Tarab: Three Examples of Songs
Part 2 in George's Tarab Series
By Dr. George Dmitri Sawa
This article examines three historic musical compositions for dance performance. Two of them are instrumental pieces in the Arabic / Ottoman tarab musical style, and the third is the famous song "Lamma Bada Yatathanna". These are not only exquisite classics of dance music, but also beautiful tarab music. I have included links to show how dancers performed to them and portrayed the tarab inherent in the music.
"Dakhlet el-Awalem" translates into English as "Entrance of the Dancers", also referred to as the "Learned Ladies". The composer is unknown, and the piece is one of the most sophisticated dance songs. The combination of rhythmic mode, rhythm, melodic movements and melodies is designed to be jolly, flirtatious, and dance-oriented.
It is primarily in Huzam mode and uses these rhythms:
- It starts with a waltz
- Next a masmudi kabir (8/4)
- Masmudi saghir (4/4)
- Ayyub (2/4)
- Chifte telli with qanun taqsim
- Masmudi saghir
- Close with ayyub.
The dance is also known as "Raqset Badia Masabni". Taheyya Carioca danced to it on many occasions. I have recorded it on my CD The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Volume 1, Track 7, performing it on an antique qanun without levers (orabs).
Click here to watch a video clip in which Bruna Milani performs as I play live for her.
"Raqset el-Hawanem" is translated into English as "Dance of the Noble Ladies". The composer is unknown, and the dance is probably 150 years old. As the previous one, it is also in Huzam mode but contains less rhythmic variety. (This may have been the style, and it makes it harder to dance to in our modern era.) The combination of rhythmic mode, rhythm, melodic movements and melodies is designed to be jolly, flirtatious, and dance-oriented.
- Masmudi saghir (4/4)
- Wahda wa noss with measured improvisations
I have recorded this on my CD The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Volume 1, Track 2, performing it with an antique qanun without levers (orabs).
Click here to watch a video clip in which Nisaa did an admirable job reconstructing the dance and the costume that would have been contemporaneous with this song.
Click here to watch a video clip in which I play the music live for Carol Louro.
Lamma Bada Yatathanna
"Lamma Bada Yatathanna" translates to English as "When My Beloved Appeared Walking with a Swinging Gait". It is a love song. It is flirtatious and sad, as the lover seeks desperately the love and attention of his / her beloved.
The composer of the musical score is Selim el-Masri, and the song is in Nahawand (minor) mode played in sama’i rhythm (10/8). I have recorded it on my CD The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Volume 2, Track 5 using an antique qanun without levers (orabs). This recording begins with a dulab (prelude) and a short taqsim before beginning the song.
Click on this link to watch a video clip in which Iana Komarnytska uses my recording, beautifully portraying the emotions stemming from the tarab.
Click on this link to watch a video clip in which I play the song live for Nesrine as she performs.
About the Author
Dr. George Sawa was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He has over 50 years of experience in Arabic music performance, history and theory, and has performed and lectured extensively worldwide: Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Europe (Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Greece) and the Middle East (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates). He studied qanun, theory and voice at the Higher Institute of Arabic Music.
After immigrating to Canada, Dr. Sawa studied ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto, and obtained his doctorate in historical Arabic musicology. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on medieval, modern, and religious music of the Middle East at the University of Toronto and at York University.
Dr. Sawa is the author of:
- Music Performance Practice in the Early Abbasid Era. 132-320 AH/750-932 AD
- Rhythmic Theories and Practices in Arabic Writings to 339AH/950 CE (Ottawa: The Institute of Mediaeval Music, 2004 and 2009)
- An Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural Glossary of Kitab al-Aghani (The Book of Songs) of al-Isbahani (d. 971) (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2015).
- Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers
Dr. Sawa has published over 50 articles on Arabic music in refereed journals and encyclopedias, and is frequently invited to give lectures and concerts worldwide. In 2005, he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture for his research in Arabic music history.
George has been the musical director for several productions of the Toronto-based Arabesque Dance Company, and taught hundreds of dancers at the Arabesque Academy and Hannan's Bellydance Studio in Toronto, as well as studios in Canada, USA, Brazil and Mexico. His first CD release, The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 1, was nominated for a JUNO Award in World Music in 2009. A subsequent volume, The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 2, was released in 2009.
His book Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers has won international acclaim and serves as an invaluable - one of a kind - companion to bellydancers all over the world. (It is available in English, Chinese, French, Greek, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, German and Portuguese). A companion set of two DVDs produced with Lulu Hartenbach in Brazil includes over 50 tracks of dancing instruction from his CDs and book: Lulu and George Dimitri Sawa. Apreciação de Música Árabe para Bailarinas - Teoria & Prática 2 vols. Sao Paulo: Ventreoteca. Produzido por Kaleidoscopio de Ideias. Shimmie, 2015.
Presently Dr. Sawa is working on a book Erotica, Love, and Humor in Arabia which will be published by McFarland in 2016.
For more information on Dr. Sawa's books, musical recordings, and videos, see his web site at www.georgedimitrisawa.com .
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