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097 – The ṣabā maqām, Nedhamuna



013-ALM-1-A, Ali Mahmoud, Ahlan BighazalThe abā maqām is ranked as the seventh key and the fourth derived maqām, born from the dūkāh and the ijāz.

Its original appellation is said to be abā –as spelled in Turkish–, but Turanians pronounced it abāh because they could not pronounce the , and thus it reached the Arabs as abā and was written as such in the 20th century theoreticians’ books. Only a few Sheikhs pronounced it abāḥ.

Also, Ṣafiyy al-Dīn al-Armawī used a melodic pattern resembling the abā, called kawāsht.

The scale of the abā maqām is as follows: dūkāh, sīkāh, jahārkāh, abā, ḥusaynī, ‘ajam, kardān, and muayyar (the dūkāh’s jawāb).

The muayyar is often altered with the shahnāz, because the maqām’s pattern adopts the ijāz aspect at its third. As a result of this alteration, its scale seems incomplete.


Mustafa Said says about the abā maqām:

The abā maqām is of a “gripped feeling” nature. Unlike some, I do not think that “gripped feeling” necessarily implies sadness.

Here are some examples illustrating my point of view:

a significant number of old aqṭūqa performed by ‘ālima are to the abā;

the joyful layālī of Aḥmad ‘Adawiyya, may God grant him good health, are also to the abā.


The Fajr (dawn) prayer, the ṣub (morning) prayer, was called to the abā, which is why I am more convinced with the Turkish spelling abā –pronounced abāh by the Turks, with an h instead of the because Turanians can’t pronounce the . This is just my opinion… the word might as well be related to the abā wind or to anything else.

The “gripped feeling” nature of the abā is a result:

of the falling fourth… (♩);

as well as of the parallel intervals between the second, the third, and the fourth… (♩)… that are very close: approximately a ¾-tone, with just minor differences, because they can’t be equal as adjusted tuning does not exist in Arab music. 

The abā was either formed independently, or resulted from the meeting of the bayyātī and the ijāz, or even the sīkāh… (♩) … like the bayyātī

If I continued, I would be playing to the ijāz… (♩)

All this shapes the abā aspect(♩)

The abā’s fourth is not the same as the ijāz’s third(♩)

There is a difference of up to a third-tone. 

To some, the abā scale is incomplete since, when the ijāz’s aspect is complete, its dīwān is one semitone shorter, as illustrated by the audio sample(♩).

Still, whether the dīwān is complete or not(♩), the maqām remains the abā.

The dīwān is incomplete because of its third resembling the ijāz aspect. When tuning my (ūd) to the abā, I tune its third and not its fourth (both qarār to the minor third, a dūkāh qarār and a jahārkāh qarār)(♩).

While, when playing to the bayyātī or to the ijāz, I tune the fourth (dūkāh and yakāh qarār, exposing the partially fixed position on the abā’s third)


Muḥammad al-Qaṣṣabjī

Muḥammad al-Qaṣṣabjī

Let us first listen to a ūd taqsīm to the abā played by Muḥammad al-Qaṣṣabjī, recorded by His Master’s Voice –daughter company of Gramophone– on one side of a 25cm record, # 7-219373, matrix # BF 1200.


Muwashsha to the abā include “Ghuḍḍī jufūnaki” composed to a 19-pulse’ rhythm. Let us listen to it performed by Sheikh Sayyid al-Ṣaftī, recorded around 1909 by Baidaphon on two sides of a 27cm record, # 1322 and 1323. Side 2 includes a taqsīm layālī and mawwāl “Lā taḥsibū inn al-bi‘ād”, accompanied by Ibrāhīm Sahlūn (kamān), ‘Abd al-Ḥamīd al-Quḍḍābī (qānūn), and ‘Alī Ṣāliḥ (nāy).


Muḥammad al-‘Aqqād

Muḥammad al-‘Aqqād

Let us listen to ‘Uthmān Bēh’s bashraf abā –one of the many instrumental pieces composed to the abā maqām– played by the takht of Muḥammad al-‘Aqqād (qānūn), Ibrāhīm Sahlūn (kamān), ‘Alī ‘Abduh Ṣāliḥ (nāy), and Muḥammad Abū Kāmil al-raqqāq (percussions), recorded in 1908 by Gramophone on two sides of a 30cm record, order # 018002 and 018003, matrix # 119 P and 120 P.


The abā maqām is among those with the least sub-maqām, and is the most compound maqām of the main maqām, as described earlier. The abā’s sub-maqām include those shared with another key, such as the bastanikār said by some to be a sīkāh sub-maqām in relation to its fundamental position, while others say it is a abā sub-maqām in relation to the pattern. Both are right. The same applies to the Turkish jahārkāh said by some to be a ijāz sub-maqām in relation to the aspect’s fundamental position, and by others to be a jahārkāh sub-maqām in relation to the key’s fundamental position, while others say it is a abā sub-maqām in relation to the pattern. The same applies to the shawq namā.

The abā’s sub-maqām include the abā būslīk, abā shāwīsh, abā zamzam, the kawāsht, etc.

Let us now listen to qaṣīda mursala “Anā ḥirmānu nāẓirī” to the Turkish jahārkāh by Yūsuf ‘Aramūnī whose performance resembles Sheikh Salāma Ḥigāzī’s style in chanting qaṣīda, recorded around 1912 by Baidaphon on two sides of a 27cm record, # 30506 and 30507.


The abā is among the keys that are easy to shift from smoothly to neighbouring notes as well as to farther notes.

Let us now listen to qaṣīda mursala “Ahlan bi-ghazālin” and tawshīḥ “Bi-ṣafā al-ījāb” both performed by Sheikh Maḥmūd, and both including predominating melodic shifts to abā sub-maqām as well as to neighbouring maqām such as the ‘ajam, recorded around 1926 by Odeon on one side of a 27cm record, order # X 55607, matrix # XE 3126. 


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

We will meet again in a new episode.


001-MAQ-A Mouhamed El Aqqad, Bashraf Saba Othman Bek 3021-INS-C-1-B Mouhamed El Qasabji, Taqsim Saba

009-SSF-1-A, Saied Safti, Ghodhi Jefonik 009-SSF-1-B, Saied Safti, La Tahsabo


  2015  /  Podcast  /  Last Updated February 5, 2015 by Amar  /  Tags:
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