Palestinian improvised-sung poetry : the genres of Ḥidā and Qarrādī : performance and transmission
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The improvised-sung poetry of the Palestinians is a living tradition of oral poetry, extemporized impromptu in the colloquial Arabic of the Palestinians. It is sung by professional native Palestinian poets for their countrymen primarily at weddings, baptisms, private parties, public festivals, and other joyous social occasions (see Ḍ. Sbait 1982:1-59). This improvised-sung poetry is known in Arabic by the name of ash-shicr al-murtajal (improvised poetry; cf. Bonnebaker 1978) or ash-shicr ash-shacbī (folk poetry) or az-zajal (colloquial Arabic poetry in strophic form) or al-shicr al-cāmmī (poetry in colloquial language), because it does not follow the grammatical rules of the written standard Arabic used by the poets of literary poetry. The Palestinian poet-singer who composes this poetry is known by his countrymen as ḥādī or ḥaddā (lit. “camel-eer”), shācir shacbī (folk poet), qawwāl (improviser or reciter), or zajjāl (improviser), the most common of these names being ḥaddā or shācir. My research is based on a collection of improvised-sung poetry recorded live in the field, neither written or precomposed nor preserved in books, manuscripts, or tapes. It includes approximately 15,000 lines of this extemporaneous poetry, which fall under seven different genres: cAtābā, Ḥidā, Farcāwī, Mḥorabih, Mcannā, Qarrādī, and Qaṣīdih. These genres are entirely different from one another in their poetic forms, diverse rhyme schemes, and musical melodies (Ḍ. Sbait 1982:60-349). The following paper focuses on two of the most popular genres of the improvised-sung poetry of the Palestinian poet-singers: ḥidā and qarrādī, these two being the most representative genres of this oral tradition. This study presents a concise literary definition entailing the basic characteristic poetic features of both genres, as well as a brief theoretical musical description. It also presents an analysis of the poetic structure of the basic forms of the ḥidā and qarrādī with an emphasis on the use of the rhyme schemes, an overwhelmingly dominant poetic feature in this oral poetry. Yet due to the richness and complexity of this poetry, the analysis will exclude the many related subgenres. The analysis will be supported by illustrative quotations of improvised-sung poetry. The paper also deals with the subjects of the poems, as well as the social context in which the poems are improvised-sung. In addition the essay also describes the method in which the ḥidā and qarrādī are performed, and fi nally it includes a thorough presentation of the practical training of the Palestinian poet-singers and the manner in which their oral poetry is handed down from one generation of poet-singers to another.--Introduction.
Oral Tradition, 4/1-2 (1989): 213-35
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