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 resume our discussion about al-ṭarīqa al-Qubbāngiyya and its founder Mr. Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī with our guest Mr. Husayn al-A‘zami.
Is it correct that his family name refers to a profession rather than to a region?
Yes. In Arab countries, those who work as weight and measure professionals are called qabbānī-s. Furthermore, in Iraq, the a‘jamiyya (non-Arabic) “g” is added to family names, and thus qabbānī or Qubbānī becomes Qubbāngī, both referring to the same person. Muḥammad used to work with his uncle ‘Abd al-Jabbār and his father ‘Abd al-Razzāq, standing at the qubbān (used to weigh articles and merchandise) weighing the products they sold, and was thus nicknamed Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī like his father ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-Qubbāngī, in relation to their profession.
He was originally from the “ṭayy” clan, a ṭā’ī from Mawṣil, but was born in Baghdad where he lived his whole life.
Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī appeared on the artistic scene in the 1920s as a great muṭrib with great and interesting skills in singing maqām, then became a pioneer of modern styles in maqām inventiveness and creativity after benefitting from the performers who had preceded him, his art a quintessence of everything he learned from them. He was the first Iraqi muṭrib to go courageously outside the existing inventions and creations towards a wider and more open creative world as to the perspective, concept and taste, inspired by the music of the countries surrounding him.
At the time of his arrival on the music scene, the relation of the maqām with sentimental expression became stronger: the chosen qaṣīda-s were sentimental qaṣīda-s, and varied according to the types and subjects of poetry in Iraqi maqām singing. It also seems that new methods were established in relation to the performance styles, presentation, listening, modern and contemporary critique of maqām, added to the study and analysis of the old performances that witnessed the beginning of the voice recording era… Such as the maqām maḥmūdī sung by al-Qubbāngī in the 1920s “Yā man jamī‘ el-maḥāsin ḥizit w-inta bi-hā sakrān bi-mḥabbitak mā fizzi wa-intabihā”, where he says: “Yā man jamī‘ el-maḥāsin ḥizit w-inta bi-hā, w-inta bi-hā”.
This is a zuhayrī!
Indeed! In “sakrān bi-mḥabbitak mā fizz”, “mā fizz” means “I do not spring, stand up, and notice”.
This is to the maqām maḥmūdī…
There is a lot to say on al-Qubbāngī… In my book about him, I called him a “reformer”: a reforming artist in his performance of Iraqi maqām-s, especially on the artistic level. By “reforming”, we do not necessarily imply the new creations he added, since he was also a “reformer” as to artistic expressions. For example, when the Qundargī-s sang to the maqām nawā, they used to descend in the maqām nawā jalsa (session) to the bayyāt “ ‘ushaysh” followed by the mayāna. As we mentioned previously, the “jalsa” is the action, while the “mayāna” is the reaction, and the jawāb is to the maqām nawā. So when the Qundargī-s descended to the bayyāt in the jalsa, they did not stop: the singer would ascend directly, in singing, to the jawāb (upper octave) bayyāt.
Here is how he does this …
We descended to the bayyāt. They do not stop …
They continue along with the music and perform the whole mayāna.
When al-Qubbāngī sang to the maqām nawā and descended to the “ ‘ushaysh”, he granted a pause to the singer and more value to the music as he gave it a role to play: he did this rhythmic fāṣil (separation) within the rhythm that had not stopped since the beginning of the maqām, yet he gave it value, for example …
He started with the mayāna.
So, he gave a role to the music and organised it more beautifully and better. Rather than saying more beautifully, let us say better from an artistic point of view. This organisation gave a role to the music and granted a pause to the singer to help him reach the mayāna that requires effort in order for him to control the jawāb… It does have benefits. This is one example of Muḥammad al-Qubbāngī’s reforming in his performance of maqām-s …
What about his relation with the jālghī (Iraqi music ensemble)?
It seems that al-Qubbāngī, from the beginning, was neither convinced to sing nor did sing with the jālghī alone.
The “jālghī mix”.
He formed the Baghdadi takht: a mix between the jālghī baghdādī and the Arabic instruments, free from any foreign/European instruments. This Baghdadi takht included the jawza and the sanṭūr of the jālghī baghdādī added to these instruments. He recorded all his maqām-s, even the following three major maqām-s that include the samāḥ rhythm –even though the nawā is not a major maqām-s yet still a maqām thaqīl–: the nawā, the manṣūrī, and the sikāh whose rhythm is the samāḥ whose true expression only matures with the jālghī. Yet he transcended this and sang with the Baghdadi takht i.e. the jālghī with the instruments… he never sang, until that day, with the jālghī only.
In the 1920s before the 1932 Congress, he was accompanied by a violin.
Indeed… I told you that he mixed the instruments.
I do not mean the jawza.
The jawza and the sanṭūr are present in the taqsīm-s in the recordings.
Yes. But in the 1920s, he was also accompanied by a violin.
The kamān was then considered as an Arabic instrument, knowing that it originated from Rabat…
We have reached the end of today’s episode of “Min al-Tārīkh”.
We will meet again in a new episode 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.