Amar Foundation presents: Min Al-Tarikh
Walid Alaaddin: Welcome to a new episode of Min Al-Tarikh. You always take us back to the art of Tawasheeh though we were talking about the main characteristics of his work when he started working with Bayram.[Listen to Sahd El-Jibal as an example of Sheikh Zakariyya’s work with Bayram.”.
Mustafa Said: Bayram himself used to write Operettas in his beginnings as he did in Scheherazade with Sayyid Darwish. Then they worked together in Cinema, like for instance Sallama. Then they collaborated in theatrical performances of which one of the last was Aziza we Younis which includes the famous song Ya Salat Ezzein. These were simple tunes. But this simple tune which used to be based on a folkloric basis, was itself very eloquent and Sheikh Zakariyya used to do what he liked so much so that these tunes have become very popular amongst the public even if they do not know that they are Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed’s.
W: give us an example.
M: Shobbeiki Lubbeiki, Ya Salati’zzein, Aadi Wa’t El-Bornita, El-Bahr Nayim. All these songs became popular and exemplary, even the poetry was so beautiful as he dived deep inside people’s minds. No one talked about copyrights as whatever becomes popular to people…
W: it’s finished.
M: his other light tunes outside the drama like Hatgann ya Reit Ya’khwanna Ma-rohtish London Walla Paris, which may have a relation with Bayram El-Tunsi’s exile, this tune was sung by various singers, even composers like Sheikh Sayyid Mikkawi, Sheikh Imam Eisa and Ibrahim El-Haggar. All these sang these tunes though they themselves are composers. What I mean is that the collaboration between Zakariyya and Bayram in both levels became popular with people without the barriers of the recording labels, the radio or all the forms and shapes of the copyright laws. It became popular with people first only as simply a lyrical-musical work, and second, people became indifferent to whether the tune was originally theatrical or was made outside the theatre. Some of the tunes were theatrical, but how many know that Ya Salati’zzein was originally a theatrical tune?
W: Ya Salati’zzein, Ya Halawiti’ddunya, and El-Ward Gamil, which people sing as beautiful musical heritage.
M: El-Ward Gamil was a movie song. Who knows that?
W: a very important point indeed. It’s attributed to him that he revived several Arab rhythms which were not in use for some time.
M: Is it because he used Mhaggar and so on in his composed Muwashshahat? His contemporaries like Sheikh Darwish El-Hariri, Omar El-Batsh, Ali El-Darwish and others used the same rhythms.
W: references were made to the song Baad ma Dahheit Hayati fi’l-Gharam as an example of a kind of revival of Arab rhythms which were no longer in use then.
M: Also Yalli Teshki Me’l-Hawa, Bentu Karmen…etc, all these do the same. For some time, especially in Egypt and the Levant, we have been focusing on the Wahda rhythm with all its different shapes, e.g., Saira, Mutawassita and Taweela or Kebira, and its similar shapes like Maqsoum, Wahda Chefte-telli, Bamb and Masmoudi, i.e., the 4 timing rhythms. Sheikh Zakariyya was one of the few who made more use of less familiar rhythms like Darig, Dawr Hendi, Nawakht, Mhaggar.
W: How about Sheikh Sayyid Darwish?
M: Sheikh Sayyid Darwish and Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed after him. Sheikh Sayyid Darwish used such rhythms only in his Muwashshahat. Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed used them even in his normal songs, i.e., in his Adwar and even in his Taqateeq. God knows what Sayyid Darwish may have done had he lived on, yet he used these only in his Muwashshahat. For Zakariyya Ahmed, it was one of his progressive features to use uncommon rhythms in light songs.
W: is that the development which he has done to the light songs, and which is said to have guided El-Qassabgi, Riad El-Sonbati and Mohammed Abdel-Wahhab to this route?
M: Guided or not, I don’t like to be taken to this at all.
W: I want the characteristics. What was the development he made to the short songs whether he guided as you say?
M: though he used to make a song using less familiar Maqam and less familiar rhythm, it would become popular with people.
W: this magic recipe is attributed to him. Whatever is related to music in this is his choice of rhythms.
M: Shobbeiki Lubbeiki is a light Taqtouqa in Darig rhythm, ¾, uncommon then.
W: This is what you mean. Now the idea is clear.[Listen to Shobbeiki Lubbeiki by Zakariyya Ahmed from Sheikh Salih Abdel-Hayy.].
M: he was audacious, yet… Unlike his contemporaries who dared to make recitative or opera and got praised by the critics as the new cosmopolitan progressive music, yet no one listened to their songs, and no one knew them.
W: he dared to use all the tools in the same field and develop from inside the same texture whereas they imported from outside.
M: look how many of Sheikh Zakariyya’s tunes are performed by the folkloric Mazamir, i.e., a group of Mazamir together.
W: like what?
