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219 – Zakariyya Ahmed – 10

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Amar Foundation presents: Min Al-Tarikh

Walid Alaaeddin: Welcome to this episode of Min Al-Tarikh in which. This is a chance to raise several questions about the great Zakariyya Ahmed with the musician and music researcher Mustafa Said. Whenever Zakariyya Ahmed is mentioned, I remember the link between him and Sayyid Darwish, and I ask myself: why isn’t Sayyid Darwish like Zakariyya Ahmed though, according to some, both are known to have got rid of the Ottoman fizz from the Arab music? This is a very common phrase repeated by those who write in this musical space. They say that both renovated, both developed…etc. But why has Sayyid Darwish become an icon for that while Sheikh Zakariya hasn’t got a similar icon, not fame?

Mustafa Said: We’re talking here about the media, correct?

W: yes, I mean the media.

M: the question of the Ottoman fizz, if we take the generations in which we can relate a work to its composer starting with Abdel-Rahim El-Masloub and his contemporaries like Ahmed El-Shalshalamoni, Abou-Ghoneima…etc, then, the generation of El-Hamouli, Mohammed Othman, El-Khadrawi and their contemporaries, then, the generation of Ibrahim El-Qabbani, Dawood Hosni and the rest of them, and finally the generation which contains Sayyid Darwish, Sheikh Zakariyya, El-Qasabji and the rest of them like Abdel-Wahhab and others. The first of these generations said nothing, they just made music like their ancestors in Adwar, Muwashshahat…etc.

[Listen to Dawr Aah Ya Hleiwa ya Msallini as an example of the music of this generation].

M: the generation of Abdu El-Hamouli and Mohammed Othman developed the Dawr. Some of them used to come to the Khedive, who wanted to create a rival court to the Ottoman court and tell him that I brought a new Maqam called Nawa-athar and plays for him Maqam Hisar which is like the Turkish Nawa-Athar and say that he brought a Turkish Maqam to the Arab or Egyptian music. I don’t know what the meaning of Turkish Maqam was. However, they used to say so to the Khedive who felt happy and paid them handsomely in cash or houses…. etc.

[Listen to Dawr Allah yesoon Dawlit Hosnak as an example of this period.].

M: so, why not, let them enjoy the moment and get some cash if they made beautiful music for us. They harmed no-one. The khedive liked to be tricked as such, let it be, why not. The third generation, especially Ibrahim El-Qabbani and Dawood Hosni, read the Turkish theoretical books, and they probably listened to Turkish music. When they translate this to music, however, it was a different story. When, for instance, we listen to Dawood Hosni’s Dawr El-Alb fi Hobbo El-Hawa, which he states as Higaz Karkord, yet it is completely different from the Turkish Higaz Karkord. It’s like Higazkar using the Kord note to reach the rast note. It’s completely different from the development (sayir) of the Turkish Higaz Karkord.

[Listen to El-Alb fi Hobbo El-Hawa by Dawood Hosni.].

M: did he mean to make it sound more Arabic, did he mean to make its meter more Arabic, or did he just call it thus because it is like the original one? No-one can answer. Nobody talked with him about that to know his exact intention. Those who indeed used Turkish Maqams were, for instance, Sayyid Darwish who used the Beste-Negar in its correct Turkish sayir, in dawr Ishi’t Hosnak, and Higaz Karkord in dawr Ana Haweit wentaheit using also the same exact development  (sayir) but not with the same intervals, they didn’t exaggerate as some of the Turks who leaned to the use of the strong tones of the western music by the end of the 19th century.

[Listen to dawr Ana Haweit Wentaheit by Sayyid Darwish.].

W: The talk about the Ottoman fizz then is simply a political speech not musical?

M: yes, invalid completely with regards to music. As for Sheikh Zakariyya, it made no difference for him. He had no thesis, e.g., he didn’t have these states like Sayyid Darwish when he said “I’m Egypt’s Verdi” or any such things. He was in fact mystic, and at the beginning of his life when he was just experimenting, he had two lines: the first he composed Tawasheeh for the Sheikhs. He composed Tawasheeh, recited Quran, and used to take part in the Chorus (Bitanas) of Sheikh Ali Mahmoud, Sheikh Ismail Sokkar, Mihriz Suleiman and Ibrahim El-Farran. He worked with their Bitana or choir so long as until 1944 with Sheikh Ali Mahmoud. Though Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed was by then more famous in the media than Sheikh Ali Mahmoud, he knew the real value of Sheikh Ali Mahmoud very well.

[Listen to Tawsheeh Ya Man Yuragga Fel Qiyamati from Sheikh Ali Mahmoud and his Bitana.].

M: Zakariyya Ahmed and Sayyid Darwish belonged to the same generation. Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed did like Sayyid Darwish, he was divided between the religious chanting, the light Taqtouqa, and he tried even what they called “orchestra” consisting of piano, violin and flute. Sheikh Zakariyya was divided between all these things, so Sayyid Darwish appeared, first because his production was abundant, as if he had known about his early death, second, it’s said that Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed didn’t like to act on stage as did Sayyid Darwish.

W: yet, he made various operettas.

