EP 7: Mustafa Said

In this episode of the Music Elevator we are thrilled to have with us one of the most notable figures in classical Arabic music: Mustafa Said. Mustafa is an Egyptian singer, musicologist, composer and Oud virtuoso born and raised in Cairo. Said was introduced to music at a very young age where he learned to read and write music in Braille. His enthusiasm for music manifested in a multitude of manners, including collecting records of all types.

Mustafa’s musical approach extends from the musical traditions present in the east Mediterranean region and expands on the previous musical renaissances from the Abbasid period of the 7th and 8th centuries, up to the renaissance of the 19th century. His compositions breathe a contemporary approach into classical Arabic pieces by placing emphasis on instrumental and vocal improvisation (Taqsim).

In 2003 Mustafa established the innovative Asil Ensemble with the aim of composing contemporary Arabic music emergent from the roots of the classical Arabic music system and which is dedicated to creating music that is relevant today. Mustafa’s work includes several albums in addition to composing music for theatre plays, dance performances and films. His first album Ruba’iyyat El-Khayyam (2008) is a lyrical and musical masterpiece incorporating the poetic quatrains of Persian philosopher, mathematician and poet Omar El-Khayyam.

His second album brought together his Beirut based ensemble devoting themselves to the restoration of early 20th century music with new compositions from the heart of tradition. The Ensemble went on to produce their 2015 album applying their skills to a setting of the burda, a medieval mystical poem, given a radical new lease of life by Palestinian poet Tamim al-Barghouti.

In 2016 the ensemble presented their latest album called Autism (or Tawahhud in Arabic). Despite its title which indicates a disconnection with our surroundings, the music elates the listener to higher states of being, listening and unification. Mustafa’s passionate and earthy vocals are backed by the chamber ensembles improvising and following the subtly shifting moods of the moment.

Mustafa is also director of the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research committed to the preservation and dissemination of traditional Arab music. AMAR owns 7,000 records, principally from the Nahda era (1903 – to the 1930s), as well as around 6,000 hours of recordings on reel. Mustafa is an avid writer and researcher who publishes academic articles on music from South West Asia.


Podcast Track List

Sheikh Mahmood Ali: Teh Dalalan First

Asil Ensemble: Bayyati Khayyam (2012, Ruba’iyyat El-Khayyam)

Asil Ensemble Middle Natural Intervall (2016, Tawahhud) 

Mustafa Said: Teh Dalalan (2020, Fi Rehab Al Samt)

Explore Mustafa Saids music and works further on:

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