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Lesson 1: Learning “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha”

Aim: What are the building blocks of an Iraqi folk song?

Summary: Students will learn to sing “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha” and will explore the use of melody, rhythm, and refrains in Iraqi folk music.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide, classroom instruments
Standards: National 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10
Vocabulary: iqa’, maqam, refrain, unison

Iraqi folk music is characterized by several signature musical elements. The melodic system is based on the maqam, a scale system incorporating microtones that provides the foundation for Arabic music. There are 42 maqamat (the plural of maqam) altogether in the system; each is said to have a different character and emotion. Melodies are sung and played in unison by both singers and instrumentalists, with a unique form of ornamentation. There is also an improvised vocal introduction called a mawwal, or instrumental introduction called a taqsim. Rhythms are based on a series of 38 patterns called iqa’at; a single pattern is called an “iqa’.”

These elements are common to many forms of Arabic music. A defining feature for Iraqi music is the inclusion of a wordless refrain linking the verses and chorus. The refrain is usually based on a musical sequence. It is sung on a syllable such as “lai” or “la” to make it easily accessible, so the whole community can sing along with the musicians. You and your students will learn the maqam, the iqa’at, and the refrain for both songs in this unit.

Layth Teaches “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha”

“Tal’a Min Beit Abouha” Demonstration

Iraqi Folk artist Layth teaches “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha.”

Sing “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha”

  • Listen to “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha,” Track 55.
  • Notice that the improvised introduction is performed by the singer, and is called a mawwal.
  • Learn the words using “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha” pronunciation, Track 56, and the refrain using “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha” refrain, Track 57.
  • Listen again to the whole song, Track 55, and this time join in on the refrain.
  • Once you have mastered the refrain, you can also learn the chorus with Track 58. The chorus can also be sung with any syllables that the students choose if the Arabic language proves too challenging.
  • Note that the melody of the verse is the same as the melody of the refrain. Your students can sing or hum along with the verse as well.
  • Note that the lyrics are meant to be sung with a smile as one person teases and pretends to ignore the other in order to get more attention.

“Tal’a Min Beit Abouha”

Text

Chorus:
Tal’a min beit abouha
Rayhal beitil jeeran
Faat ma sallam ’alaya
Yimkinil hilo za’lan
(x2)

Refrain:
Lai la lai lai la la …

Verse 1:
Gilltilha ya hilwar-weeni
’Atshaan mayyas-geeni
Gilltilha ya hilwar-weeni
’Atshaan mayyas-geeni
Galatti ru ya maskeen
Galatti ru ya maskeen
Maynna ma yirwil ’atshan

(Chorus)

(Refrain)

Verse 2:
Gilltilha ya hilwar-weeni
’Atshaan mayyas-geeni
Gilltilha ya hilwar-weeni
’Atshaan mayyas-geeni
Galattli ruh ya maskeen
Galattli ruh ya maskeen
’Yooni ’yoonil ghizlan

(Chorus)

 

Translation

Chorus:
She left her father’s house
And went to the neighbor’s
She passed me without a hello
Maybe the beautiful one is upset
(x2)

Refrain:
Lai la lai lai la la …

Verse 1:
I told the beautiful one to nourish me
Give me water for I am thirsty
I told the beautiful one to nourish me
Give me water for I am thirsty
She told me to go away
She told me to go away
For our water doesn’t satisfy the thirsty

(Chorus)

(Refrain)

Verse 2:
I told the beautiful one to nourish me
Give me water for I am thirsty
I told the beautiful one to nourish me
Give me water for I am thirsty
She told me to go away
She told me to go away
My eyes are the eyes of the deer

(Chorus)

Explore the Maqam in “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha”

  • Explain that the maqam is a system of scales used in many kinds of Arabic music.
    • Do we know any scales? How do we sing them?
  • Demonstrate the major scale using scale degrees, solfège, body scales (using the body scale warm-up in Core Activities or classroom instruments).
  • The maqam used in this song is called maqam Ajam; it is the same as the major scale.
  • Listen to maqam Ajam on Track 59. Explain that are 42 different maqamat, and each one has a different emotion or mood associated with it.
  • You can also note that each maqam also has its own special path, called a “sayr,” that determines which notes are most important, what order the notes appear, and how often each note is heard.
  • Sing the maqam using scale degrees or body scales, or play it on classroom instruments.
    • What mood or emotion do you feel from this maqam?
    • Maqam Ajam is considered to be light, happy, and uplifting.
    • What color would you picture it to be? What time of day?
      • Layth thinks of maqam Ajam as orange, and as a sunset.
    • How does this mood relate to the lyrics?

Explore Iqa’ in “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha”

  • Explain that the rhythms in Iraqi folk songs are built upon one-measure patterns called iqa’at.
  • Explain that there are many different rhythms—38 of them altogether!
  • Explain that each iqa’ is made up of two basic sounds: dum, which is long and deep sounding, and tak, which is short and crisp.
  • The iqa’ used in “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha” is iqa’ Malfuf, which means “wrapped around.”
  • Using Track 60, learn the iqa’ Malfuf.
    • Speak the rhythms using the syllables “dum” and “tak.”
    • There is also a traditional way to clap the rhythms.
      • Dum is a regular clap.
      • For tak, flip one hand over so the palm strikes the back of the other hand.
  • Play the rhythm on classroom percussion instruments, picking different instruments or parts of instruments to make the two different sounds.
  • Try out different found objects using both your hands and different strikers until you find a combination that makes each of the distinctive sounds. Play the iqa’ using the found instruments.
  • Create a percussion orchestra using the different sounds you have discovered. Using “Tal’a Min Beit Abouha,” Track 55, the orchestra can play the iqa’ while listening to the song. A “conductor,” or leader, can pick different sections of the orchestra to play different parts of the song. Everyone can join in singing the refrain.
Creative Extension

Exploring Iraqi Folk Instruments

In Iraqi Folk Instruments (PDF), your students will learn about five instruments that characterize Iraqi folk music. Using Tracks 61–65, listen to examples of each instrument.

  • Oud means “thin strips of wood” in Arabic, because its pear-shaped body is constructed from wooden strips. It has five pairs of strings, each tuned in unison, and one bass string. The oud is used in many cultures in Asia and North Africa, including the Armenian folk music of Zulal from Program Five.
  • The qanun is a kind of Arabic harp that dates to the 10th century. It has 81 strings, with three strings for each note. The strings are plucked with plectra on the forefinger of each hand. Since the qanun only has eight notes per octave, it has to be tuned for each maqam.
  • The violin has been an important part of Arabic ensembles since the 19th century. It is the same instrument used in Western classical music, but uses a different tuning system and playing style.
  • The riqq is a small hand drum with cymbals around it, much like a tambourine. It is the only percussion instrument in a traditional Iraqi ensemble; the musician who plays it is called dabet al-iqa’, or manager of rhythm. The riqq can be used to play complex rhythms and ornaments using intricate fingering techniques, and can produce many different sounds by utilizing the skin, wood frame, and cymbals.
  • The ney is a flute made of cane that dates back 4,000–5,000 years, making it one of the oldest instruments still in use. It is the only wind instrument used in traditional Arabic music; it has a warm, breathy sound and is quite difficult to play. Neys come in different lengths, each one tuned to a different pitch.

Musical Word Wall

Review the words refrain and unison, and add the words iqa’ and maqam to the Musical Word Wall.

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