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037 – The sīkāh maqām


As mentioned in previous episodes, the sīkāh maqām –ranked as the third maqām – is made of two words: sīh meaning third, and kāh meaning maqām.

It was also known as the ‘irāq.

Yet modern theory makes a difference between both the sīkāh and the ‘irāq as scales as well as maqāmāt, whereas old theory tends to unify them as two scales and two maqāmāt even though the ‘irāq is a sīkāh sub-maqām.

It is derived from two attached sīkāh aspects, but took numerous forms and aspects throughout the years.

This joyful maqām is used in numerous popular traditions in the Arabic Levant, notably in wedding tunes.

This may be why some mashāyikh describe it as a non-solemn maqām, while it is used –despite this statement– in religious traditions.

The scale order of the sīkāh maqām:

Sīkāh, jahārkāh, nawā, shūrī, awj, kardān, and muayyar.

To some theorists, the aspect of the sīkāh is related to the aspect of the ijāz 3rd scale step.

But old theorists as well as most well experienced music professionals oppose this statement, based on the fact that even if after the 4th and the 5th scale steps the sīkāh resembles the ijāz, they are not exactly the same.


We will discuss this in our analysis of the nature and pattern of the sīkāh maqām.

The nature and pattern of the sīkāh maqām:

Muṣṭafa Sa‘īd speaks of the nature and pattern of the sīkāh maqām saying:

To some mashāyikh, the sīkāh is a non-solemn maqām. This may be because most aqāṭīq performed by the 19th century’s ‘awālim were composed to this maqām and because it is strongly associated to weddings and joyful situations.

I do not fully agree because most religious tawāshīḥ composed to the sīkāh maqām such as tawshīḥ “Mawlāya katabta raḥmata al-nāsi ‘alēk” –that we will listen to later during this episode– are utterly solemn.

I do not know how the mashāyikh came up with this statement.


Sometimes, the scale order of the sīkāh may resemble the rāst’s.

Yet it is sometimes to the sīkāh 4th scale step sub-maqām not the sīkāh 5th scale step sub-maqām, such as in:




Its 4th scale step would be the shūrī.


And sometimes: …


Its 4th scale step would be the usaynī.

There is also the sīkāh ‘irāq that became a separate maqām and scale according to Turkish theory.

Its pattern is like the bayyātī’s, but its finale is to the ‘irāq note.

Many sub-maqāmāt are derived from it.

I think the mashāyikh’s statement is strange… The wedding aqāṭīq such as “Yā nakhlitēn fī el-‘alālī” among the other examples we will listen to are probably behind it!

But I still oppose their point of view, even if their statement is surely based on something, and surely carries some wisdom.


Riyāḍ al-Sunbāṭī

Let us listen to some melodies composed to the sīkāh maqām, starting with a taqsīm performed by Riyāḍ al-Sunbāṭī on the ūd.

This example presents the maqām with lightness, simplicity and deep thought. Note the measure on the ūd’s bass string at the maqām’s position, i.e. the sīkāh scale step. This helps imprint the note in both the musician’s ears and the listener’s.

The recording was made around 1929 by Odeon on one side of a 25cm record, order # A 224250 B, matrix # EK 754.


As mentioned earlier, the sīkāh is a popular and joyful maqām, widely used in wedding tunes.

As an example, we will listen to aqṭūqa “Yā nakhlitēn fī el-‘alālī” almees were famous for singing.

It is mentioned in 19th century books and was widely spread during the 20th century.

Numerous muribāt and muribīn recorded it at the beginning of the century, including ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Afandī Ḥilmī.

Let us listen to this aqṭūqa performed by one of the 20th century’s most famous ‘awālim, Sitt Bahiyya al-Maḥallawiyya. It was recorded around 1905 by Odeon on one side of a 27cm record, order # 45040, matrix # EX 1118.


The presentation of the sīkāh maqām in this example is limited to one aspect of the maqām, i.e. 5 scale steps.

This is the case with most aqāṭīq performed by almees until the beginning of the 20th century.

We will now listen to a work that displays the two aspects of the maqām as well as its multiple facets such as the sīkāh 4th scale step, and the yakāh that follows the pattern of the rāst’s scale order with a stop at the sīkāh.

Farjallāh Bayḍā


Here is muwashsha “Yā ghuṣna naqā” performed by Farjallāh Bayḍā. It was recorded in 1921 on one side of a 27cm record, # B-082290.


The numerous sīkāh sub-maqāmāt include the: ‘irāq, ḥat al-arwāḥ, musta‘ār, huzām, awshār..etc.

Sheikh Sayyid al-Ṣaftī


Let us listen to Sheikh Sayyid al-Ṣaftī singing dawr “Fī el-bu‘di yāmā” composed to the huzām by Muḥammad Afandī ‘Uthmān and written by Sheikh Muḥammad al-Darwīsh. It was recorded around 1927 by Polyphon on two sides of a 27cm record, order # V 43851, V 43852, matrix # 6500 AR, 6501 AR.


There is a key-work in our study of the sīkāh maqām that explains the maqām and its sub-maqāmāt, and allows many initiatives and improvisations.

It is the bashraf qara batāq sīkāh inspired by a bashraf bearing the same title composed by Khodr Āghā in the 18th century.

During the 19th century, some khānāt and individual playing sections were replaced by other khānāt and individual playing sections improvised by musicians in Egypt and Damascus.

Amīn al-Buzarī


Let us listen to this work performed by Amīn al-Buzarī (nāy), Manṣūr ‘Awaḍ (ūd), Maqṣūd Kalkadjian (qānūn), and Sāmī al-Shawwā (kamān). The recording was made in 1909 by Gramophone on two sides of a 30cm record, order # 018014, 018015, matrix # 1698 C, 1699 C.


The mashāyikh consider the sīkāh as a non-solemn maqām because the ‘awālim’s most famous songs as well as the major wedding songs were composed to this maqām. Yet marvellous tawāshīḥ, litanies/invocations and dawārij are also composed to this same maqām.

Let us listen to Sheikh ‘Abbās Ḥasanayn and his biṭāna singing tawshīḥ “Mawlāya katabta raḥmata al-nāsi ‘alēk”. The recording was made around 1924 by French Record Company Pathé on one side of a 27cm record, order # 35,15, matrix # 18,359.


We have reached the end of today’s episode of “Niẓāmunā al-Mūsīqī”.

We will meet again in a new episode.

  2013  /  Podcast  /  Last Updated December 13, 2013 by  /  Tags:
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