Ziriab was a ninth-century Arab musician who lived Baghdad, where he was the student of a famous teacher, Ishaq al-Mawsili. Fearing he would be overshadowed, Ishaq al-Mawsili took an intense dislike to his talented pupil. Ziriab left Baghdad and set out on journey across the Islamic Empire all the way to Andalusia, in what is today Spain. There, his music talent reached a peak, not only in the virtuosity of his playing the lute and other instruments, but also in theory. He founded a music school and made a number of changes to musical instruments that were well known at the time, particularly the 'Ud (or Arabian lute), to which he added a fifth string and completely altered its construction.
Many years later, in 1997, a few Arab residents of Prague founded a music group, and named themselves after the ninth-century master. The group has gone through several changes; at present it comprises two Syrians, Marwan Alsolaiman, who plays the 'Ud (Arabian lute) and Nay (or Arabian flute), and sings, and Haitham Farag, who plays the darbouka (Arabian drum) and sings, and a Lebanese, Mouin Abu Chahine, who sings and plays the daff (Arabian tambourine).
Ziriab sings its own arrangements of songs known throughout the Arab world. Some are so old that their origin can no longer be determined. They are therefore folk songs in the true sense of the word. Others have definite authors, but are so old and familiar that they have actually become folk songs. The third source from which Ziriab draws its repertoire consists of newer songs that nonetheless acknowledge the sounds and arrangements of classical Arab song.
The songs on this album come from all three sources. All are about love, as indicated by the subtitle, but each is slightly different from the next.