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087 – Abd al-Hayy Hilmi 2, Min al-Tarikh



‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī

‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī

The Arab Music Archiving and Research foundation (AMAR), in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), presents “Min al-Tārīkh”.

Dear listeners, welcome to our second episode of “Min al-Tārīkh” dedicated to ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī.

Today, we will resume our discussion with Prof. Frédéric Lagrange.

In our first episode, we talked about ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī’s personal life and a little about some forms such as the muwashshaḥ and the qaīda…etc. But let us talk about the star of the concert, i.e. the dawr, and about how ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī’s improvisational personality affected the performance of the dawr.


‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī’s singing was whimsical. His recorded versions of dawr that were famous at the beginning of the 20th century are characterized by their free interpretation and by what our colleague and friend Muḥsin Ṣawat called the “mutilation policy”: Far from the precise compliance of Sayyid al-Safṭī’s performance, or Al-Manyalāwī’s solemn yet joyful performance, Ḥilmī submitted these half-composed sections to his neurotic obsessions, passing quickly over the madhhab, modifying the structure of the dawr, neglecting entire sections so as to privilege one verse, one standstill in a particular modal color to which he added a tragic and hallucinated touch, displaying a wide range of virtuosic effects such as leaps of four or five voice scales expressing emotions, or shifting from long melodic phrases to a jerky staccato as if he were choking, all this can be deduced from his performance of dawr “Ahīn al-nafs”.


The performance of “Ahīn al-nafs” is beautiful. It was record on four sides of his first 30cm record.

Recorded by Zonophone…


Instead of the ornamentations based on cohesion and continuation in the performance, ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī chose to rely on segmenting and dismembering.

The performance we have just listened to of dawr “Ahīn al-nafs” recorded by Zonophone including his long and touching improvisation on the words “Anā ḥabbēt”, and his quick passing over dawr “El-bulbul gānī we-allī” where he expresses his mood in full force are extraordinary examples of his genius.

Another example is his performance of a short non-developed dawr, i.e. in its first phase, dawr “Al-ward fī wagnāt bahiyy al-gamāl” that gave him the opportunity and space to impose his personality, and even more, to freely do whatever he wanted.




Dear listeners,

We have reached the end of today’s episode of “Min al-Tārīkh” about ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī.

We thank Prof. Frédéric Lagrange and we will meet again in a new episode.

“Min al-Tārīkh” is brought to you by Mustafa Said.


  2014  /  Podcast  /  Last Updated November 20, 2014 by Amar  /  Tags:
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