Abu l-Hasan ĎAli
(Persian and Arabic:
√»ś «ŠÕ”š ŕŠŪ «»š š«›ŕ
) (c. 789ó857), nicknamed Ziryab
Kurdish Zorab, also means golden
water in Persian language), was an Iraqi
Kurdish) poet, musician, singer,
cosmetologist, fashion designer, celebrity, trendsetter and
strategist at the Umayyad court of Córdoba in Islamic Spain.
According to some sources, he was a former slave, possibly a
Zanj of Tanzanian descent. The name
"Ziryab" (Blackbird) was given to
him for his dark complexion, eloquence, and melodious voice.
He first achieved notoriety at the Abbasid court in Baghdad,
Iraq, his birth place, as a performer and student of the great
musician and composer, Ishaq al-Mawsili.
was a gifted pupil of Ishaq al-Mawsili.
He had to leave Baghdad when his skills as a musician surpassed
those of his teacher. He moved to Córdoba in southern Spain and
was accepted as court musician in the court of
II of the Umayyad Dynasty (822-52).
left Baghdad some time after the death of the Caliph al-AmÓn
in 813 and traveled first to Sham (Syria), then to
Ifriqiyya (Tunisia), where he lived
at the Aghlabid court of
Ziyadat Allah (ruled 816-837).
Ziryab fell out with
Ziyadat Allah but was invited to Al-Andalus
by the Umayyad prince, al-Hakam I.
He found on arrival in 822 that the prince had died, but the
prince's son, Abd
ar-Rahman II, renewed his father's
invitation. Ziryab settled in
Córdoba, where he soon became even more celebrated as the
court's aficionado of food, fashion, singing and music. He
introduced standards of excellence in all these fields as well
as setting new norms for elegant and noble manners. He was an
intimate companion of the prince and established a school of
music that trained singers and musicians which influenced
musical performance for at least two generations after him. In
the 9th Century he introduced the New Year celebration based on
the Iranian holiday Newroz to the
courts of Andalusia in Spain and thence to Europe.
is said to have improved the 'ud by
adding a fifth pair of strings, and using an eagle's beak or
quill instead of a wooden pick. He is said to have created a
unique and influential style of musical performance, and written
songs that were performed in Spain for generations. He was a
great influence on Spanish music, and is considered the founder
of the Andalusian music traditions
of North Africa and the Middle East. Zyriab
is thought to have codified the disparate elements of Arab
poetic traditions of qasidah,
al-Rahman II was a great patron of
the arts and Zyriab was given a
great deal of freedom. He established one of the first schools
of music. He was a great virtuoso on the 'ud
and an amazing singer. Ziryab also
introduced musical instrumentsónotably the Persian lute that
became the Spanish guitaróas well as passionate songs, tunes
and dances of Persia and Mesopotamia that later, mixed with
Gypsy influence, evolved into the famed Spanish flamenco.
Ziryab established a music
conservatory at the court of Abdel-Rahman
at Cordoba. (The German scholarly book "Moorish Architecture" by
Barrucand states that
Ziryab also introduced good taste,
fine court manners and even new hair cuts into Spain)
Fashion and Hygiene
is said to have had a lasting influence on fashion, bringing
styles from the Middle East to Al-Andaluz,
including sophisticated styles of clothing based on seasonal and
daily timings. In winter, for example, costumes were made
essentially from warm cotton or wool items usually in dark
colours and summer garments were
made of cool and light costumes involving materials such as
cotton, silk and flax in light and bright
colours. Brilliant colours
for these clothes were produced in tanneries and dye works which
the Muslim world perfected its production, for example, in 12th
century Fes, Morocco, there were more than 86 tanneries and 116
In daily timing Ziryab
suggested different clothing for mornings, afternoons and
evenings. Henry Terrace, a French historian, commented on the
fashion work of Ziryab; "He
introduced winter and summer dresses, setting exactly the dates
when each fashion was to be worn. He also added dresses of half
season for intervals between seasons. Through him, the luxurious
dress of the Orient was introduced in Spain. Under his influence
a fashion industry was set up, producing
coloured striped fabric and coats of transparent fabric,
which is still found in Morocco today.", though Terrace goes on
to caution "Without a doubt, a lone man could not achieve this
transformation. It is rather a development which shook the
Muslim world in general, although historic legend attributes all
these changes to Ziryab and his
is known to have invented an early toothpaste, which he
popularized throughout Islamic Spain.
