Yassine Ayari, a music educator at Qatar Foundation schools Academyati and Tariq Bin Ziad School, a Nay player, and an ethnomusicologist, talks about his experience in establishing imaginative curricula to teach students about the beauty and value of Qatari music.
“Shout shout yal batta, yrham allah men hatta, ma hatta gher suwera, w suwera rahit el bar, tijib el ishib al Akhdar…”
This is one of the Qatari heritage songs we teach in the music classrooms of Tariq bin Ziad School [one of the schools under Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education], which the students share and enjoy with their family members at home.
These Qatari citizens are proud of their musical heritage. But they are also worried about its extinction.
These Qatari citizens are proud of their musical heritage. But they are also worried about its extinction. That is because, today, this legacy is no longer transmitted as spontaneously in society as it was before but has instead retreated from its natural framework to turn into a form of entertainment for some - which has led to the features of some forms of traditional art changing, and subsequently losing their role/impact in building identity.
According to Grandmother Umm Ali, one of the grandmothers who we consider a source in documenting popular Qatari songs: “The song itself may differ from one region to another, and even within Qatar, but it is chanted in the same social celebrations in all regions, and they all carry a high social value that we want generations to pass on for hundreds of years”.
As a teacher of Arab music, ethnomusicologist, and a writer in the field of Qatari heritage. And, based on my communication with many Qatari musicians and specialists within the field of heritage preservation in Qatar, I was always interested to understand the content of this heritage and determine how it relates to the Qatari community.
My goal in doing this is so that I can enrich my experience in teaching music for the current generation, in addition to establishing initiatives aimed at preserving this heritage for future generations, as the Arab music culture is based on the principle of oral indoctrination. For example, fan al fijiri was not taught in schools, but was essential in pearling in the Gulf region.
Learning by playing
When I was teaching the flute nay and heading the Arab music department at Qatar music academy [a QF member], for eight years we did not imitate and copy any curriculum, but rather we wanted to achieve and innovate. The challenge was to bring together the concepts of oral/ written tradition, and the daily experience with students to establish educational curricula in the Department of Arab Music, which was a great success.
And when I started teaching last September at Tariq Bin Ziad School, which adopts the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and Academyati [a progressive school] both under the umbrella of QF's Pre-University Education], I found it not only enjoyable; but also, perfectly aligned with my personal vision.
Teaching music is not about reproducing books and curricula from the market but implementing new ways to ensure integration of students in daily activities where play is the only way to learn.
The educational path in these two schools is based on the principle of daily innovation and creativity in the educational process. Teaching music is not about reproducing books and curricula from the market but implementing new ways to ensure integration of students in daily activities where play is the only way to learn.
Learning music through play stimulates the student to think and ask: how does sound come from the instrument, rhythm, and musical language? What are the mechanisms of singing individually and collectively?
One example of this is an initiative was launched in these two schools: making musical instruments from recycling materials, where we explore the parts of an instrument such as the oud, violin, or Rababa. Students engaged in this activity with passion and integration through selecting recycling materials from their homes and thinking about what part of the instrument they could be used to make – the strings, the keys, the neck.
Students have a full understanding of how to make and produce sound. They recognize, when making musical instruments, the function of each of its parts: strings, pegs, and bridge. They learn measurements, numeracy, drawing, and design skills. At a later stage, they develop their scientific skills through learning how to build, produce and change the sound by stretching the strings. These themes are very important in music, and students learn them in line with their academic level and their age. The process is enjoyable, and free from the pressures that can be imposed by classical music education.
When students ask questions such as ‘why does the sound not change?’, we know we have opened new horizons for learning. Children have developed their own activities, so they are integrated in mind and body, which is what we aim to achieve at QF: creating communication between the student and the curriculum.
One of the most common challenges we faced in the Arab Music Department at QMA was the commitment of students to practicing and learning their instruments at home. We have thought about ways of enhancing students’ passion and making them more committed to practice.
One of my previous flute nay students did not like music but learned it at his father’s request, so one day I asked him to combine four musical scores together and play them, and I was writing instantly his play in a musical note, giving us an innovative music exercise. Since then, this student’s confidence in his abilities has strengthened and he has become more passionate about learning; even his Music named ‘When I was born’ is included today in my curriculum flute nay book for Preparatory Level.
It is no longer the music teacher who sings to the children and teaches them pre-defined materials without interacting with their needs. Through my presentation of the first music lesson about Mozart in a French school, I noticed the lack of enthusiasm of the music students. So, I included in the lesson an element about contemporary, youth-focused French music called "Slam", which has vividly and quickly changed the level of student interaction in the classroom. The combination of music education and the environment in which we live today promotes communication and interaction between the student, the curriculum, and the teacher.
As educators, and in cooperation with parents and students, we wanted to create solutions to maintain this communication, which we never expected would turn into virtual communication.
Since the beginning of the spread of COVID-19, everyone has faced a challenge on how to rebuild the social bonds that existed in our daily lives and build alternative relationships. As educators, and in cooperation with parents and students, we wanted to create solutions to maintain this communication, which we never expected would turn into virtual communication.
In fact, it is not only related to how to transfer the information - the resources of communication are many and varied - but goes is much deeper, as the relationship between the child and the teacher is both a human and emotional relationship, and the student's interaction in an atmosphere of positive competition creates a dynamic environment and supports the educational process.
Currently, the educational process in both Tariq Bin Ziad school and Academyati is continuing remotely, and since the two schools believe in the principles of innovation and creativity in education, we are witnessing interesting initiatives and new ways of learning that achieve tangible success.
The video clip which show students of Tariq Bin Ziad School and Academiaty singing virtually and performing together from home Garangao is a good example of the initiatives of sharing the heritage that will build bridges and interconnectivity between us, even amid this pandemic.