When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

Collective Chant

Featuring choreographed squadrons of participants, collectively chanted couplets reaffirm the social and familial bonds of the Mahri-speaking community through the exchange of ritual greetings and reciprocal acknowledgement. As a result, collective chanting is a socially venerated mode of performance, distinct from either recitation or sung performance in terms of their assumption of group camaraderie, collective entertainment, and social bonding. Because the practice of collective chanting assumes commonly known practices behind their organization and exhibition, poems that are chanted collectively typically belong to genres whose rules are familiar to its participants. One can find described in the scholarly record a number of different genres of Arabian vernacular poetics that are chanted by groups and individuals working in concert; all have different names and regional specificities, yet all share the feature of collective chanting. By no means a comprehensive list, such genres include the ʿarih described by Sowayan (Sowayan, 1985: 142), the raǧza/marǧaz/mirǧāza/mirǧūza described by Landberg (Landberg, 1905: 99-173 and 1920–42: 1135-36), the zāmil described by Miller (Miller, 2007: 96), and the bālah described by Caton (Caton, 1990passim). In al-Mahra, collective chanting is typically associated with two poetic genres: reǧzīt and dāndān. Other forms of collective chanting occur under more specific circumstances. The rābūt,  a therapeutic healing chant, is one such genre, although the aesthetic and social value of individual lines of a rābūt are considerably less than those of reǧzīt or dāndān because the former is viewed in strictly practical terms (healing) rather than as a form of entertainment.       


This page has paths:

This page has tags:

Contents of this tag: