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201 – Bashraf qarah baṭāq 1


The Arab Music Archiving and Research foundation (AMAR), in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), presents “Sama‘ ”.

“Sama‘ discusses our musical heritage through comparison and analysis…

A concept by Mustafa Said.

Dear listeners,

Welcome to a new episode of “Sama‘ ”.

Today’s episode is about the bashraf (pre-composed instrumental form with often quite long binary rhythmic cycles, played as a prelude to the waṣla. The structural pattern of the bashraf generally alternates four khāna-s and the taslīm/ritornello. There are other types of semi-composed bashraf alternating one or two composed sections and an improvisation in a binary rhythm responsorial between the instrumentalists (see taḥmīla)) qarah baṭāq sikāh, a work by Khuḍr Āghā who played the kamān (violin) or kimān (bow) –kimān tshēh means “with a bow” as we mentioned in a previous episode about the violin–… I think it was the violina rather than the viola. Kimānist Khuḍr Āghā died in the mid 18th century A.D., around 1760, i.e. towards the end of the 12th century hijrī.

The qarah baṭāq is the cormorant, a Burmese bird, and this work might have been named qarah baṭāq because it includes dialogues between a plectrum plucked instrument and a bow instrument. The cormorant, commonly found on the shores of the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Turkey, emits a very distinctive sound that may be behind its appellation. The bashraf qarah baṭāq is the problematic work par excellence as it is among the works that were arabised, seemingly, at a very early stage, possibly during the lifetime of the violinist Khuḍr or very shortly after he passed away, or at the latest at the beginning of the 19th century. Furthermore, the person who arabised it had a unique musicality worth a million contemporary PhDs: this bashraf was not arabised in the same manner as the other bashraf-s, such as:

  • the bashraf al-naẓīr that Mīkhā’īl Mashāqā wrote about saying that he had heard it in Egypt. Now, whether it is a naẓīr rāst or a naẓīr ‘ushshāq is not our point… Any bashraf naẓīr is arabised by selecting two khāna-s and the lāzima and dropping the third one and the fourth one. At a later stage, the thaqīl rhythm may become a rhythm rubā‘ī khafīf;
  • the bashraf isḥāqī hijāz in the middle of which, in one of its –complete– khāna-s, are added taqsīm-s (improvisation instrumental type and form of a cantillatory style and of variable lengths and rhythms (metrical v/s non-metrical);
  • the bashraf isḥāqī bayyātī;
  • the ‘ushshāq ‘Uthmān Bēk;
  • and others, including the bashraf ‘arḍbār

All the above are arabised by taking the khāna-s exactly as is and playing them, while changing some phrases to be compatible with the Arabic mood/tone as described by Kāmil al-Khula‘ī or Qaṣṭandī Rizq in the following: ‘Abduh al-Ḥāmūlī used to come back from Istanbul with tunes compatible with the Arabic tone/mood… Anyway, this is unimportant… Just note that some phrases were changed in order to be compatible with this tone/mood.

Our discussion about the bashraf qarah baṭāq sikāh will be done in brief today and in detail later:

In brief: the person who arabised this bashraf selected the khāna-s, transformed the dialogue into an improvisation, and changed the rhythm of the last khāna.

We do not know why:

  • He took some khāna-s that included a dialogue and played them with the band, maintaining the rhythm thaqīl that later became a rhythm rubā‘ī as heard in our recordings. Still, if we proceed by counting, we will notice that it is the same –we will discuss this issue later–;
  • He changed the dialogue between the bow and the plectrum into an improvisation, i.e. a taḥmīla (cyclic instrumental improvisative responsorial form to a binary rhythm);
  • He changed the rhythm of the last khāna (section), shortened it, and turned it into a samā‘ī thaqīl.

The rhythm of the bashraf is 32 ṣūfī kabīr or ṣūfiyān kabīr… call it whatever you wish. The point is that it is a 32 beat’ rhythm often used in Turkish bashraf-s.

We have over 15 recordings of this bashraf, some of which we will listen to in full, while we will only listen to part of others because of the episodes’ duration restrictions.

Based on the catalogues, I think that it is the instrumental work that was recorded the most in Arab music, knowing that I only found two recordings of it in Turkey, either because it was not famous or because it just happened that it was not recorded.

