Iraqi Maqam Class #4

Hello Friends,

After a brief hiatus for Easter, the Iraqi Maqam class will return tomorrow (of course tomorrow is Easter for our Eastern Orthodox friends, so those of you who are unable to make it will be missed). There are three exciting things to note about tomorrow’s class: 1) The Iraqi television station Al-Hurra will be coming in to film the class—for those of you who have always dreamed of it, this is your chance to appear on Iraqi television! 2) in addition to reviewing the past two maqams we learned, Awj and Hwaizawi, we will be focusing on three songs from the Pesteh (popular song) repertoire: Foug il-Nakhl, l-efendi, and Win Ya Galub, each dealing with a different rhythm, hence I am dubbing tomorrow “Pesteh Sunday,” 3) Class time will be at 11:30 am. The reason for the time change is something that I’m excited about, namely that I will be performing with the Alwan Ensemble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium as part of the Sundays at the Met series. It is a free event starting at 2pm, so if you feel so inclined, come join me as I make the trip uptown (unless, of course, you are enrolled in the Womens’ Choir which meets after my class).

The last two Maqams that we learned were Maqam Awj, which is a fara‘ (branch) of Maqam Segah (info on this maqam is available in the previous post) and Maqam Hwayzawi. The latter maqam is attributed to the renowned singer, Mohammed al-Gubbenchi, who originally recorded it in 1929. Its name comes from an area called Haweza, located in the south of Iraq and home to many Marsh Arabs. This Maqam is in the Hijaz mode:

Hijaz G

Even though singers would normally choose a new poem to set to the maqam melodies, the poem sung by Gubbenchi in his original recording was considered such a perfect match to the maqam melodies that many following singers have sung the same poem to the point that Maqam Hwayzawi is often referred to as referred to as “Lema Anakhoo,” “ya rahib el-dayr” or some other line from the poem.

Here is a translation of the poem:

In the small hours of dawn, they loaded their camels and the caravan departed
O, Hadi*, halt! So that I may bid my love farewell
for in their leaving is my death
I was always faithful, my love unwavering
if they only knew what their departure has caused me
I discovered that they had left as the monk at the monastery was ringing the bell
I cried out to him, “in the name of the Bible, tell me
What happened to the full moons** that alighted here?”
I clasped my hands over my head and asked him
”Did the caravan pass you by?”
He wept, broke into tears, and told me
“Your chances have passed/the moons that you seek
yesterday they were here
but today they have gone”

*Hadi refers to the person who leads the caravan, often through singing poetry to the rhythm of the camel’s footsteps.
**full moons are a typical metaphor for beautiful faces. In this case, the speaker is ostensibly referring to just one.

Here is a recording of me singing Hwayzawi in the last class:

Please try to make tomorrow’s class – I guarantee you will be happy you made it! And don’t forget to wear your Sunday best; you may appear on people’s televisions all over Iraq!

Yours truly,
Amir