When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra


All poems belonging to the samʿīn genre have the following parameters:

Line Structure


LengthMultiline Polythematic


On paper, samʿī poems (also called samʿīn) are virtually indistinguishable from ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems since they are also composed of monorhymed tristich lines and address tribal conflicts and historical events. There may be more topical flexibility with regard to the samʿī category: one samʿī poem that I recorded (initially commissioned for my fiancée) was moderately lyrical. This may have been an exception to the rule.

Formally speaking, samʿī poems are distinct from ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems with respect to syllable count: there are five syllables per stich in samʿī poems, whereas there are seven syllables per stich in ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems. This means that both marked genres are distinguished by their signature melodies; the melody characteristic of samʿī poems cannot be applied to an ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poem and vice versa. Unlike ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems (which are lexically distinct from other poetic genres thanks to some variation of the phrase ʾōdī we-krēm krēm embedded within it), the samʿī genre is exclusively marked by its signature melody. If a samʿī poem is recited, it loses its genre specificity. Unlike the other named melodies, however, the samʿī melody is recognized across al-Mahra and does not significantly vary from region to region. Like the melody of the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre, the samʿī melody is a pan-Mahri cultural practice and exists as a common conceptual category among Mahri speakers from Dhofār to Sayḥūt. For this reason, I have listed it among the genre marked categories.

Contents of this path:

This page has tags:

Contents of this tag: