Jul 272007

A traditional Arab wedding

Music and Songs for Arabic Weddings

Arabic weddings are often accompanied by very traditional or religious style music, often with dancing as well, such as the dabkah, a typical Arab folk dance that is practiced in many countries, with only slight variations. In the dabkah, the men generally drape their arms over one another’s shoulders and dance in a pattern.

Wedding songs and dances are often accompanied by the women’s “Zaghareet” or ululations, the cries of joy that Arab women make during weddings and other happy occasions. A Zaghroutah (the singular of Zaghareet) is a sharp and crisp sound, which expresses loudly a happy wish for an individual or groups. Each Arab country and indeed each region has its own style of zaghroutah.

A Traditional Palestinian Wedding Song

One type of traditional wedding song is al-zaffeh, in which the friends and family of the bride and groom clap and chant various phrases which praise the character of the bride and groom. The singers speak directly to the groom and bride. They tell the groom how lucky he is to be wedding this particular bride, and they tell the bride how happy she will be with this groom. At some point, those participating in al-zaffeh sing in two groups where one group sings a phrase and the other answers by repeating the phrase or starts a new phrase.

In one Palestinian zaffah, the singers chant the following phrases:

  1. First stanza:
    “Areesna zein el-shabab, zein el-shabab areesna.”
    Our bridegroom is the best of youth, the best of youth is our bridegroom.
  2. Second stanza:
    “Areesna ‘Antar ‘Abs, ‘Antar ‘Abs Areesna.”
    Our bridegroom is ‘Antar ‘Abs, ‘Antar ‘Abs is our bridegroom.
    (‘Antar ‘Abs is the tribal hero of Arab folklore love story, who falls madly in love with his maiden Leila and saves her from the brink of disaster when she is kidnapped from her desert tent palace by a raiding enemy party).
  3. Third stanza (translation only):
    The sun which is in the sky, know that we have a bridegroom on our earth today.
  4. Fourth stanza (translation only):
    Our bridegroom is the sun of the dawn, he asked the bride’s hand and wasn’t shy.

Popular Arabic Wedding Songs

Some popular contemporary Arabic wedding songs are:

  • “Amarain (Two Moons)” by Hasan el-Asmar.
  • “Bader” by Rashid Al Majed – This song starts out with a lot of celebratory ululating, then calls for peace and blessings on the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), then follows with a cheerfully dramatic religious harmony. While the content is admirable, I find the song to be a little too overwrought, and at almost twelve minutes in length, a bit wearying.
  • “Hab il sa3ad” by Fatooma – Fatooma is a popular Kuwaiti singer.
  • “Alzaffah” by Rashid Al Majed.
  • “Mabrook” by Yousef.
  • “Etmakhtari Ya Helwa Ya Zena (Walk With A Graceful Swinging Gait, O Beautiful, O Pretty One)”. This song is a zaffeh, which is a song used for a wedding procession.
  • I also found a clip on Salmiya.net. It’s an Arabic wedding song sung to the tune of a traditional English-language wedding march. I don’t really care for this kind of thing, but I know for some it might be just what you’re looking for. You can listen to it by clicking here.
  • On Anasheed.com I found this page of Arabic wedding nasheeds, which are Islamic-style songs, sung without musical accompaniment (except sometimes a drum). These come from all over the Arab world. See them here.
  • Someone on the Maroko forums posted this list of forty Arabic wedding songs, unfortunately without links, but you may be able to find them by searching the individual artists:01- Cliff Richards – Congratulations
    02 Mohamad Hejazy – Zefou El3arous Zefouha
    03 Rami Ayash – Mabrouk
    04 Nohad Tarabay – Zaffet El 3arouss
    05 Zaffeh – Wedding Music
    06 Jalal El Hamdaoui – Mabrouk 3aleik Ya 3ariss
    07 Shafik Kabah – Jina w Jina
    08 Samir Hanna – El Layil Ya Weily
    09 Fares Karam – El 3eres
    10 Assi El Hellany – Far7etna El Kbire
    11 Rabih El Khawly – Nwena 3al Jazy
    12 Samir Hanna – Ya Emmy Khalast Drousi
    13 Shik Shak Shok – Belly Dancing
    14 Maya Yazbeck – Habibe Ya 3einy
    15 Darbouka Remix 2omi Ta Nor2os
    16 Fares Karam – Megamix
    17 Mohamad Hejazy – 7obak Ya Wala
    18 Tony Kiwan – Lebanese Dabkeh Mixed
    19 Tony Kiwan – Badik Badik Ma Badik
    20 Hasna – Bein El 3aser
    21 Nancy Ajram – Ah w Noss
    22 Fares Karam – El Tanoura
    23 Nourhan – Habibi Ya 3einy
    24 Wael Kfoury – Ma W3adtik Be Njoum El Leil
    25 Fares Karam – Ma Be23od Balaky
    26 Sami Clarck – 2omi Ta Nor2os
    27 Toni Kiwan – Habibi Ya Mama
    28 Zein El Omr – 3ayel Many 3ayel
    29 Fares Karam – Mahdoumeh
    30 Fadi – Zeina Remix
    31 Samir Hanna – Haysa w Dabke
    32 Zafet El Iskandarany
    33 Dabkat Beqa3iya – Laq3adlak
    34 Assi El Hellany – El Hawara
    35 Assi El Hellany – Haddeli
    36 Assi El Hellany – Hawara_3
    37 Fahed Akiki – Meli Be Khasrek
    38 Dabkeh – Wa3adtina
    39 Dabkeh – Zeyanol Sa7a
    40 Dabkeh – Zaffet El 3ariss

Arabic Wedding Music Online

Smithsonian Global Sound (http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org) offers a CD titled “Arab Wedding Music”, by unknown artists. It’s very traditional, catchy stuff, sounding like Bedouin music with its simple beats and melodies. They have another album, titled “Arabic and Druse Music,” that features a wedding song as well. Once again, it’s very traditional, with an active, reedy-sounding flute accompanied by men clapping and singing.

Amazon.com carries an album called, “Zaghareed: Music From The Palestinian Holy Land.” This is the only album composed purely of traditional Arab wedding music that I have found available online. The Amazon editorial review says about this album,

“Zaghareed is a concept album based on the music played during a traditional wedding ceremony. It subtly challenges the traditions of arranged marriages and of the woman’s place in society, within a context of beautifully played Arabic music. Instrumental pieces feature qanun, oud, buzuq, flutes, and reed instruments, and various percussion. The vocal songs join the voices of women and men, at times singing in contrast to one another, at others raising their voices in unity, celebration, and perseverance.”

One blogger describes this album as, “Probably the best reproduction of traditional mediterranean arab wedding music to be released commercially. Yep, the palestinians have taken the cake/hareeseh. Gorgeous vocal and musical arrangements. I’ve read too many accounts that say Arabic music contains no harmony. Oh my children, how wrong you are.”

After reading the glowing reviews of this compilation of traditional Arabic wedding music, I ordered the CD. I’ll write my own review after I’ve listened to it.

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