Earliest Coptic Recordings at the Arabic Music Institute

edited January 2011 in Hymns Discussion
I was reading this article titled: Coptic Chant, A survey of Past Research and A Projection for The Future by John Gillespie and it mentioned on page 235 that

The first recordings of Coptic chant were produced in conjunction with the Arabic Music Congress held in Cairo in 1932. Nine records of Coptic church melodies were made under the direction of Erich von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs... These records, which may be heard at the Arabic Music Institute in Cairo, mark a major advance in Coptic music research...
This is obviously pretty fascinating as the earliest recordings any of us have ever heard are from the late 60s. I am asking any of our brothers and sisters in Cairo and are interested in Coptic hymns to pay a visit to the Arabic Music Institute and attempt to digitize these recordings to preserve them and share them with the world. The site for the Cairo Opera House Theaters has some information on the institute at http://www.cairoopera.org/arab_music.aspx and http://www.cairoopera.org/a_arab_music.aspx

This might be their contact information:
22 Ramsis St., City Center, Cairo
22 ش رمسيس, وسط البلد, القاهرة
+20 (2) 574 3373
+20 (2) 354 1893


  • The earliest recordings you have available to you are from the late 1960s? Are you sure about this? I had always read that the first recording of Coptic hmyns available in the West was recorded by Aziz S. Atiya when he was president of the Institute of Coptic Studies, sometime in the late 1950s and released by the Folkways label (now owned by the Smithsonian) in 1960s. I have this recording -- it is about 25 minutes in total (only 6 hyms), recorded in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo. It even came with a nice little booklet with all the words handwritten in Coptic and transliterated (a bit oddly...) in Roman characters. I sometimes use this recording to practice and memorize, actually. It is good for that. You can purchase it on CD from the Smithsonian Folkways website here, but from what I understand it will come on a home-made CD, so the price seems a bit high to me. On the other hand, you can listen to samples and even download the booklet for free also at that link!  ;D

    I also have two recordings made by famous Bangladeshi ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya of the Coptic liturgy in the late 1950s - one dated 1957 recorded in Nazareth, and the other one undated but presumably from the early to mid-1960s from Egypt released by Phillips company in the Netherlands as part of their "Music of the World" series. So I know there was Coptic music available before the late 1960s, and no doubt there's more that I haven't found yet, like this (at that price, I consider it as good as "not found").

    I would love to hear and digitize these 1932 recordings...it's a shame I am currently over seven thousand miles away from Cairo. Hopefully someone here can step up and volunteer their services.
  • I actually came upon the 6 hymns produced by folkway records yesterday but I had already heard these on the other recordings of the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies but thanks for sharing the link.

    As far as the other two recordings you have from the 50s/60s, it would be wonderful if you could digitize these so we can share them on this site if they're of good quality. PM for details if you're interested.

    Anyone from Egypt ready to take on the task of hunting for these 1932 recordings and perhaps digitizing them?
  • Any luck on getting access to these recordings?  I do have a copy of the Folkways vinyl record btw.  It's really a treasure.
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