The Arab Music Archiving and Research foundation (AMAR), in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), presents “Min al-Tārīkh”.
Welcome to a new episode of “Min al-Tārīkh”.
Today, we will be talking about Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī and his disciples with our very dear guest, singer and master of Iraqi maqām Mr. Husayn al-A‘zami.
Mr. Husayn, what can you tell us about Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī, knowing that all the listeners in Egypt know about him is his participation in the 1932 Congress of Arab Music and the discs he recorded during this Congress.
I will start by thanking Mr. Mustafa Said for his beautiful introduction to today’s episode.
Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī’s arrival on the music scene was a new modern turn –modernism in a broad sense– in Iraqi maqām among his predecessors and those who followed, as it represents a turning point between the before and after of Iraqi maqām. This new modernism that he brought to the Iraqi maqām was truly a novelty, unlike the modernism and creations of his predecessors that concerned the core of the maqām and remained within the same environment. Whereas, the change brought by Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī was also a result of his travels outside Iraq and the various types of music he listened to and was influenced by, added to the Arabic and non-Arabic singing phrases he applied to the core of Iraqi maqām, causing a turmoil with the singing. He recorded in Germany and in Cairo within his participation in the first Congress of Arab Music held in Cairo in 1932, added to his 1920s recordings made in Germany and in Baghdad with the record companies that came to Baghdad and made many recordings there. He recorded up to 60 discs of maqām-s and songs.
What about his birth and early years?
The pioneers disagree on his date of his birth. He said himself that he was born in 1901, yet we can’t even affirm this.
This doesn’t mean anything… Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Wahāb said that himself was born in 1910!
It seems that Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī had personal reasons for saying this.
They like to pretend they are younger.
Exactly! In fact, Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī neither liked to look at himself in the mirror nor to talk or to hear anyone talk about death. He was very sensitive to this. I asked his son Ṣubḥī, may he rest in peace, whom I saw after his father died, if the latter was born in 1901, and he said: Yes. I mentioned in my book on the ṭarīqa al-Qubangiyya that Ḥamdī Qaddūr, a teacher at the faculty who taught me Harmony and Counterpoint and was apparently close to Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī or a relative of him, said that ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Sharaf, the brother of ‘Abd al-Ḥamīd Sharaf who has a street to his name here in Amman in al-Shmaysānī, was born in 1889, and used to say that al-Qubbāngī played with them as a kid.
I believe this!
Which implies that he was born close to 1889-90-91. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Sharaf said that al-Qubbāngī used to play with them when they were kids, knowing that Sharaf is from the same generation as Nūrī al-Sa‘īd, Iraq’s Prime Minister in the first half of the 20th century, i.e. born around 1889. This proves, at least, that al-Qubbāngī was not born in 1901. Some sources state that he was born in 1897, and others in 1895… The truth is lost in the midst of all these different statements and opinions.
1901 sounds unlikely: When al-Qubbāngī recorded in Iraq for the first time, then signed a contract with Baidaphon in the summer 1927 to record in Germany following the latest electrical recording technology and did so at the beginning of 1928, he could not have been very young as he must have been very famous in order to be chosen among all the others to record at the company’s headquarters. It is unlikely and too early that he reached fame when he was 24 or 25.
Moreover, the voice in these 1920s recordings is not the voice of a 24 year’ old. It is the voice of a man in his thirties, maybe 35 or 38…
Even his voice in the Cairo recording is a mature voice, not the voice of a 30 year’ old at all.
Let us listen to these recordings…
Anyway, his date of birth doesn’t make an agreement.
He passed away on April 2nd, 1989, at the age of –officially– 88, and was buried at his mosque that he had built in “al-Ḥārithiyya” in Baghdad.
Let us stop here in Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī’s journey and leave the details for our next episode.
We have reached the end of today’s episode of “Min al-Tārīkh” in which we have played al-Qubbāngī’s recordings made during Baidaphon’s 1924 recording campaign, those he recorded in Berlin in 1928, and those made in Cairo in 1932.
We will meet again in a new episode of “Min al-Tārīkh” to resume our discussion about al-ṭarīqa al-Qubbāngiyya and about Mr. Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī.
“Min al-Tārīkh” is brought to you by Mustafa Said.