Courtly love

Courtly love

Adîb al-Dâyikh

Adib al-Dayikh comes from a great family of mystics and reciters of the Koran. He is famous for his communicative style full of feeling. This appropriately named artist (his name means literally “the dazed one” or “the exhilarated”, referring to passionate love of God and Divine love) departed this life on 13 August 2001.
Dayik’s success was unquestionable; he owed it to his tessitura (three octaves and a remarkable high register), the beautiful poems he chose with such care, and the feeling of musical ecstasy (tarab) that he and his musicians helped to evoke.
He performed songs sung since the Middle Ages by the mystical muslim brotherhoods during their collective rituals of invocation. But Dayikh wanted to illustrate the universal nature of love too, and would readily sing of erotic love, expressed in sometimes ‘risqué’ though never vulgar, images.


1 – Wasla in bayyâtî mode – 29’34
2 – Wasla in sîkâh mode – 16’20
3 – Wasla in râst mode – 25’55

Interpreters and instruments

Adîb al-Dâyikh (Singing, direction)
Muhammad Qâdrî Dallâl (oud)
Wâlid Sûdâ (nây)
Julien Jalâleddin Weiss (kanoun)
Âdil Shamsal-Dîn (percussion)


Adib al-Dayikh (1939-2001) was born in Aleppo, in the Northern Syria. The name of this descendant of a great family of mystics and Koran reciters means “dazed” or “exhilarated” in Arabic, in fact, it means dazed by passion for God and exhilarated by divine love.

Since the 1960’s, he started his career as a reader (muqri’), a reciter of psalms (murattil), then a chanter (mujawwid) of the Koran, before becoming a song master (mutrib), capable of teaching the theory of music and its art without being an instrumental performer. His concerts and recordings met with general enthusiasm all over the Arab world. His singing style has been imitated by numerous musicians, for he has restored the erudite Syrian art to its rightful place and his protests against the caricatural commercial productions of the Middle-Eastern media are well-known.

The takht and its art

The Al Kindi Ensemble is a small string ensemble called takht (in Persian, the divan on which the musicians sit) that unites the plucked string zither (qanun, canon or law in Greek), the lute (‘ud, a piece of wood in Arabic), the oblique flute (nay, reed in Persian), the framed tambourine (daff or duff, a Semitic onomatopoeia) and, in certain cases, the western violin (kamanche, small bow in Persian).

Free-rhythm improvisations or semi-improvisations (taqsim-s, divisions of the musical scale in Arabic) are performed on set modes (maqam-s, the position of the fingers on the strings in Arabic). It is here that the art of modulation (al-talwin) and transpositions (al-taswir) displays all its complexity. Preludes or measured instrumental interludes are also played and vary according to the number of musical phrases, refrains and beats: from the most simple (dulab, wheel or ritornello in Persian) to the most ordinary (sama’i, listen in Ottoman), to the most complicated (bashraf, what precedes in Persian).

The singers possess a complex repertory of learned suites (wasla-s or fasl-s) whereby they perform the semi-improvised qasida-s (monorhyming or monometric poems in classical Arabic), measured choral songs muwashshahat (multi-rhymed and multi-metered poems in median or classical Arabic) and qadd-s (lighter choral pieces with simple rhythms in median or dialectal Arabic, sometimes adapted from the popular heritage, from Ottoman, Greek or Kurdish). Following the inspiration of the performers, the qasida can have a free rhythm (mursala) or be measured (mawzuna), in wahda (4/4) or tshifte-telli. Formally, its extension, the takhmis, consists of adding three modern hemistiches to a famous old verse.

The qasida according to Adib al-Dayikh

Adib al-Dayikh is famous for his rigorous choice of love qasida-s (ghazal), generally borrowed from the Kitab al-Aghani (The Book of Songs) by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani (around 897-967) or passages from the contemporary neo-classical works of the Egyptians Ahmad Shawqi (1868-1932) and Hafiz Ibrahim (1871-1932), the Lebanese Ilya Abu Madi (1889-1957), as well as the Syrian poets Abd al-Qadir al-Aswad, Abd al-Rahim al-Husni, Kamil Uthman and Mustafa Tlas.

He uses a codex of poems, meticulously collected through the years and which he constantly enlarges with new pieces. His favorite poet is, of course, the unhappy lover Qays ibn al-Mulawwah, known as Majnun Layla (Layla’s crazed lover), the herald of virginal love (al-hubb al-‘udhri). Thought to have lived in the 7th century, he was the hero of a gesture where passion was always present. He was in love with his first cousin Layla, but made the mistake of singing about her in public. This is an offence against Bedouin decency and his actions were condemned: he was rejected by his uncle and separated from his beloved who was married off to another man and died far away from him shortly after. From then on, he wandered in the deserts, sharing the life of the wild beasts. This legend has inspired many artists, both Arabs and non-Arabs, such as Louis Aragon in France (Le Fou d’Elsa). Majnun bas been credited with many poems but nobody is sure if he really existed. He is probably only a legend, but he is all the more engaging and significant for it.

On the other hand, Dayikh does not refrain from singing of erotic love (al-hubb al-‘ibahi) with somewhat ‘risqué’ but never vulgar images. He does not want to be imprisoned within a single genre and appreciates all classical Arab styles. He thus illustrates the universal nature of all love. Is it not he who sings: “Lam yakhluqi r-Rahmanu ajmala manzarin min ashiqayni ala firashin wahidi” (The Merciful has created no sight more beautiful than that of two lovers in the same bed)?

