Not many people realize how important the audience is in Arabic music. Their importance is such that they were given a title of sorts. They are called the "samee'ah", or literally translated to english, "listeners". You would think that in all music the audience is important and this is true, but in Arabic music the audience/listener play an especially important role. This is because Arabic music is an interactive music were both the audience and the musicians participate in the process of tarab. I have used the word tarab in every one of my posts on this blog because tarab is the most important aspect of Arabic music. It is what distinguishes Arabic music from Western music.
We can see the importance of the listener (samee') and how tarab effects people by simply observing an Arabic music concert. I am not talking about when Fares Karam or Haifa Wehebe come to town, but real Arabic tarab music. At the bottom of this post I will post three YouTube links of videos form The Michigan Arabic Orchestra concert done on January 28th 2010. In those videos you will notice people clapping along with the music, whistling really loud after the piece is over, shouting out exclamations such as tayeb (lit. delicious), ya salam (lit. oh peace), and Allah (lit. God). These sort of things happen because tarab is taking place.
How do we know tarab is taking place? The reaction of the audience is only the outward expression of tarab, it is what emotion that stirs inside the individual that causes the outward reaction that we call tarab. I know this because of my experience with Arabic music but to further prove my point I will share with you what someone told me after the concert. For the sake anonymity I will be a bit vague. After the concert I was approached by an audience member who told me, "The last song Usama sang brought a flood of memories from my childhood days." His outward reaction was shared by many samee'ah (listeners) in the audience which indicates that tarab took place. I know that as a musician hearing these outward expressions from the audience makes me perform at a higher level because in turn I experience tarab. This turns into a cycle that continues to grow until everyone enters a state of saltanah, meaning a higher state of. tarab. However without the audience participation in all of this we can not achieve saltanah or tarab because as I have mentioned before that tarab is a cycle that involves the audience and in turn effects the musicians performance.
Being a samee' (listener) does not mean one has to be of a specific ethnicity. The only requirement is to truly listen. Having some knowledge of the music helps but is certainly no substitute for listening. This is hard to do but with help from other audience members in the concert it is possible for tarab to experienced by everyone in attendance. In his biography Sabah Fakhri, a Syrian vocalist would mention that in the beginning of his concert he would start going through all of his songs and pay attention to the audience. He would do this to find the samee' (listeners) in his audience then sing to them the entire night. This is not done because the singer is excluding the rest of the audience, but rather because he knows that in finding the few samee'ah in the audience, they will be able lead the entire audience to a state of tarab. I did the same thing in my concert every time I played a taqasim (improvisation) on the nay (reed flute). I specifically looked at one member in the audience who I knew loved to hear that instrument, this made me put more of myself in the performance knowing that his reaction would effect the people around him. So LISTEN!!!!!!!!! Music has a way of effecting people on such deep and emotional level, I have seen it first hand. Think about it, Arabic music is always created with the listener in mind, if no one listened then what is the point?
YouTube LinksHubbi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeViXsHqZrE
Ya Imsafer Wahdak 1/2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Udnn_kg13Fw&feature=related
Ya Imsafer Wahdak 2/2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmwP8D_Mw9E&feature=related