When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

Poem in Hobyot?

Recited by ʿĪsā ʿAlī Raʿfīt and composed by ʿĪsā’s mother’s father, ʾAḥmad Sālim bir Raʿfīt. Recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Damḳawt, March 2004, and translated with the help of Muḥammad bir Nǧēma Āmr Ǧīd and Saʿīd Musallim Āmr Ǧīd, in Ṣalālah, February 2012.  These are the first few lines of a longer poem (note the defective rhyme pattern). ʿĪsā ʿAlī Raʿfīt and my two consultants (Muḥammad bir Nǧēma and Saʿīd Musallim) said that this poem is in the Hobyot language, although the features that distinguish this poem as being in Hobyot appear to be linked to the prosodic qualities of the recitation (Ar. al-ʾadāh) rather with any particular lexical or grammatical characteristics. Except for these lines of poetry, my attempts to solicit poetry in the critically endangered (if not moribund) Hobyot language were typically rejected on the grounds that Hobyot speakers only composed poetry in the Mahri language.

1) ṭalʿāt ġallōt // ṭer ḥadb ʾālīThe monsoonal fog arises // atop the lofty mountain
2) men śont eǧīd // ameḳźānotFor the sake of the beautiful one // [my] darling cutie-pie
3) maḳźayf le-lbīb // l-šebdānotTaking control of my heart // and my "little liver".

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