Jan 21, 2008

Underground Arabic Music Wiki - Initial Thoughts

Update (Jan 21st, 2008)
Qwaider and Ruba are on board for the project. Qwaider has graciously accepted to host the site on his servers. He suggested using ScrewTerm wiki engine, which seems to be a full-featured and easy to deploy & use wiki engine made with .NET. We'll work on few ideas and then decide how to proceed.

Since I went to the USA to study, my interest in Arabic Music grew. As a result, I made sure to take music lessons whenever I visited Jordan in the summer. To my surprise, I found out two facts about Music in Jordan: coming from the outside it's very hard to find good music teachers or instruments, AND, there is a LOT of creativity and amazing work that remains hidden for years and years. Most of the musicians know each other - and once you start taking lessons with one of them (usually not at the "elites centers"), you get introduced to this "underground scene" of music lovers. They have their own jokes, hangouts, and sources of income. Just imagine smart people who decided to pursue music in this age in Jordan - they ONLY do it because cannot live without it. Unparalleled is the level of excitement and ambition I see in their eyes.

Long ago I thought of creating a website to bring music lovers together and allow others to discover their works and projects. However, that idea went dormant (along with Arabic Literature Review site) until I read this very very nice article by Ruba Saqr (thanks to Ruba for introducing me to her work, and to Qwaider for her blog's link).

Ruba Saqr asks: when would there be a project to compile the complete list of Jordanian works?
I think the time is when we decide to do it. I suggested the idea of creating a Wiki page, and she seems to really like it.

As a result, I created this blog post, to put the idea out there, and hopefully get some feedback on it. I do not want to do this alone. I wish this project to grow as a group-effort satisfying the needs of its goals.

If you can help or you have suggestions, please feel free to add them to the comments below.

The Project Proposal

Mission: connect the cultural musicians and music fans in the Arab World together.

Goal: create a collaborative site (wiki site) and allow fans and musicians to populate it with info about Arabic musicians or musicians interested in Arabic music, their works, and activities, and any other related content that would serve them (e.g. lesson announcements, instruments exchange, etc.).

For example: The site will allow you to see a list of all jordanian musicians. For each musician, you'll get links to their sites or any fan sites. The site will also list all their works. Some works can be promoted into their own pages with info about the piece - and reviews on it. Each article will have multiple tags, thus, you would be able to search for "jazz musicians in Irbid".

Hopefully, you can also listen to pieces or view videos right there. The site will inform you what Music teachers are available close to you. The site will also facilitate musical instruments exchange. The site will also have pages about other music-related areas, like instrument makers, and sound technicians, etc. The site will have a calendar/list of events of those cultural musicians. The site can also have music-info (e.g. about Oud, about Maqam Rast, etc.) - or we may just link to wikipedia.

  1. What do you mean by "cultural musicians"?

    I want to exclude pop musicians who work just for money. Those have different needs and goals and do not need volunteers working for them. I want to include those who love music for its "cultural" value - for its sake, and not for money. For example, the wiki we create might have a page about Amr Diab, but it is not the site's goal to talk and serve the needs of Amr Diab.

  2. Is this limited to Arabic Music only?

    No. Whom to target with the site is still an open question that I want group decision on. However, my idea is to make the site arab-centric. Thus, the site will include any Arab musician interested in any type of music, or any human being interested in Arabic music.

  3. Why Arab and not Jordanian?

    Why not? we speak the same language (even when we speak English), thus communication on the site is easy. And the music is very similar. And, the culture is very similar.

  4. Why not include Turkish and Persian?

    Middle Eastern music has A LOT in common. Just look at the names of Maqams. However, the site is about the social aspect of bringing musicians together. To create an efficient site, we have to draw the limit of its 'core audience' somewhere. If we start including 'similar' countries, we'll end up with the whole world, thus diluting the focus to help Arab musicians in the first place.

  5. Does this site exclude non-Arab citizens of Arab countries?

    NOT AT ALL! This site is for any music activity of Arab musician. Arab musicians include all citizens of all Arab countries: I would love to see a page on Amazeghi music from morocco, or Nubi music from Egypt, or Chechen music from Jordan, or Armenian music from Syria, or Kurdish music from Iraq, etc.

Open Questions

  1. Arab vs Jordanian?

    I suggest making the site for all Arabs. However, each country will have its own site, since the communication and connection within the same country is usually the easiest and most practical.
    What do you think?

  2. Cultural vs Pop/for-profit musicians?

    I suggest having the site focus on the "left behind" musicians, and not those who are in the "music industry". Music industry usually focuses on the least-common-factor aspect of music that appeals to largest number of people. Thus, producing mostly very simple and non-thoughtful music. If somebody wants to create a page for Amr Diab, then go ahead. But, that won't be a 'goal' of the site.

    what do you think?

  3. Arab vs Neighboring countries?

    I suggest keeping an Arabic feeling to the site to capitalize on the cultural and language commonalities between the participants.

    do you think we should include Turkey and Iran? maybe Spain? and Greece? how about African music?

  4. Non-Arabs interested in Arabic Music?

    Living in the US, I truly respect those who spend loads of their time and money learning Arabic music while it is not in their culture. They pay a lot of money and try very hard to find a good Oud to buy, or developing a reference site for other musicians (check Mike's Oud site). Thus, I'd like to include them as part of the site.

    what do you think?

  5. Why not just add pages to the Arabic Wikipedia?

    Unlike Wikipedia, our goal is not to collect data, but to create a hub for communication. Pages like "instruments for sale" or "reviews of tracks" do not fit Wikipedia.
    What do you think?

  6. Why go with Wiki? why not ...?

    I personally think Wiki is suitable because we can make it into anything we like. And, for such big cultural project, we really need participation of all those involved.
    what other alternatives you would suggest?

  7. Allow anonymous editing?

    I prefer not. This is not a site for online music surfers, but for real musicians and their real fans. Thus, I think all people registered in the site must register with their real names. I hope this would reduce spam and fights.

    What do you think?

  8. Which wiki engine?

    I don't know many. I like MediaWiki (the one used for Wikipedia). but I really don't know much about wikis. What do you suggest?

  9. Where to host?

    I have no clue. I was looking into cheap hosted wiki solutions (e.g. pbwiki.com). What do you suggest?

  10. What to call it?

    I'm not sure yet. Email me privately if you are afraid of somebody stealing the domain name :-)

Next Steps:
  1. Discuss this on the web for ~5 days.
  2. Choose a 'core group' of interested people to proceed.
  3. Discuss and agree on the open questions. Share results on the web.
  4. Devise a work plan.
  5. Execute the plan.
If you're interested in helping, add a comment below, indicate that, and let me know your email address.