on being a fannan asil…

I posted a bit about “authenticity” and the issues modernization and Westernization in indigenous Art Music traditions previously. Here’s a quote from Ali Jihad Racy’s article, “Musical Aesthetics in Present-Day Cairo,” that illustrates a broad pan-Arabic sense of some of the issues with descriptive phrases used in value judgments about musical activities:

Common in Cairo and neighboring Arab cities is the notion of asalah, which literally means “being genuine” or “being thoroughbred.” The term is both descriptive and judgmental. In a broad sense it means “having talent” or “having musicality.” fannan asil, “genuine artist,” must be well versed in usul al-fann, “the fundamentals of art,” which in part means being competent in the area of the maqamat or “melodic modes.” (Incidentally, the Arabic word usul, or “fundamentals,” shares the same root with the word asil, or “genuine.”) Accordingly, he must have an “Eastern spirit” and tarab in his music.

pg. 392