The Arabic recordings include those made:

  • During Gramophone’s second recording campaign in 1904 with Ḥāj Sayyid al-Suwaysī, Muḥammad Afandī Ibrāhīm, and ‘Alī Afandī ‘Abduh Ṣāliḥ;
  • The same year, or at the beginning of 1905, but rather at the end of 1904, with Ḥāj Sayyid al-Suwaysī, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Qabbānī, and ‘Alī ‘Abduh Ṣāliḥ;
  • During Favorite’s recording campaign in 1905, with Hāj Sayyid al-Suwaysī, Ibrāhīm Sahlūn, and Muḥammad Afandī Ibrāhīm;
  • In 1908, with Muḥammad Afandī al-‘Aqqād, Ibrāhīm Afandī Sahlūn, and ‘Alī ‘Abduh Ṣāliḥ;
  • In 1909, with Amīn Afandī al-Buzarī, Sāmī Afandī al-Shawwā, Manṣūr Afandī ‘Awaḍ, and Maqṣūd Afandī Kalkajiān;
  • In 1910 or rather 1911, by Baidaphon, with Ibrāhīm Afandī Sahlūn, ‘Abd al-Ḥamīd Afandī al-Quḍḍābī, and Manṣūr Afandī ‘Awaḍ;
  • After the war years, in 1918 or rather early in 1919, with Muḥammad Afandī al-‘Aqqād, Ibrāhīm Afandī al-Qabbānī (‘ūd), and Sāmī Afandī al-Shawwā (violin);
  • In 1923, by Polyphon, with Amīn Afandī al-Buzarī, ‘Abd al-Ḥamīd Afandī al-Quḍḍābī, and Sāmī Afandī al-Shawwā;
  • In 1924, by Baidaphon in Beirut, with Sāmī Afandī al-Shawwā, Zakī, and Petro;
  • In 1928, electrically, by Baidaphon in Berlin, with al-jawq ‘irāqī al-mumtāz including ‘Azūrī Afandī (‘ūd), Ṣayūn Afandī (qānūn), and Iskandar (violin);

(The other recordings were made either in Cairo or Alexandria.)

  • Late in 1928, by His Master’s Voice, with Muḥammad Afandī al-‘Aqqād and Sāmī al-Shawwā;
  • In 1929, by Columbia, with Sāmī Afandī al-Shawwā, ‘Alī Afandī al-Rashīdī, and Muhammad Afandī al-Qaṣṣabgī (‘ūd);

We have published two recordings out of these:

  • The Columbia recording of Muḥammad al-Qaṣṣabgī;
  • The Gramophone recording of Sāmī al-Shawwā, Ibrāhīm al-Qabbānī, and Muḥammad al-‘Aqqād.

Besides these, we have a recording of:

  • Khumāsī al-Ḥifnāwī –that we will play– made in the late 1960s or early 1970s;
  • ‘Abd al-Mun‘im ‘Arafa recorded in the Arab Music Institute in the last quarter of the 20th I consider it as a teaching recording for the students of Cairo’s High Institute of Arab Music.

Our Turkish recordings include those of:

  • Ṭanbūrī Jamīl Bēk, i.e. Jamīl Bēk al-Ṭanbūrī, playing the 3-string’ kimān tshēh (kamancheh or European violin we also call arnaba), with Shawqī Afandī (‘ūd);
  • The Turkish Radio Band, made probably in the late 1980s or early 1990s… I do not know the date and will greatly appreciate it if someone could provide me with it. Someone told me it was recorded in 1987… but God knows.

These recordings do not exclusively belong to AMAR’s library:

Cemil Bey Temburi

Cemil Bey Temburi

  • Ṭanbūrī Jamīl Bēk’s recording, for example, is extracted from the complete works of Jamīl Bēk Ṭanbūrī published in Istanbul in 1916 for his centenary;
  • Muḥammad al-‘Aqqād’s recording was borrowed from the library of Sheikh Khālid Āl-Thānī.

Let us now listen to this bashraf played following both the Turkish (original) manner and the Arabic manner:

  • The Turkish version (close to the original), recorded by Orfeon in 1912, is played by Jamīl Bēk al-Ṭanbūrī;
  • The arabised version recorded by Odeon eight years earlier, is played by Ḥāj Sayyid al-Suwaysī, ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Afandī al-Qabbānī, and ‘Alī ‘Abduh Ṣāliḥ.

We do not have a recording of the Turkish version made before 1912. Yet, knowing Jamīl Bēk al-Ṭanbūrī’s ability, we can affirm that his version is as close as possible to violinist Khuḍr Āghā’s original version.

The two recordings we will listen to start and end with taqsīm-s:

  • In Ṭanbūrī Jamīl Bēk’s recordings, he performs them on the kamancheh;
  • In Ḥāj Sayyid al-Suwaysī’s Odeon Arabic recording, he performs them on the ‘ūd.

The two recordings are on two sides of a 27cm record. Yet, unlike Odeon’s recording, in Jamīl Bēk al-Ṭanbūrī’s recording, each side is introduced separately, i.e. we can hear “Orfeon Records” twice. One must not mistake Side 2 for a repetition of Side 1.

Let us listen to the two versions …


The first impression conveys that these two versions are completely different, with no relation whatsoever between them. Starting nest episode, we will discuss in detail the similarities and differences mentioned broadly at the beginning of today’s episode.

You have a whole week to listen to these two versions and make out the similarities and differences.

We have reached the end of today’s episode of “Sama‘ ”

We will meet again in a new episode to resume our discussion about bashraf qarah baṭāq sikāh.


“Sama‘ ” was presented to you by AMAR.

  2017  /  Podcast  /  Last Updated February 9, 2017 by  /  Tags:
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