The exact ingredients of this toothpaste are not currently
known, but it was reported to have been both "functional and
pleasant to taste." He also introduced under-arm deodorants
and "new short hairstyles leaving the neck, ears and eyebrows
free," as well as shaving for men.
For women, he opened a beauty
parlour or ďcosmetology schoolĒ near
Alcázar, where he introduced a
"shorter, shaped cut, with bangs on the forehead and the ears
uncovered." He also taught "the shaping of eyebrows and the use
of depilatories for removing body hair", and he introduced new
perfumes and cosmetics.
He also "revolutionized the local cuisine," by
introducing new fruit and vegetables such as asparagus, and by
introducing the three-course meal, insisting that meals should
be served in three separate courses consisting of soup, the main
course, and dessert. He also introduced the use of crystal as a
container for drinks, which was more effective than metal
He was an arbiter of fashion and taste.
Ziryab's influence is felt to this
day, especially in music and food. Prior to his arrival in al-Andalus
in 822, there had been no style in food presentation since the
Roman Empire. Food was served plainly on platters on bare
tables, much as remains the "traditional" style in the middle
east to this day.
changed that. He brought with him many dishes from Baghdad,
introduced fine tablecloths and glassware instead of metal
goblets, and developed a new order of service for the table.
This "more elegant, better-bred and modern style" became
established in al-Andalus, thence
spread across the Pyrenees to Europe, and became the standard
service we still use today. Hence the banquet will be served
according to the precepts of Ziryab,
and so will differ from a the "traditional" style of serving one
associates with Islamic food.
Louie Provencal, the renowned historian of
Spanish civilization says about Ziryab,
"he was a genius and his influence in Spanish society of the
time not only encompassed music but also all aspects of
Society.Ē Titus Burckhardt, the German historian of Islam
writes, ďhe was a genius musical scholar and at the same time
the one who brought Persian music to Spain and consequently to
all of the western world.Ē[cite
^ A Literary History of the Arabs. Reynold
Alleyne Nicholson. p.418
^ Persian and Turkish Loan-words in Malay. Muhammad Abdul
Jabbar Beg. 1982.
^ Hispano Arabic Poetry: A Student Anthology. James T. Monroe.
Gorgias Press. 2004.
^ Colors of Enchantment: Theater, Dance, Music, and the Visual
Arts of the Middle East. Sherifa
^ The Holy Sword: The Story of Islam from Muhammad to the
Present. Robert Payne. 1961. p.186
^ Aspects of Jewish Culture in the Middle Ages. Paul Edward
^ The Story of the Moors in Spain. Stanley
Lane-Poole, Arthur Gilman. p.81
«ŠŌیš ‘›«) in
his book Iran and Spain («ی—«š
ś «”Ā«šی«) goes
into detail about the fallacy of claims of
Ziryab's "Arab origins". His argument can be found on
p.325-340 of his book.
publications 2005 (š‘—
A copy of the book is located at the Perry-Castañeda
Library at DS274 S523
^ a b c d Andalusian Feast
^ Ana Ruiz, page 53, Vibrant Andalusia: Moorish Culture in
Southern Spain, Published 2007, Algora Publishing, ISBN
^ Cello - Los Kurdos - Transoxiana 2
^ CULTURA | Flamenco y música kurda: un tronco común
^ La Gastronomia En Al-Andalus: Islam Y Al-Andalus
^ La Orden Sufi Nematollahi /
^ a b Sertima, Ivan Van (1992), The Golden Age of the Moor,
Transaction Publishers, p. 17, ISBN 1560005815
^ Newroz Films
^ al-Hassani, Woodcok and Saoud (2004), 'Muslim Heritage in Our
World', FSTC publisinhg, p.38-39.
^ Terrace, H. (1958) 'Islam d'Espagne' une rencontre de l'Orient
et de l'Occident", Librairie Plon, Paris, pp.52-53.
^ a b Sertima, Ivan Van (1992), The Golden Age of the Moor,
Transaction Publishers, p. 267, ISBN 1560005815 21.
^ a b Lebling Jr., Robert W. (July-August 2003), "Flight of the
Blackbird", Saudi Aramco World: 24-33,
Retrieved on 28 January 2008
^ a b Salma Khadra
Jayyusi and Manuela Marin (1994), The
Legacy of Muslim Spain, p. 117, Brill Publishers, ISBN
Titus Burckhardt, "Die Maurische
Ziryab, the musician, astronomer,
fashion designer and gastronome FSTC Limited, Fri 13 June, 2003.
Flight of the Blackbird Robert W. Lebling
Jr., Saudi Aramco World July/August