When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

Wedding in Mḥayfīf

Exchange of collective reǧzīt (reǧzīt maydānī) performed at a wedding held in Mḥayfīf, June 2004, and recorded by Sam Liebhaber.

When chanted collectively, the couplets are very difficult to understand word for word. Therefore, after devising a new couplet, the poet will share it with members of his team, who then pass it down the line from person to person. After they have chanted their couplet for a few minutes, the poet will visit the other teams and share his couplet with the poet from each. The poets in turn spend the next few minutes formulating a response. The first poet who devises a response will share his new couplet with members of his team, who then begin to chant it while the previously chanting team falls silent. The following clip shows Ḥājj Dākōn visiting the poets of the other teams and sharing his couplet with them. The clip then shows one poet pondering and then improvising a response, which is sent down the line, person by person.

The following short clips contain the couplets transcribed below. The bride’s family, represented by Ḥājj’s team (see clip 2), are welcoming a group of visitors from Ḳešḳōš (in the direction of Feydamī) to the celebration. The guests belong to the Bīt Ṣār alliance and include members of the following tribes: Raʿfīt, Kuddah, and Mḥōmet. The visitors can be heard chanting their couplet in clip 1.

Couplet 1Translation
1) ġeyber hās ḥmūl we-ǧer // w-hedḥawḳ ebeslōt // le-ǧrē ḏ-mawləyīnThe guest when he loaded [the camel] and brought along [the friends] // the sturdy female camels stepped along // for the sake of the noble ones
2) [Ḥājj couldn’t make out the 2nd line in the recording][Ḥājj couldn’t make out the 2nd line in the recording]

In clip 2, Ḥājj responds to the guests with a welcoming couplet (Ar. jawāb tarḥīb):
Couplet 2Translation
1) ġeyber ḏōma heyya beh // hās ḥōśem we-ġbūr // we-šḳāsī hashībThe guest, welcome to him // when he honored us and arrived // and faced the waves
2) bərī ʾār ḏ-eġawleḳ // w-ḏeḥawseb heh ḥsūb // le-sʾōten ḏe-wǧībIndeed I have looked for him // I have taken him into account // for the times of the [marriage] duties [ie. celebrations]

In clip 3, Ḥājj calls for an end to the exchange of reǧzīt so they everyone can eat.  Ḥājj is specifically addressing another group that has shown up.
Couplet 3Translation
1) kīnen ke-mḥawmel kel // we-mtellī we-lḥīḳ // w-ḏe ḳhēb w-heh nsībI hope that the entire “cargo ship” [all of the people, particularly the poets] // from the 2nd to last person to the one following [him] // whoever comes, he is [like] family [a relative]
2) ʾār ewaḳt mōne lā // tē le-bōleġ eḫḫəṭūr // hel yfōreḥ we-yʾāǧībBut the time doesn’t permit me // until I “reach” [satisfy] everyone // so that he’s happy and it pleases him

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