Thursday, April 12, 2012

Canaanite Music Link Bazaar

21 Ithabu (month), Shanatu (year) 84
Playing the lyre in the city of Ur in Sumer
Seriously--it exists? Canaanite-culture inspired music? I've included links to all the musical goodies, ancient and modern, below: ancient pieces first, and modern items--like heavy metal--at the end.

The Hymn to Nikkal
The goddess Nikkalu-wa-Ibbi, The Fruitful and Radiant one, can lay claim to the oldest recorded hymn on earth, circa 1300-1200 BCE (about 3300-3200 years ago).
In doing a search for “Hymn to Nikkal” or “Oldest Music in the World,” you will run into several different versions of this hymn found in the Canaanite city of Ugarit, in southern modern-day Syria. Here are but a few versions--keep in mind that these versions will sound different because scholars still debate how to read Ugaritic-Hurrian musical notation, and because each musician will add her or his own style to the piece.

Many of these pieces above--Janet Smith, Michael Levy, Malik Jandali, and Declann Flynn, and Salim George Khalaf--are based on Anne Kilmer’s scholarship. There are a couple of old midi files based on Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin’s transcription or M. L. West's transcription. (Alas, this link is old and not functioning, but I will leave it up in case the issue is resolved later.) Remember that this is all the same song, just different opinions on how it would have sounded, or how an artist would like it to sound today. The cuneiform musical notation the Canaanites wrote looked nothing like modern musical notation today.

De Organographia’s Music of the Ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, and Greeks
I have lauded this album many times, and will continue to do so. Although the album title never says anything about the Canaanites, archaeologists uncovered all of these “Hurrian Hymns” at the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit, from roughly 1200 BCE (3200 years ago). The track A Zaluzi to the Gods is indeed the “Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal” often spoken of in Canaanite groups. This entire album is comprised of reconstructed ancient music found in actual ancient notations, and the performers use instruments available in the right time period and part of the world including lute, lyre, and sistrum. North Pacific Music has the best price on this album; if you try to buy it from Amazon, you will pay through the nose. Listen to samples of many of tracks.

Janet Smith’s Seven Modes for an Ancient Lyre
This album has ancient, traditional, and modern pieces on it, and the modern pieces are in keeping with ancient musical techniques. It, too, has a version of Nikkal’s hymn, which on this album is called “Hurrian Moonrise.” The instruments used include a lyre and a synthesizer. Read the stories behind the songs, or purchase a CD.

Modern Music
Abohotho is a soothing modern atmospheric blend which evokes the past majesty of the ancient Near Eastern cultures, with tracks such as “I Thundered Like Adad.” Listen to samples of four tracks.
And finally, for the metalheads--be sure to check out Therion: Symphonic/Goth Metal. Their piece “Land of Canaan” encompasses various bizarre orchestrations and poetic lyrics.

Photo Credits: This work of art is in the public domain. For details, click here.


  1. Wow! This music is great! Thank you for sharing these links.

    1. Hi, Jay, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Yishlam le-ka, Peace and wellbeing to you.