Mahri Poetry Archive

Samʿī(n)

 

Formal Structure: Tristich

Content: Occasional

Length: Multi-line Polythematic

Performance: Sung

On paper, samʿī(n) poems (also called samʿī[n] samʿī[n] or yā samʿī[n]) are virtually indistinguishable from ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems since they are also composed of monorhymed tristich lines and address tribal conflicts and historical events.  There may be more topical flexibility with regards to the samʿī(n) category: one samʿī(n) poem that I recorded (initially commissioned for my fiancée) was moderately lyrical.  This may have been an exception to the rule.

Formally speaking, samʿī(n) poems are distinct from ōdī we-krēm krēm poems with respect to syllable count: there are five syllables per stich in samʿī(n) poems whereas there are seven syllables per stich in ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems.  This means that both marked-genres are distinguished by their signature melodies; the melody characteristic of samʿī(n) poems cannot be applied to an ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poem and vice versa.  Unlike ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems (which are lexically distinct from other poetic genres thanks to the some variation of the phrase “ʾōdī we-krēm krēm” embedded within it), the samʿī(n) genre is exclusively marked by its signature melody.  If a samʿī(n) poem is recited, it loses its genre specificity.  Unlike the other “named” melodies, however, the samʿī(n) melody is recognized across al-Mahra and does not significantly vary from region to region.  Like the melody of the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre, the samʿī(n) melody is a pan-Mahri cultural practice and exists as a common conceptual category amongst Mahri speakers from Dhofār to Sayḥūt.  For this reason, I have listed it amongst the genre-marked categories.

 

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