When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

Nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet

Line StructureHemistich

TopicSentimentalSpecified and Unspecified Referent

LengthMultiline Monothematic

PerformanceRecited and Sung

Like the qaṣīda ghināʾiyya genre, the genre marked category of nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet is an oddity among the genre marked categories in this collection insofar as it has very little circulation outside of a small minority of Arabic-literate, Mahri cultural authorities based in al-Ghaydha. I have included the phrase nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet in my classification system because it serves an important need to acknowledge a new type of Mahri lyric poem. Ḥājj Dākōn coined this term in the early 2000s to describe a number of his lyric poems (Mhr. ḳṣīdet < Ar. qaṣīda) that followed a linear narrative (Ar. nuṣṣ). While the term qaṣīda is used in Arabic sources to describe certain forms of Mahri lyric poetry, the borrowed term ḳṣīdet is rarely used by the Mahra themselves. Instead, lyric poems are referred to by whatever melody accompanies them (yēd w-yēd, lawlā, dānidān, yā dānī, lōlewēt, etc.). Due to the multiplicity of melodies and their regional variations, referring to lyric poems by a melodic signature does not distinguish poems on topical or formal grounds.

The core of Ḥājj’s terminological innovation was to recognize that some of his lyric poems follow a linear narrative rather than explore or expand upon a single sentimental theme (desire, blame, description, etc.). In his view, this warranted the development of a new conceptual category for Mahri lyric poetry: the nuṣṣ ḳṣīda. Ḥājj’s terminology points to a fundamentally different treatment of poetic structure and thematic progression in his own compositions compared to those of an older generation of Mahri poets. 

Since the label of nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet is not circulated outside of Ḥājj’s circle of colleagues, I have refrained from applying it to traditional lyric poems written by other poets. Instead, I have identified as nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet only those lyric poems from Ḥājj’s Dīwān that he himself designated as such.

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