The Arab Music Archiving and Research foundation (AMAR), in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), presents “Min al-Tārīkh”.
Dear listeners, welcome to a new episode of “Min al-Tārīkh”.
Today, we will be resuming our discussion about Dāwūd Afandī Ḥusnī with Prof. Frédéric Lagrange.
Let us talk about Dāwūd Ḥusnī the muṭrib, performer, and instrumentalist, not only the composer.
I do not enjoy Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s voice, but I have to admit that his performance was truly genial.
He made recordings with Zonophone, including “Sallimti rūḥak” that can be compared to ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī’s version.
Let us listen to an excerpt…
I disagree with you concerning his voice: I really like listening to him, and reach salṭana.
He was a true muṭrib… I can’t understand why one should have a beautiful voice in order to be a muṭrib … I truly enjoy listening to him.
There is a beautiful recording of him at the 1932 Cairo Congress of Arab Music –5 years before he died– singing dawr “I‘shaq el-khāliṣ li-ḥubbak” to the ṣabā… His performance is extraordinary.
Many sang “I‘shaq el-khalāṣ li-ḥubbak” including Sayyid al-Safṭī and ‘Abd al-Ḥayy among others, yet Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s performance of this dawr is unparalleled.
Moreover, it was not composed by him, but by his teacher Muḥammad ‘Uthmān.
Besides being a performer and a muṭrib, Dāwūd Ḥusnī was also an excellent ‘ūdist.
As a professional ‘ūd player yourself, what would you say is the particularity of Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s ‘ūd playing?
I am flattered…
First: Dāwūd Ḥusnī is among the ‘ūd players who had many instruments, each set to a specific pitch, and he would play a certain taqsīma with a ‘ūd set to a specific pitch. He had five ‘ūd instruments and always accompanied his singing with a ‘ūd set to the qarār, i.e. safārjā or sīpurdā, or a little lower, i.e. the yildiz in Turkish.
He had other ‘ūd instruments set to the high shāh, i.e. our rāst/Fa. The safārjā or the sīpurdā correspond to the rāst/Do in the modern terminology.
As we said earlier, he played a specific taqsīma with a specific ‘ūd, and he was very much aware of the effect of the musical pitch of the taqsīm on the human ear.
Second: his pick was light and fluid, and he knew when to stop singing, i.e. when to say iss, and segment the phrase.
Consequently, his phrases were short, very pleasant, and delightful to listeners who can’t help saying “Allāh”, or “beautiful!”, after each phrase or remain silent.
As to the rhythm, he had an extraordinary ability to leave it while playing taqsīm muwaqqa‘ then go back to it, without the support of his pick’s beat and only relying on the beat of his head and that of the phrase.
Exactly. Al-Qaṣṣabjī always tried to beat the tempo with his pick, and listeners can feel the dum, i.e. the pressure of the pick, whereas Dāwūd Ḥusnī relied on his head.
He also often used his left hand to produce with the pressure of his fingers notes a pick can’t produce… an unusual practice at the time.
Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s fame as a ‘ūdist is also proved by his Odeon recordings made in 1920 or 1922…
This sequence of 6 discs published in 1922 was exclusively dedicated to taqsīm to the bayyātī or to the rāst; One side included a “regular” taqsīm, i.e. mursal rhythm, and the second side included a taqsīm ‘ala al-waḥda.
…this, of course, added to his recordings as a muṭrib made by Gramophone with whom he also recorded taqsīm.
Which taqsīm will you play for us?
I would love to listen to taqsīm to the ḥijāzkār recorded on two sides by Gramophone, probably in 1913. One side includes a “regular” taqsīm to the ḥijāzkār, and the second one includes a taqsīm to the ḥijāzkār ‘ala al-waḥda, with the ‘ūd set to a high pitch…
Let us go back to Dāwūd Ḥusnī the composer…
Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s artistic production as a composer is divided into three parts: dawr, ṭaqṭūqa, and theatre tunes.
Let us start with the dawr:
Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s style is an extension to Muḥammad ‘Uthmān’s school… A characteristic shared by Ibrāhīm al-Qabbānī.
Our episode dedicated to the latter included many allusions to the noble competition between them: one singing a dawr to a certain Turkish maqām yet Arabicized into a true Egyptian style, and the other one trying his luck to the same maqām: a similar dawr and a competing dawr.
Let us listen to one of these competitive dawr “El-alb fī ḥukm el-hawa”.
The characteristic of this dawr is Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s incomprehension of its maqām and his invention of something that may be superior to the initially intended melodic pattern he was supposed to follow if he had succeeded in performing this maqām.
The dawr to the ḥijāzkār kurd –or what he calls ḥijāzkār kurd–follows a “new” pattern of this maqām: he started to the ḥijāzkār and performed the qafla to the kurd, unlike the Turkish sāzīndā.
There is actually an Arabic aspect to this melodic pattern: he sometimes performed the qafla to the bayyātī, not to the kurd.
Shall we listen to this dawr in the voice of Sayyid al-Ṣaftī or Dāwūd Ḥusnī?
In the voice of Sayyid al-Ṣaftī…
We are done with Dāwūd Ḥusnī’s voice!
Just for your sake… If someone else were sitting opposite me, I would have played it in the voice of Dāwūd Ḥusnī.
Let us listen to Sayyid al-Ṣaftī’s dawr “El-alb fī ḥukm el-hawa” recorded by Gramophone.
We have reached the end of today’s episode of “Min al-Tārīkh”.
We thank Prof. Frédéric Lagrange and we will meet again in a new episode to resume our discussion about Dāwūd Afandī Ḥusnī.
“Min al-Tārīkh” is brought to you by Mustafa Said.