When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

The Battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt

Unknown composer and transmitter, both from the inland districts (Ar. al-bādiya) of central al-Mahra. In this recording, the poem is sung according to the standard ʾōdī we-krēm krēm melody. The recording of this poem was given to Ḥājj Dākōn by Suhayl Zaʿbenōt (transferred from cellphone to cellphone?) and then translated and transcribed by Sam Liebhaber in al-Ghaydha, July 2008.

This poem documents the battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt, which occurred approximately seventy to eighty years ago between the Ṣmōdā and Ḥrēzī tribes. The battle was named for the eḳbīb tree, from which firewood is gathered. During the battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt, Sādīt of Ḥrēzī and his companions were sniping at Ṣmōdā from a mountaintop. However, Sādīt didn’t want to kill any of the Ṣmōdā because his mother was Ṣmōdā and the men below were his relatives. So instead he and his companions shot at their headscarves and weapons in order to scare them off. Ḥājj Dākōn met Sādīt when he was still young (in the early 1980s). Even as an old man, Sādīt was an excellent shot and his marksmanship was proverbial throughout al-Mahra. He lived to be over one hundred years old. In this poem, Slōm is from Smōdā, and Sēlim is Ḥrēzī. Bir Sʿīd is from Ṣmōdā.

PoemTranslation
1) hel ysūken bir sʿīd // beyn bwōdī we-hrīt // we-kkwōrī ḏe-mhərūtWhere the son of Sʿīd lives // between the deserts of Hrīt // and the feeder ravines of Mahrūt
2) we-ḳṣeylet ʾōfyōt // we-dġawt əmāməlēt // le-ḳnawṭer ḏe-zhūtThe cease-fire expired // the “field has sprouted” // at the irrigation channels, it has grown tall (and abundant)
3) nūka be-ḫbēr ḏrey // le-mǧawma ḏe-ḥḥəǧīr // tōba be-śtīrfūtThey brought strange news // to all of those assembled // the possessors of excellent, exalted virtues
4) fōn heǧs ertəbūb // ḏ-īšṣawten le-ffəlēk // hebṭā w-lē sbūtAnd after the passion [of Sʿīd] became dense [like the stars] // he listens carefully for the appointed time // whether it is delayed or comes earlier
5) tē ḫbēr ǧrōh w-fār // sōyer ke-mneddəbīn // we-ṣfeth ṭeyrūtUntil the news came and spread // going with the messengers // and its information flew all around
6) we-ḥsōbī le-slōm // bēl əǧesm w-hammēt // habrē ḏ-semdəyūtMy hopes are with Slōm // possessor of fortitude and power // son of the Smōdī woman
7) bēr əǧōrem leh ʾāṣūr // yeškōf w-heh klawl // w-la ʾāyneh hāǧfūt[Days] and nights have already passed over him // he lays down [to sleep] and is kept awake by pains // and his eyes do not sleep
8) tē ǧsēdeh ərteḳawḳ // we-mṭā’t ḏ-meḫḫəlīḳ // l-ād ḥōlet ṣeydūtUntil his body becomes emaciated // and the food of humans // does not help his condition
9) ənnəḳawd meḥḥəzūr // w-nḫā l-heh sḫawṭ // hel əḫaffeh seyrūt[Slōm] chose the choice fighting men of his tribe // under him [i.e., his command] (are) the bravest ones // wherever he goes
10) ṣalb we-ǧsēdeh ṭāt // wel ḫāśer beh ḫśūr // men əsōseh we-ṣmūtAll from one back and body [they are kin] // in no one is there mixed a mixing // from his roots, his is of one flesh
11) w-ewōber beh bsūl // śill ʾāyneh we-nśərūtHis mounts are swift and strong // lifting their eyes and walking proudly [being happy]
12) kūneḥ bīsen əssəbēḫ // teḳrīren b-hāwēl / tē šnēdeḫ le-khūtHe sets off with the camels across the plain // trotting at the front // he brought them up to their secret camp
13) wōfeḳ we-ġrīm ḥźawr // we-ǧdīdem leh yheyt // we-hdīyet ġabrūtThey found what they wanted and that their target was present // they begin the encounter anew and shouted yheyt at him // a gift that was there
14) ġmōleh be-ksēl // bād əmazh we-źḥāḳ // w-hōbītem we-ġmūtThey threw him down after a bit // after playing a joke // they pinned him down and covered his face
15) sēlem ḳawṭa le-fwōd // bēh bḫeys mharḳōn // we-nyēt mhelwūtSēlim [the quarry] cut off [the feelings] of his heart // in him were pains well-known // his intentions all wrought up
16) ḳōbel ke-swīyet lā // we-bkōr w-lū ʾāḳawr // we-klēf ḏ-yertəbūtHe doesn’t think about the things [done to him] // or the pile [of worries], even if it grows large // and its burden increases
17) we-ṭmūten ebtəlūl // śūra men ḥmō krā’ // we-frūd l-hāḳfūtTheir thirsty camels drank their fill // and drank pure water // and then took off for their hills
18) tē w-lū brēk əźeyḳ // we-mlōda ḏe-ffərūḳ // əġmūlem we-kfūtEven if they are [ridden] in a narrow area // their eyes glance around in fear…// they threw him to the ground and pinioned his arms
