Vocal Styles from Around the World


Authored by Christiane Karam


Course Code: OVOIC-300

Next semester starts September 23

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


The goal of this course is to broaden your global horizons and introduce you to various vocal traditions from around the world. While the scope of the course cannot encompass every single tradition and/or region of the globe, it will be instrumental in helping you recognize, appreciate, and execute basic vocal techniques and vocabularies from a wide array of traditions across all continents and apply these basic concepts to your own music. The sequence of regions was loosely based on the journey of the Roma people from South Asia all the way to Spain, and further extended into the connection of the Iberian peninsula with Latin America, as well as a loop around East Asia and the Pacific.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Develop a strong foundation and knowledge in various styles from around the world
  • Understand more clearly the history and context around many vocal traditions from around the world and how they intersect
  • Recognize diverse vocal styles from many cultures and traditions around the world
  • Execute various vocal techniques from various regions around the world
  • Reflect on these concepts and techniques and practice integrating them into your own music and artistic vision
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: The Music of India

  • The Music of India
  • Raga (Melody)
  • Raga Kambhoji (Carnatic)
  • Raga Bhairavi (Hindustani)
  • Raga Yaman (Hindustani)/ Raga Kalyani (Carnatic)
  • Tala (Meter)
  • Carnatic Talas
  • Hindustani Talas
  • Manodharma (Improvisation)
  • Different Styles/Forms of Vocal Music: Carnatic
  • Different Styles/Forms of Vocal Music: Hindustani
  • Folk Traditions
  • Film Music
  • Assignment 1: Transcription and Reflection

Lesson 2: Musical Examples of Hawaii, Mongolia, Tuva, China, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland

  • Musical Examples: Hawaii
  • Musical Examples: Mongolia and Tuva
  • Musical Examples: China
  • Musical Examples: Japan
  • Musical Examples: Russia
  • Musical Examples: Ukraine
  • Musical Examples: Finland
  • Musical Examples: Sweden
  • Musical Examples: Iceland
  • Assignment 2: Transcription and Reflection

Lesson 3: The Music of the Caucasus

  • The Music of Armenia
  • Komitas and Armenian Folk Music
  • Ashoughs and Other Vocal Traditions
  • The Music of Iran
  • Modes and Improvisation
  • The Music of Georgia
  • Georgian Polyphony
  • Musical Examples: Azerbaijan
  • Musical Examples: Kurdistan
  • Assignment 3: Singing and Reflection

Lesson 4: The Music of the Levant

  • Key Concepts in Arabic Music
  • The Maqam System
  • Maqamat Hijaz, Bayati, and Rast
  • Voice, Phrasing, and Ornamentation
  • Īqāʿāt (Rhythms)
  • Īqāʿāt Jam Session
  • Legends of Classical Arabic Music
  • Assignment 4: Singing and Reflection

Lesson 5: The Music of the Arabian Peninsula and Africa

  • The Music of the Arabian Peninsula
  • Musical Examples: Yemen
  • Musical Examples: Saudi Arabia
  • Musical Examples: Bahrain
  • Musical Examples: Kuwait
  • Musical Examples: United Arab Emirates
  • Musical Examples of North Africa: Algeria
  • Musical Examples of North Africa: Morocco
  • Musical Examples of West Africa: Ghana
  • Musical Examples of West Africa: Nigeria
  • Assignment 5: Singing and Reflection

Lesson 6: The Music of the Balkans

  • The Choral Tradition of Bulgaria
  • Bulgaria’s Regional Singing Styles
  • Singing Styles from Dobrudzha, Strandzha, and Trakia Regions
  • Singing Styles from Severnyashka, Shopluk, Pirin, and Rhodopska Regions
  • Exploring Rhythms of the Balkans Region
  • Musical Examples: Greece
  • Musical Examples: Turkey
  • Assignment 6: Transcription, Singing, and Reflection

Lesson 7: The Music of Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Transylvania

