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A Review of

Music of the Middle East

by the
Department of Ethnomusicology
at the
State University of New York at Binghampton


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Overall Rating: StarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)


This video offers a very superficial introduction to Middle Eastern music, showing some of the common instruments being played. The musicians are highly skilled, but not much information is provided. Music of the Middle East VHS Tape Cover Music of the Middle East DVD Cover


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What Users Think

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The above poll includes responses submitted since March 21, 2004.

Note: Shira has a policy against video producers asking their students, family, and friends to pad the votes, or campaigning for favorable votes through their web sites. Click here for detailed information about the policy.


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Fact Sheet

Subject Matter Introduction to Middle Eastern music
Overall Rating StarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStar
Total Video Length 18 minutes


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This 1968 video offers a superficial (very superficial) introduction to Middle Eastern music. The information presented focuses on certain musical instruments: oud, doumbek, santour, kanoun, and cymbalum. A narrator introduces each instrument, then a musician plays it for minute or so to demonstrate.

Nothing is mentioned about wind instruments such as the ney or mizmar. The definition of “the Middle East” for purposes of this video excludes Egypt, so there is no mention of Egyptian instruments such as rebaba.

The musicians performing the demonstrations are skilled and enjoyable to listen to. They offer very credible views of what their instruments are capable of.

In two places, costumed male folk dancers perform as the music plays. One is a Turkish dance, and the other a Greek tsamiko. Although the performers skillfully portray dances from Turkey and Greece, the artsy-fartsy camera work makes it impossible to appreciate the dancing. There are too many close-ups of faces, s-l-o-w pan across empty space when moving from a close-up of one dancer’s face to the other, angles looking down from above, close-ups of men’s waists when the feet are doing all the action, etc. For these reasons, the dance segments are severely disappointing, and the clueless camera operators and editors ought to be spanked.

A small amount (very small) of information is offered about rhythms and the difference between folk music and classical music.

There are no closing credits at the end to identify any of the people who appear in this video.

I realize that with only 20 minutes to work with, there are limits to how much information anyone might be able to fit into the time available. But some very key points that distinguish Middle Eastern music from Western music such as maqamat and quarter tones are never mentioned, which seems surprising.

This video is produced by the Department of Ethnomusicology at the State University of New York at Binghampton. It shows a copyright date of 1968, which fits the hair styles of the women shown on camera, and was transferred to video in 1987.


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Is It Right for You?

You Will Probably Enjoy This Video If

  • You have no idea what Middle Eastern musical instruments look like.
  • You know absolutely nothing about Middle Eastern music and need a place to start.

This Video Probably Isn't Right for You If

  • You are frustrated by poor choices made in camera work and editing.
  • You are already familiar with common Middle Eastern instruments.


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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked:

  • The video shows what common instruments look like.
  • There are a few dance clips.
  • The musicians are skilled.

What I Didn't Like:

  • The narrative doesn’t cover much information.
  • The video doesn’t identify any of the on-screen people.
  • The camera work on the dance segments is intrusive and annoying.


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In Conclusion

Even though the price is low and the musicians are skilled, I don’t think this video offers enough information to be worth the money, particularly for dancers. The discussion is very superficial, and on the folk dance segments the poor camera work interferes with seeing what the dance looks like. It is very short. I won’t be recommending it to my students.


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I have never had any contact with anyone involved in creating this video.


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To Buy It

Via Amazon Stores

VHS edition: U.S.

DVD edition: U.S. U.K.

Contact Information

Educational Video Network
1401 19th Street
Huntsville, TX 77340

Phone: (+1) (800) 762-0060
Fax: (+1) (936) 294-0233

Web Site:


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