M: Khamsetein we-khmeisa which hardly anyone knows even that it’s the tune of Sheikh Zakariyya’s Khamsetein we-khmeisa, and it’s played by the Mazamir groups till now. Ghanni-li Shwayy Shwayy is played until now by the Mazamir groups in wedding ceremonies, isn’t it?
M: Ya Salat’e-zzein is played by the Mazamir groups until now. El-Leila Eed of Habeebi yes’id Aw’atoh, this part is played by the Mazamir groups till now in the wedding ceremonies. What do you want more than this? Who else amongst the composers has this? Whenever a composer’s tune becomes popular, he makes a big event out of it. For Sheikh Zakariyya, however, it’s far too much.
W: You mentioned earlier that Hatgann Ya reit Y’akhwanna is related to Bayram’s exile to Paris, can’t it be related to Sheikh Zakariyya’s journey to Paris? Before his journey to Paris in 1932, Sheikh Zakariyya used to be dressed in the Azhari uniform. Upon his return, however, he switched to wearing the fizz.
M: I think he has photographs before 1932 in the recording companies with a suit, but I cannot elaborate on that, I don’t know. But it was Bayram who said that about the song. It has no recordings with the recording labels, and all the recordings we have for the song are radio recordings, and therefore it seems that it was created after Bayram’s return from the exile, not before.[Listen to Hatgann Ya Reit Y’akhwanna marohtish London Walla Paris from Sheikh Zakariyya.].
W: ok then, let’s summarize this never-ending interesting story about the Sheikh of the composers and talk about the later songs which he made by the end of his life and how you view them in the overall journey of his development.
M: He, for instance, set the music for Ibn Zaidoun’s poem Adha’t-tana’I, for Fathiyya Ahmed.
W: was it for a movie?
M: no. And he composed songs for Mohammed Abdel-Mottalib by the end of his life. One of the very few things I heard Abdul-Mottalib sing in Fusha, the only Muwashshah sung by Adbul-Mottalib was Bintu Karmin Yattamouha Ahlaha by Sheikh Zakariyya. Nadra Amin is known to have been a singer of Muwashshahat, so, when she sang Bintu Karmin, it was expected. But, for Abdul-Mottalib to sing Bintu Karmin Yattamouha Ahlaha is very strange.[Listen to Bintu Karmin from Mohammed Abdel-Mottalib.].
M: The Tawasheeh he composed later on for Sheikh Mohammed El-Nadi and others had the same original spirit, and even when he returned to compose for Om-Kolthoum, Huwwa Saheeh was also like that. He himself recorded several songs like El-Ward Gamil and Ya Salat’ez-zein which he had recorded only months before his death.
W: what was the reason for recording these specific songs?
M: I think they wanted to catch something of him before his death on TV. It was a video recording in the TV theatre.
W: I also think that he recorded Hatgann Ya-reit Y’akhwanna also in a concert for the TV.
W: yes. He sang Hatgann ya-reit Y’akhwanna in a concert for the TV, and he forgot the lyrics many times, yet he made jokes about that with the audience in a very beautiful manner.
M: There was audience then! Because the well-known recording of El-Ward Gamil and Ya Salat’ez-zein had now audience. I don’t know whether it’s the same recording, but there’s a recording of it in a concert he gave in the Arab Music Institute which had audience in which he sang Hatgann Ya-Reit Y’akhwanna. I don’t know whether it was the same. It was in the 1950’s and there was no TV video recording yet.
W: I don’t have precise information. It came only from quick readings. It’s a never-ending world, but we tried to talk about the beginnings, the main stages, the final stage and the characteristics of his development. So, let’s choose one of his final tunes to share with our dear listeners, either one of his last compositions or a composition he chose to sing or record before his death.
M: ok, let’s listen to something from a private session which was one of the very last of what he recorded in his life, and, by the way, these recorded private sessions in the presence of Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed proves how good a listener he was, not only a musician and a composer, but also a good listener who listens attentively and appreciates very well whoever makes good music like, for instance, what Sheikh Mohammed Hassan El-Nadi and others used to sing in his presence. Let’s listen to part of these private sessions and then end this episode.
W: Great.[Listen to Muwashshah Ya Ba’eed’ad-dari from Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed.].
W: Whenever I listen to the work of Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed, I always used to have the feeling that this man is having fun, that he’s a child play with his toys and amuses himself even more than us, and that he enjoys himself first and then asks us to enjoy with him.
M: Yes, he was amusing himself.
W: and in this session with the musician and the musicologist Mustafa Said, this feeling was assured to me, and I wish that all of us listen to Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed and try to enjoy and reach this lovely state of listening which he himself used to enjoy. Until we meet again, thank you very much. This episode was presented to you by Walid Aladdin.[Listen to part of another private session recorded in the presence of Sheikh Zakariyya Ahmed.].