M: yes, yes, yet he didn’t act in them personally as often as did Sheikh Sayyid Darwish.

W: he took part in a movie.

M: just a single scene. It seems he knew that h wasn’t a good actor. We don’t know whether Sayyid Darwish was a good actor or not, but he was successful, He was never filmed, like Zaky Murad who was also known to have acted on stage. Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed and Sayyid Darwish belonged to the same generation, yet Sayyid Darwish died early. We always like to make stars of the deceased.

W: One’s legend is completed after one’s death.

M: Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed lived on until the nationalistic movement. You know, a new state was being born, a democratic regime in progress, then the 1952 revolutionary regime, many changes were eminent.

W: Let’s return to the 1919 uprising before this. It’s said that Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed was promoting the apprise with Quran and religious chanting, not with music.

M: no, no, also with music.

W: ok, and also with music. Yet, Sayyid Darwish promoted it only with music. Was this a reason for more fame for instance?

M: no, Sayyid Darwish was a member of Al-Wafd party unlike Zakariyya Ahmed who belonged to no political party.

W: Zakariyya Ahmed was Azhari to a great extent at that time, and he was still part of the religious chanting…

M: Even until his death, Zakariyya Ahmed had this mystic belief. At that time, there was a sort of Political Islamist current unlike that of today’s political Islamism, yet a promotion of the idea of the Umma, an Umma that contained all this in which Egypt was part. He had not, for instance, any anti-Turkish, anti-Persian, anti-Moroccan or anti-Levantine feelings as in the early days of the Watani party.

[Listen to a Nubian style song from Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed.].

W: he didn’t have this kind of nationalistic views.

M: yes, He didn’t have nationalistic views. El-Wafd, however, wanted to create a constitution for this geographical area with its borders with the naturalized people…etc, they had this theory, and Sayyid darwish was part of this party for some time.

W: this may have also been a factor of the rise of Sayyid Darwish as star while Zakariyya Ahmed wasn’t as complete a star.

M: God only knows. It’s said that Sayyid Darwish quitted El-Wafd party. God knows what would have happened to Sayyid Darwish had he lived on. No-one knows. Sayyid Darwish died. The sales of his records during his lifetime weren’t any different from his contemporaries. This is for me a very big indication: this session in which he recorded 8 discs including three Adwar and four tunes varying between Taqateeq and theatrical tunes produced the best-selling records by Sayyid Darwish ever. These records were sold out after September of 1923, i.e., following the death of Sheikh Sayyid Darwish. Between 1921, when the recording session took place, and 1923, the sales were fine, once dead, these sales rose because he was written about, he became the musical icon of Egypt who reinvented the Egyptian music, and when socialism and similar ideas became on the rise, they quoted some of his work, even sometimes taking it out of its context, and they said that he was the inventor of the leftist music and he was anti-ottoman….etc.

W: it’s then a question of politics not of art.

M: yes of course. First, in their personal lives, they were friends, and they were working with the same lyricists, i.e., whenever there were songs, both worked with Badi’ Khayri, Bayram El-Tunsi and Younis El-Qadi; also, both worked with Naguib El-Rehani in Keshkesh Bey.

W: Yet it seems that Sayyid Darwish was much more active in this era.

M: Because his production was very abundant. They say that those who would die young feel it. The other was also very talented, yet who wasn’t that Prolific.

W: Let’s stop for a moment here and let me ask the final question about this area before we move to music: until the departure of Sayyid Darwish, how can you compare between the production of Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed with that of Sayyid Darwish?

M: all the creativity of Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed during this period was in Tawasheeh. All his other experiments like the duets with Munira El-Mahdiyya, e.g., Wa’di Aleiki ya Ammoura and the experiments he made with what they were then calling “Orchestra” with piano, flute and violin. Later, he even stopped such experiments.

W: this means that there was no competition that allows us to say that they chose Sayyid Darwish and ignored Zakariyya Ahmed as during this time Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed was not a competitor to Sayyid Darwish in this respect.

M: he was more known in the religious chanting circles and with some light Taqateeq which he made for various artists.

W: and these didn’t make him eligible to be chosen as a nationalist artist or musical icon…etc, like what Sayyid Darwish presented during his short lifetime.

M: not musical, I assure you. The question was not musical.

W: there was no comparable musical production between the two musicians to enable us to choose.

M: only in chanting especially in the Tawasheeh.

W: and chanting was not a point in this area as long as the choice is purely political.

M: Correct.

W: now, my heart feels better as there was no oppression to Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed during this time, and the choice was not a result of a fault of his.

M: this iconizing, not to say deification, was not during Sayyid Darwish’s lifetime. It was later. It was during the greatest days of Sheikh Zakariyya’s creativity.

W: it was a long time after Sayyid Darwish’s death.

M: ten years or even more.

W: ten years in which Sheikh Zakariyya created a lot and rose to stardom.

M: correct. Had it been related to the 1919 apprise, it wouldn’t have been that catastrophic. The question is about what we want.

W: I got the idea now.

“Listen to tawsheeh Harramat Ayni Manami from Sheikh Mihriz Suleiman.”.

The end.

  2021  /  Podcast  /  Last Updated November 25, 2021 by Amar  /  Tags:
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