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Arabic and North African influences on Jazz


Arabic and North African music has had a profound influence on jazz and improvised music in Europe. The use of microtones, polyrhythms, and improvisational techniques from these traditions has enriched and expanded the possibilities of jazz, creating a new and exciting sound that is both familiar and exotic.


One of the earliest examples can be found in the work of American saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. In the 1930s, Hawkins began to incorporate elements of Arabic music into his playing, creating a new and innovative sound that was unlike anything that had come before it. Hawkins's influence can be heard in the work of many other jazz musicians, including Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman.


In the 1950s, a new wave of jazz musicians began to explore the influence of Arabic and North African music in even greater depth. These musicians, such as Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef, and Archie Shepp, were drawn to the spiritual and mystical qualities of this music, and they incorporated its sounds and rhythms into their own work. The music of these musicians helped to broaden the appeal of jazz and to make it more accessible to a wider audience.


In recent years, the influence of Arabic and North African music on jazz has continued to grow. Today, there are many jazz musicians who are exploring the possibilities of this music, and there is a thriving scene for Arabic and North African jazz in Europe. This music is now more accessible than ever before, and it is sure to continue to influence and inspire jazz musicians for years to come.


Don Cherry - Orient (1957)

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - East Meets West (1959)

Yusef Lateef - Eastern Sounds (1961)

Wayne Shorter - Night Dreamer (1964)

Joe Harriott - Free Form (1969)

Muhal Richard Abrams - Levels (1977)

Rabih Abou-Khalil - Blue Camel (1992)

Rabih Abou-Khalil - The Cactus of Knowledge (2001)

Dhafer Youssef - Digital Prophecy (2003)

Salah Ragab, The Egyptian Jazz Band - Egyptian Jazz (2006)

Ibrahim Maalouf - Diasporas (2007)

Anouar Brahem - The Astounding Eyes of Rita (2008)

Anouar Brahem - Blue Maqam (2019)

Majid Bekkas, Joachim Kuhn, Ramon Lopez - Chalabe (2011)

Omar Sosa - Alma (2013)

Yasmine Hamden - Ya Nass (2013)

Yazz Ahmed - Polyhymnia (2019)

Natacha Atlas - Strange Days (2019)



This is just a small sample of the many great albums that have been influenced by Arabic and North African music. If you are interested in exploring this music further, I encourage you to check out these albums and others like them. You won't be disappointed.



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