  • Musical Examples: Poland
  • Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War
  • The Music of Hungary
  • Musical Examples: Romania
  • Musical Examples: Transylvania
  • Regional Songs Styles: Hungary
  • Regional Songs Styles: Transylvania and Romania
  • Assignment 7: Singing and Reflection

Lesson 8: The Music of the Mediterranean

  • The Music of Italy
  • Regional Styles from Southern Italy: Sardegna
  • Regional Styles from Southern Italy: Napoli
  • Regional Styles from Southern Italy: Sicilia
  • Regional Styles from Southern Italy: Calabria and Puglia
  • Regional Styles from Central Italy
  • Regional Styles from Northern Italy
  • Musical Examples: France
  • Musical Examples: Corsica
  • Assignment 8: Transcription and Reflection

Lesson 9: The Music of Portugal and Spain

  • The Music of Portugal
  • Portuguese Fado
  • Fado Styles
  • The Music of Spain: Andalucía
  • Flamenco Repertoire and Rhythms
  • Assignment 9: Singing, Transcription, and Reflection

Lesson 10: The Music of Central America, the Caribbean, and Latin America

  • Musical Examples: Mexico
  • Musical Examples: Cuba
  • Musical Examples: Colombia
  • Musical Examples: Peru
  • Musical Examples: Argentina
  • Assignment 10: Transcription and Reflection

Lesson 11: The Music of Brazil

  • The Music of Bahia
  • Choro and Samba
  • Bossa Nova
  • MPB (Música Popular Brasileira)
  • Assignment 11: Singing, Transcription, and Reflection

Lesson 12: Sacred Vocal Styles from Around the World

  • Byzantine Music
  • Gregorian Chant
  • Sufi Music
  • Moroccan Gnawa
  • Master Musicians of Jajouka
  • Qawwali
  • Bobby McFerrin’s Spirits of Music
  • Assignment 12: Transcription and Reflection


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Basic vocal training or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.
Students should be able to:

  • Read Western European music notation
  • Transcribe music at a beginner level
  • Record a performance using a DAW or App


  • No textbooks required

Media and Subscriptions


  • Students are required to record video for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Application that allows you to change the speed of an audio file without changing the pitch, as well as set custom loop points, such as Moises, Amazing Slow Downer, most DAWs, etc.


  • Students are required to capture their performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (required if multitracking and/or input monitoring)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need an XLR cable, microphone stand, and pop filter.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Christiane Karam

Author & Instructor

Born and raised in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon, Christiane Karam’s unique vocal style stems from her love for different musical traditions. She is the leader and founder of the award-winning ZilZALA Ensemble, which blends classical, traditional, and folk music from different regions of the Middle East and the Balkans with contemporary jazz. She has taught and performed around the world, and collaborated with the likes of Yanka Rupkina, Tigran Hamasyan, Hüsnü Şenlendirici, Javier Limon, the Assad Brothers, Binka Dobreva, Javier Limon, and Bobby McFerrin, at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Summerstage, Symphony Space, and Teatro National. She appeared in the 2009 PBS documentary film The Music Instinct: Science and Song, featuring Bobby McFerrin, Daniel Levitin, Oliver Sacks, Daniel Barenboim, and Yo-Yo Ma, and has also been featured on VH1.

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In addition to coaching and performing, Christiane is an award-winning songwriter and the founder and leader of both the Pletenitsa Balkan Choir and the Berklee Middle Eastern Festival. She is also the director of the Berklee Annual International Folk Festival. Her latest project, NAR, with the Christiane Karam Quintet, was released in January 2022 to rave reviews, and strives to explore human connection and the journey of healing darkness and separation, while celebrating the exuberance and depth of the vast array of musical traditions she comes from. She is also a published author. Her book Of Broken Pieces and Light Ahead, a mix of poetry and prose which speaks to the resilience of the human spirit, was released in May 2022.

Christiane is currently on the faculty of Berklee College of Music, where she continues her work of bringing awareness and positive social change through music and the arts. As a holistic practitioner, she is committed to promoting wellness and balance through various mind-body practices. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Vocal Styles from Around the World can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Major


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

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