Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Musical History of the Muwashah

By: Mireille Aziz, Yomna Dalam and Nora Elbadawy

CAIRO, Egypt- On Sunday April 6thThe Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilization in The American University in Cairo, AUC, hosted the lecture “A Musical History of the Muwashah” by Dr. Dwight Reynolds, professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The lecture took place in the Mohamed Shafik Gabr Hall.

The lecture was brief, straight to the point and provided a great insight about a genre of music which many people are not familiar with. Reynolds started by defining Muwashah as a form of poetry which arose from medieval Muslim Spain, Andalusia, originating from the 10th-11th century. Reynolds further explained, "Muwashah is a form and genre of poetry; however, Muwashah has always been mainly a form of music and song." Reynolds added to that by emphasizing on the point that Muwashah cannot be separated from its musical aspect since it is not only a type of poetry; it is also a type of song. The two main instruments used in Muwashah music are the Arabic loot, which is known as the Oud, and the Rebab.

Preceding the period of the Muwashah, there was the period of the Sawt; it was the period which transformed poems to songs. Reynolds further explained the difference between the period which transformed poems to songs and the Muwashah by referring to several examples from Kitab al-Aghani – The Book of Songs. Furthermore, Reynolds added that there are two different techniques in Muwashahs: logocentric and melocentric. Logocentric is when the Muwashah focuses on the text and lyrics while melocentric is when the Muwashah focuses on the music.

Reynolds stated that regardless of the two techniques that can be used in a Muwashah, it can always be identified from its basic formal characteristics which include two halves and a break in the middle. It also has a kafya (rhyme) which is the same throughout the whole Muwashah. In addition to that, Muwashah patterns with multiple rhymes, alternating groups of long and short lines. The texts were usually long - between 20-25 verses. Contrary to several old views in the past, Muwashahs are not composed as poems and then transformed to songs; they were originally composed as songs. However, there is a technique called contrafactum by which poets, who were not composers and wished to create Muwashahs, would write their own poems and put their words to other people’s melodies and form a Muwashah. Reynolds ended the lecture by explaining that Muwashahs have the same form; however, they have different social meanings and different statuses in each region.

Katiana Talib, a translator, found the lecture extremely interesting; she was fascinated by the examples Reynolds provided during his discourse. She also told us that she listens to a lot of music and has heard Muwashahs before but she has never studied about them. Dr. Adam Talib, the organizer of the event and a classical Arabic literature professor at AUC, told us "I chose to have a lecture about Muwashah music particularly because students do not know anything about Arabic music and I want to encourage them to learn more about it."

No comments:

Post a Comment