Mahri Poetry Archive

Strophic Songs


In the traditional poetic praxis of al-Mahra, strophic songs are distinct from all other forms of Mahri poetry due to the fact that they cannot be chanted or recited.  Melody is intrinsic to strophic songs to the degree that they cannot be performed without melodic accompaniment. Traditional strophic songs in al-Mahra are restricted to work songs (ʾahāzīj) and celebratory songs whose performance never falls outside of the prescribed cultural act or physical labor they are meant to accompany.  From a formal perspective, strophic songs consist of brief isometric, mono-stich lines that alternate with a repeated, choral line.  The choral line may or may not be sense bearing; sometime the choral line is composed of quasi-nonsense syllables that evoke the melodic template to the song .

Any hemistich poem can, in fact, be performed as a strophic song.  The choral line will take the form of metrical-filler syllables that reiterate the melodic template (“hāy dān i dān” or “yā sāməʿī sāmʿī”, for instance), or it may be a single stich adapted from the body of the poem. However, the poems classified as “strophic songs” can only be performed as strophic songs; they have no existence outside of this category.  Moreover, the choral line itself is frequently intrinsic to the broader meaning and aesthetic structure of the poem, even if it departs from the formal characteristics of the other lines in the poem.

In the last decade, the Mahri poet Ḥājj Dākōn has developed a new genre of Mahri poetry that is imitative of an Arabic-vernacular poetic genre: the Ḥaḍramī sung-poem (qaṣīda ghināʾiyya). Ḥājj Dākōn’s strophic sung-poems differ from traditional ʾaḥāzīj in terms of their longer stanzas (three to four isometric mono-stich lines per stanza), sense-bearing choral lines divided into hemistichs, and the fact that they are not associated with any particular form of celebration or physical labor.  As a result, that can be sung collectively at any celebratory event or sung individually when a lyric mood strikes the singer.  I address the historical development of the modern genre of sung poem in Southern Arabia in my article: “The Ḥumaynī Pulse Moves East: Yemeni Nationalism Meets Mahri Sung-Poetry.”


Qaṣīda ghināʾiyya:

Beautiful, Everything About You is Beautiful (Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn #15)

Watch Out and Be Warned (Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn #16)

I’m Not to Blame (Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn #17)

I Have a Little Lady

Little Jewel Said


Traditional Work (Ar. ahāzīj) or Celebratory Songs:

Wedding Night Song

Work Song for Stitching and Repairing Fabric


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