Ziryab Abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn Nafi

b. 789

Born in
Iraq in 789, he was a musician, 'ud master and cultural innovator who became chief musician and arbiter at the court of Abd al-¬Rahman II, a great patron of the arts, in Cordoba in 822.

In Baghdad he was a student of the renowned musician and composer Ishaq al-Mawsili. His talents soon surpassed his teacher’s , and fame led to an invitation by the Umayyad caliph Al-Hakim, the father of Abd al-Rahman II, to be the court musician in Cordoba. The cultural life in Andalusia was flourishing at the time, and Ziryab is credited with introducing to Spain many of the refinements of the Baghdad court: etiquette, gastronomy, crystal glasses, leather furniture and perfumes, cosmetics, toothpaste and new fashions.

He introduced eastern musical instruments to Spain, most importantly the lute (‘ud). He added a fifth bass string to the ‘ud and other structural changes. The ‘ud evolved in Spain into the guitar. Ziryab also established the first conservatory of music in Cordoba, and he rearranged musical theory to allow new ways of expression through song such as the muwashah and the zajal.