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197 – Folk Music in Lebanon 5


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

Dear listeners,

Welcome to a new episode of  “Durūb al-Nagham”.

Today we will resume our discussion about Folk Music in Lebanon with Father Dr. Badih el-Hajj.

The types and styles are countless… Now, let us discuss types other than the ghuzayyil

Today, listeners do not know that some of the tunes played on the radio are heritage songs onto which new poetry was affixed because no one ever mentions it.

Here is an example I recorded in the South, in the Bekaa, and in the North:

In the Bekaa, they sing “Yā-mmī l-mḥēzim nāylūn yā ‘yūnī”. The term “nāylūn” (nylon) is often heard, mainly in the semi-nomadic Bedouin songs: Before western clothes reached our region, the Lebanese either wore “ṣāyeh” (‘abāya. cloak) or a shirwāl (trousers) with a labbāda (soft felt hat), and a jacket. The arrival of denim pants and nylon or leather belts (mḥēzim) caused a stir. ‘Umar al-Z‘innī’s criticisms describe how Beirutis changed the way they dressed. The story behind “Yā-mmī l-‘shāṭ el-nāylōn” helps to understand what the “’shāṭ el-nāylōn” implies: At the time, someone who replaced the belt made from goat hair (a Bedouin) or from fibre (in the mountains) with a nylon belt was accused of having become a westerner. And they would sing …(♩)… in Rmēsh too.

Later on, Samīra Tawfīq sang “Bassak tījī ḥāritnā yā ‘yūnēh” and “Min bayrūt la-jūniēh mar’it sayyāra ḥamra yā ‘yūnēh” to the same melody. This type of “yā ‘yūneh” is the response of the people to the singer. These examples of songs that I have added show how folk melodies with new lyrics have become songs to be performed by muṭrib-s (singer-s). These were also types of Lebanese folk songs …


“Yā bū l-‘gāl el-mir‘z” is close to this song type and is also present in Baalbeck (The ‘gāl (headcord) is what is placed on the kaffiyya (kerchief worn by Arab Bedouins as a headdress). The mir‘iz holds the shrashīb (fringe)).

Again, while the lyrics are not understood by all the Lebanese, yet this song type exists in a Lebanese region and has thus become adopted by the Lebanese …


The following song type is between the muwaqqa‘ (metrical. measured) and the qaṣīda (monometric and monorhyme poem in classical Arabic) –long singing.

Khalil Farha

Khalil Farha

I will illustrate it with the example of the zuluf that some call Abū al-zuluf and others call Umm al-zuluf (“Hayhāt yā Umm al-zuluf” or “Hayhāt yā bū al-zuluf”). The structure of this song type is as follows: the first verse “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf” is fixed and does not change. “ ‘Ēnī yā mūlayyā” does not change either. The lyrics of the second verse are created or written by someone. The first two verses are fixed because of the following: there are many historical stories behind “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf”. Hayhāt expresses remorse about something we wish had not happened, or something whose absence we regret, such as in “Hayhāt for bygone days”, i.e. we wish they would come back… or “Hayhāt, we could have won”…etc. There are many theories concerning “Yā bū el-zuluf” that are unfortunately generalised: someone would emit a theory and everybody would follow him. For example, in a book dedicated to Lebanese zajal, someone would “affirm” the meaning of the term zuluf, which someone else would copy in another book, as if he had discovered it, without mentioning the reference. And thus it becomes the adopted meaning, even if it is wrong.

According to most, zuluf (zalaf. zalfā’) is the woman with a beautiful nose, thus making of “Hayhāt yā bū al-zuluf” a kind of ghazal (courting. love poetry).

Historically, during the era of the Barmakī-s (Barāmika), the latter lost a battle and a jāriya (slave girl) eulogised…

Ja‘far Bin Yeḥyā.

…singing: “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf ‘ēnī yā mūlayyā” (i.e. yā mawlāya. my Lord). The zuluf is the one who has long sideburns. Mr. Kamal just told me the meaning of this Persian word. This important point could confirm that zuluf means sālif (sideburn). So the jāriyā nicknamed him Abū al-zuluf, i.e. the one with the long sālif.

As I mentioned earlier, this song type is a blend of rhythmic singing and long singing.

Its structure is as follows: two verses; “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf”, “ ‘Ēnī yā mūlayyā”. The third and the fourth verses must end with a rime to the meter of “mūlayyā”, i.e “yā”. The group, i.e. the raddīd-s (raddīda. repeaters) and/or the audience, respond, then he resumes with a qaṣīda that is not muwaqq‘a up to the taslīm (bashraf and sama‘ī ritornello) to the rhythm and the muwaqqa‘ singing.

It is all to the maqām sikāh.

Yes. The sikāh is the maqām (modal key) of most Lebanese heritage songs …


 ‘Abd al-Wahāb authored “Layālī Lubnān” to this melody.



It is said that “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf” originated in Iraq. But, based on my recordings, “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf” is mainly sung in Lebanon. Yet, while we can’t affirm it originated in Lebanon, still we know that the Lebanese preserved and developed it, and thus gave it this Lebanese aspect. Wherever one may sing “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf” in the Arab World, they’d immediately be considered Lebanese, not Syrian, Palestinian, or Jordanian. Because, after “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf” reached Lebanon four hundred years ago, the Lebanese preserved, developed, and kept it alive to our days …


It is sung until today… We can’t cry over the past complaining that Heritage singing is dying in Lebanon. There are still people who sing this song type and people who listen to it, and zajal events/concerts are held in the Lebanese towns, villages, and cities during special festivals. Zajal singers would not have sung anymore at the risk of loosing/failing if there were no audience to listen to them. The Lebanese still listen to zajal until today, whether the old or the young who also sing it. Preserving our heritage is a beautiful thing.

Samira Toufiq

Samira Toufiq

“Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf” is a type that distinguishes us in the region …


The poem “Hayhāt yā bū el-zuluf” is foreign to us: we did not have a wālī (mawlāya  = my wālī. my Lord). On the other hand, we have many qaṣīda-s around ‘Antara, Zīr Sālim, and also many dating back to pre-Islam such as Ḥākim al-Ṭā’ī among others, whose poetry we adopted and still sing until today after having “Lebanesed” it.

We will later discuss the epics that were sung in Beirut’s cafés or in the mountains, whose lyrics are not Lebanese, yet whose interpreters are …


Dear listeners,

We have reached the end of today’s episode of  “Durūb al-Nagham”.

We thank Father Dr. Badih al-Hajj for having us and for all the valuable information he gave us.

We will meet again in a new episode to resume our discussion about Folk Music in a beloved part of the Levant, Lebanon.

“Durūb al-Nagham”.

  2017  /  Podcast  /  Last Updated January 12, 2017 by  /  Tags:
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