MOSLEM MUSICIANS

An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath

[Based on Hariri's Maqamat, f19r of the 1237AD copy and on Hariri's Maqamat, f94v of the 1237AD copy]
See also:
Seljuks in Ayyuqi's Varka wa Gulshah f38/36b
Ilkhanids in Kitāb-i-Samak 'Iyār by Ibn Abī al-Qāsim Shīrāzī, Ṣadaqah, f039b
Jalayrids or Turks in 'King Minuchihr of Iran kills the fleeing Turanians'
62 & 63.      MOSLEM MUSICIANS

Mounted hands accompanied most Moslem armies in battle during this era, the Moslems believing that the more noise they made the bolder their spirits became and the more fear they struck into the hearts of their enemies (the Bedouins in particular were sensitive to the noise of drums); the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi records of Arsouf that 'before the amirs there went men clanging away with trumpets and clarions; others had drums, others pipes and timbrels (tambourines), rattles, gongs, cymbals, and other instruments suited to making a din. To raise these noises was the special duty of certain men; and the louder their din the fiercer their comrades fought.'

Probably most important of all were the nakers and kettle-drums. The nakers were great drums which accompanied the Sultan, or his commanders-in-chief, and could only be beaten at his personal command, to transmit orders on the battlefield. The Sultan's band, commanded by the Amir-'Alam, comprised 4 nakers, 40 kettle-drums, 4 hautboys, and 20 trumpets; some must have also carried cymbals and other instruments.

The importance of the bands can be judged from the fact that an 'amir with drums' (Amir al-Tablkhanah) was one of the highest ranks in the Mamluk military hierarchy, and that only an 'amir with drums' or an amir of 100 were permitted bands at all. Those of amirs of 100 seem to have consisted of 8 or 10 kettle-drums, 4 trumpets, 2 hautboys, 2 timbrals, plus other instruments. Amirs of 40 (i.e. 'amirs with drums') had 3 kettle-drums, later 2 kettle-drums and 2 flutes. In Saladin's day the amirs commanding Tulbs were each accompanied by at least a single trumpeter.

Though they are often shown carried on mules (but only rarely on horses), it was camels that were most commonly used for carrying drums, the drums of the Mamluks besieging Acre in 1291 being carried on as many as 300 camels.

The Mongols used nakers in an identical capacity to the Mamluks, the roll of the Khan's or army commander's nakers being the command to attack, 'for the Tartars,' reports Marco Polo, 'do not dare to start a battle till their lord's drums begin to beat.' Those of the Mongols appear to have averaged about one metre across, and were likewise usually carried on camels though Kublai Khan had some which appear to have been considerably bigger and were carried on elephants.

Though on the battlefield they normally transmitted orders by trumpet calls, even the Franks appear to have used drums in this capacity (undoubtedly under Moslem influence), William of Tyre relating how at Ascalon in 1125 the king 'ordered that his men be recalled by the sound of trumpet and roll of drum.'



Next: 64. SARACEN HERALDRY in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath




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