BENGHAZI, LIBYA 6/21/2011 – For centuries, Libya’s position straddling the Arab and African world gave it one of the richest and diverse musical and artistic cultures. But under the regime of Colonel Gaddafi, this culture was actively suppressed in favor of propaganda glorifying the state.
The revolution in February lifted the restrictions on music, among other things, and Benghazi is now witnessing a resurgence of culture once forgotten or forbidden under the old regime.
One of the musical projects enabled by the revolution is Alzaman Al Jameel, a band in Benghazi that performs in the classic Libyan styles. The 14 member band, made up of former music students, performs traditional Libyan and Arabic songs, including some religious laments.
They recently performed the national anthem for members of the Transition National Council, Libya’s interim rebel government.
“Our aim is to support the revolution with music and art,” said Mohammed Othman, the band’s manager.
Alive in Libya visited Alzaman Al Jameel during one of its practice sessions to talk with the members about their band, how they started, and what their role is going forward.
Among Libyan Arabs, instruments include the zokra (a bagpipe), flute (made of bamboo), tambourine, oud (a fretless lute) and darbuka, a goblet drum held sideways and played with the fingers. Intricate clapping is also common in Libyan folk music.
Travelling Bedouin poet-singers have spread many popular songs across Libya. Among their styles is huda, the camel driver’s song, the rhythm of which is said to mimic the feet of a walking camel.
Libya hasn’t seen a resurgence of music like this since the late 1970s, when Col. Gaddafi really took Libyan politics by the throat. He had released his notorious Green Book and renamed the country. Those were the years the music died.
Now, Libya’s independence-era anthem came back roaring after being banned for four decades. A melodic song, “We Shall Remain Here,” has been the anthem most specific to this revolution. The courthouse in Benghazi that has been converted to a media center now houses several studios and practice rooms.
Music is intimately connected with the traditional culture of Libya. This North African country is inspired by the Arabic culture and therefore the Libyan music is also influenced by the Arabic music. The Arabic music mainly rises out of the Arabic poetry dating back to the pre-Islamic period. Arabian people come from the most ethnic groups and they generally prefer to practice Arabian music. To have an idea about the rich storehouse of music in Libya, the tourists have to collect information about the cultural history of Libya. The proper study of the history will let you know about the music of 11th century, popularly known as Al-Andalus.
Andalusi music is locally popular as Malauf, Chabi and Arab classical music in Libya. The music became popular during the Al-Andalus period during 9th and 15th century. There are various kinds of folk and classical music which are included in Andalusi music. Ghazal is one of them which include mainly love songs. It is an important part of the Arabian music and also in the music of Libya. The classical music of Andalusia reached Libya and to entire North Africa through cultural exchange.