19) ʾār ḫźeyr w-lō ʾāmūm // we-shīb ḏ-īḳḳədūt // le-mkawser we-nkəśūtLike the ocean when it is angry // waves follow upon wave // over the reefs [the ocean] roils
20) kem men ṭīt w-seh ṭnūh // ətġawleḳ əmūḥeyr // beh ṣrōt mhōhəfūtHow many raging she-camels // looking upon an fenced-in garden // but ropes stop them from moving at all
21) ḏ–ʾār ədarb hawrēs // bāl əzōyed ḏe-ḥwōl // we-śśəḳāt l-ʾāfdūtBut the road prevents her [from reaching the garden] // the wall is large and has many layers // and the steps [she takes] do not take [her] over [it]
22) we-b-sats ʾālḳōt // we-ḥṭāb men əṣerbeyt // w-ǧellōt əǧensəfūtAnd soon [war] broke out // its fuel [taken] from the ṣarbeyt tree // hot flames burning from the stumps
23) we-ǧźawret yekrūr // w-sūmeydī le-slōm // hēs hatf ənǧəzūtThe “lions” attacked // and the Smōdī surrendered // when his rifle was emptied
24) le-ḳlūten yebhōr // be-ǧmīlet we-drēk // we-slōmet ḥeṣlūtHe called for help from the young men // [to come] well and speedily // the help arrived
25) we-ḥǧūfem leh ġyūǧ // men ədēfer we-lhīb // ḫōzem leh men əḥwūtMen came to protect him // from the fire and flames // and defended him from the net of death
26) w-sādīt ḏlūf w-ferr // we-ḳdōm hṭeyr əḳōn // əġfōr ḏ-bēr ḳnūtSādīt jumped up and went // coming to the very top of a mountain // May God have mercy on the woman who bore him
27) yekhōb ḏ-heh ṣendūd // yestūfī men əġell // berh nōǧeḥ we-ṯbūtHe who is brave came // throwing dust on himself out of excitement // indeed he is ready (“well cooked”) and steadfast
28) we-brūkem hārwōn // le-mḫawbeṭ əġzōn // ṣnets ənǧəbūtThe “rams” kneeled [with their rifles] // in order [to shoot] their new bullets // fresh from the factory
29) b-śīwōṭḏ-seh nǧiḥt // men ʾawafh ḏ–ṭerrāb // wet rišt ənḳəbūtWith the fire that is strong and continuous // from the rapid action of the firing pin // and the clicking of the trigger
30) we-ḥzūrem mešwōf // we-tḳawnem źebtāt // hel əśawket ḫaṭfūtThey know well the rifle sights // and are experts at taking aim // when the bullets whiz by
31) tē mīzōn dkūs ʾāḳā // we-ǧwēher ḏe-zhē // men əkabś eftəlūtUntil the scale tilted to the ground // and “the jewels of the wedding” escaped // and were lost from their hand
32) we-zġīf ḏ-hāhmənōn // w-kīlōten ǧāryōt // ṣāreb bēhem we-hbūtThey poured out their cartridges // running through measures [of ammo] // [there was] a loss [of ammo] and a heedless expenditure
33) we-ḥsōb el menh bedd // mīzōn tē l-ṣār // le-brē men hkūtBut there is no avoiding [taking vengeance] into consideration // until the scales are even once again // and is fixed of its tilt
34) w-ber ʾāmer men khēn // ḏ-el yṭōmeh śḳāt wel yrikt ḏe-rkūtAnd Bir ʾĀmer, for a long time past, // is not one greedy to overstep [the bounds] // and is not one who stomps on one who has stomped on him
35) ġeyr we-killem hāmtōn // we-śrūḳem men əḫawf // yebṣeyr šūdəfūtExcept if they cause him pain in his back // or it is split in half from fear // or if he sees the end-game coming
36) we-ṣrōma we-krēm // hɛ̄s əlēḥen ərtəbūb // w-mehṣāt l-ġārəffūtAnd now ōdī we-krēm krēm // when the melodies gather // a reservoir that can’t be emptied by scooping
37) men taʾmērem ənśəkōt // ḏ–ʾār ḥmō brēk sōs // w-mehṣāt mhaḥsūt[Beware] of saying that it has dried up // indeed there is water in its deepest bedrock // and the reservoir has been re-dug
38) wet nkūśes tentəkūś // ke-mḫawreǧḏe-rbā // we-mdīt dōṯəyūtIf it is searched for, it is found // [as though it were a well] at the time of the departure of Rbā // and the mdīt of Dōṯa
39) kem men ṭīṭ w-seh ṭmīt // mnōhel ṣedrūtHow many she-camels when she [sic] is thirsty // goes forth from the streams [quenched of thirst]
40) wet ṭwōren thāḳawb // beyn ərāmel we-ḫṭāt // hēs əbīr messənūtSometimes the “muse” migrates // between the sandy plain and the pasture land // like a spring from which people habitually draw water
41) w-adh ǧēza medḥeyḳ // we-bḳāt ḏ-šāḳawtAnd Wadi Ǧēza is still well-travelled // and the place of Šāḳawt
42) hād ṣeydet ḏe-ḫḫəlē // ḏīk tehyūm ʾāḳā // le-hnefs we-ḫlūtNo one but the desert gazelle // the one who roams the land // by herself in the desolate waste
43) bēr thawzer əlebbōd // ke-rdōten ḏ-rīḥeyn // wet əǧēs əškerfūtShe has known the hunter // when the wind blows back and forth // when she smells his sweat
44) teḥrīren b-āzīb / tē men hāl ġeyṭāṭ / we-ḥrō əġteybūtShe takes off at a run // until she has disappeared // and her head has completely disappeared.
 

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  1. The Battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt