Hamza

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

The rise of record labels and new recording technologies played an important role in the history of the Nahda (Arabic Renaissance). In Egypt and Lebanon, independent labels like Baidaphon competed with their American and European counterparts to record local singers and popular music styles in an effort to preserve Arab voices. For the first time, these singers could hear their voices played back at them, often with mixed reactions. Listen in as we explore an early twentieth-century soundscape made available thanks to a collection of over 600 Arabic 78rpm records in the Loeb Music Library at Harvard University.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Peter Laurence is Senior Curatorial Assistant for the Archive of World Music in the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University. In that role he provides intellectual access to collections through online finding guides, assists patrons and researchers in accessing recordings, prepares metadata about original recordings for digital transfer, serves as liaison with faculty and collection donors, and selects commercial audiovisual recordings for the archive.
Maryam Patton is a PhD candidate at Harvard University in the joint History and Middle Eastern Studies program. She is interested in early modern cultural exchanges, and her dissertation studies cultures of time and temporal consciousness in the Eastern Mediterranean during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Abdul Latif is a PhD Student in Columbia’s department of religion. He is currently interested in Ottoman social history, Persianate epics, and early modern representations of Islam.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, especially in the Indian Ocean world.

Track List

00:00 | Al-Sitt Aminah al-Iraqiyah, Victor label, 1910
12:06 | Faraj Allah Afandi Baida, Baidaphon, 1910
14:50 | Ibrahim Abbani, recorded in Cairo
20:00 | Ahmed El Agami
25:30 | Andrawus Afandi Makni and Na’im Afandi Karkand
33:14 | Muhiddin Afendi Bouyoun, “Umri Alayk,” 1912 Gramaphone


Episode No. 375
Release Date: 3 September 2018
Recording Location: Cambridge, MA
Audio editing by Maryam Patton
Music: All audio samples provided by courtesy of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University. See their partial catalog of the collection.
Images and bibliography courtesy of Peter Laurence


Record by Faraj Allah Afandi (played at 12:06)

Chipped record by Ahmed El Agami (played at 20:00) with matrix code visible.

Sample artwork from a sleeve from Baidaphon.

Select Bibliography

Read Farah Zahra's post on the Loeb Music Library's blog about the 78rpm Arabic records collection.

Gronow, P. (1981). The Record Industry Comes to the Orient. Ethnomusicology: Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology, 25(2), 251-284.

Gronow, P. (2014). The World´s Greatest Sound Archive. 78 rpm Records As A Source For Musicological Research. Traditiones, 43(2), 31-49.

Habib, K. (2012). Arab American music. Grove Music Online.

Lagrange, F. (1996). Musiques d'Egypte (1re éd., Musiques du monde). Arles: Cité de la musique : Actes sud.

Manyalāwī, Yūsuf, Gregory, Nyssa, Lagrange, Frédéric, Ṣūwwah, Muḥsin, & Saʻīd, Muṣṭafá. (2011). "The Voice of the Nahda Era" : Yusuf Al-Manyalawi : The Works (1847-1911). Beirut: Foundation for Arab music archiving and research.

Racy, A. (1977). Musical Change and Commercial Recording in Egypt, 1904-1932.

Rasmussen, A. K. (1997). Notes and Documentation. In The Music of Arab Americans :a Retrospective Collection. Cambridge, Mass: Rounder Records.

Rasmussen, A. K. (2016). The Music of Arab Detroit: A Musical Mecca in the Midwest. In Lornell, K., & Rasmussen, A. K. (Eds.). The music of multicultural America : Performance, identity, and community in the United States (American made music series). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.