A semi-improvised repertoire

The mawwal sharqawi is a semi-improvisation with a timed rhythm. Musically speaking, it is the equivalent of a qasida mawzuna, but differs from it by its dialectical and archaic language, which is supposed to have derived from the Bedouins of the Syrian desert because sharqawi refers to the East (al-sharq). This genre is also called the sab’awi baghdadi (seven-line stanza of Baghdad) since the poets of this city were famous for this structure. The seven rhymes are almost homophonic and above all polyphonic. Many mawwal sharqawi-s are anonymous and extremely old, and belong to the realm of popular oral poetry. The esotericism (al-batiniyya) hinted at behind the apparent meanings is used to avoid revealing the loved one’s identity and the poet’s innermost intentions. According to anthologists, the historic origin of the mawwal sharqawi goes back to the 8th century A.D. A Persian servant of the Barmecid ministers (al-Baramika) of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid supposedly created this form to lament their death. The mawwal (coming from the Arabic mawalin or slave), originally a simple quatrain, changes the number of its rhymes and meters according to the poet’s desires.

Adib al-Dayikh was fond of synaesthesia and chose the maqam-s according to his inspiration and the links he established between them and the emotions. The maqam bayyati often describes the heart and crazed love, while lovers’ torments are illustrated by sikah, and absolute beauty by rast. Nothing stops him from proposing several versions of the same verse by changing the words and keeping the poetic meters or the morphological patterns (bayda’/white, hasna’/beautiful, shaqra’/blonde, on the same pattern of the feminine adjective fa’la’; azzal jalla, may it be glorified, on the pattern of the completed mute verb). According to his inspiration, he integrates the verses of different poets into the same piece.

Divine invocations

In order to place his voice, Adib al-Dayikh performs layali, improvisations on dialectal Arabic expressions (“Ya lel, ya ‘en, Oh Night, Oh Source or Oh Look), which are the equivalent of Western vocalization exercises, followed by the exclamation “Ma ahlak ya lel”/How beautiful you are, oh night… Syrian musicians such as Abd al-Rahman al-Jabaqji, influenced by the work of certain archeologists, believe this to be a remembrance of ancient invocations to the Semitic goddess, Oleilat. Some verses also end with this expression or with interjections such as ah and of, with no meaning, or ya bah/Oh my father. These are very common in mawwal sharqawi (habibi/My love, ya hbab galbi/Oh my beloved ones, ya sidi/Oh master, ya ‘yuni/Oh my darling.)

Often, the singer repeats each verse in various registers and different modulations and emphasizes particular words (qabbaltuha/I kissed her.) He easily abandons classical vocalization and euphony in order to pause (sil man tuhibb instead of sil man tuhibbu/Love whoever you want) or respect examples of poetic licence (gharama instead of gharaman/By passion and ittaqun instead of ittaqu/Have faith; Adore). He plays with the themes of passion and the eternal feminine, constantly seeking out the beauty of the melody and the meaning. Does he not cry out in the wasla in bayyati:

Wa-in harrama l-Lahu z-zina fi shar’ihi, fa-ma harrama t-taqbila yawman ‘ani l-fami;
Wa-in hurrimat yawman ‘ala dini Ahmadin, fa-khudhha ‘ala dini l-Masihi bni Maryami

And if God forbade debauchery in his religion, did He ever forbid the kiss ?
And if, one day, she was declared illicit in the religion of the Prophet Mohammed, love her in the name of the Messiah, son of Mary.

His singing style, very emotional and communicative, is called uslub al-tajalli (utterances of theophany). Its origin is religious and comes from the rituals of collective invocations of God (dhikr al-hadra) of mystic muslim brotherhoods (tariqa sufiyya-s) of Sufis and Dervishes which have flourished in Aleppo since the Middle Ages. His tessitura covers three octaves and is called al-farkha (the baby bird’s chirping). He favours the highpitched register, with remarkable results. The undeniable success of Dayikh is due to his interiority, the beauty of the poems he chooses and the feeling of musical ecstasy (tarab) he helps to evoke with his musicians.

The composition of the group

Muhammad Qadri Dallal, oud

Born in Aleppo in 1943, Muhammad Qadri Dallal accompanies him on the ‘ud. A highly skilled musician, famous in Syria and the Middle East, he is gifted with an original talent that he displays both in his improvisations and his accompaniment. He refuses the ethereal imitations of classical guitar or the plectrum pluckings of the Ottoman, Turkish or Azeri schools, remaining loyal to the Aleppian style, refined, subtle and warm, a tribute in a certain way to the lute players Nuri al-Mallah and Razzuq Warda. He loves all sorts of music, and carries out modal and rhythmic research. He respects not only innovation but also tradition, which he defends brilliantly on this record.

Walid Suda, nay

Walid Suda is also a native of Aleppo where he was born in 1947. An early companion of Dayikh, he has often accompanied him during his numerous recordings. A disciple of the school of the famous nay-players Ali al-Darwish al Mawlawi and Abd al-Salam al-Nabki (1875-1960), he defends the Aleppo style, seeking emotion rather than virtuosity. Quietly subtle and refined in effusion, his oblique flute or nay, delicately accompanies the arabesques of Dayikh’s voice, prolonging his breathing and the echo of his melody.

Julien Jalaleddin Weiss, kanoun

A musician of French and Swiss origin, Julien Jalaleddin Weiss was born in Paris in 1953. He started getting interested in the qanunin the 1970’s. He has spent a lot of time investigating the techniques and acoustic possibilities of this instrument. A student of Kamil Abdallah (Cairo), Saadettin Oktenay (Istanbul), Hassan al-Gharbi (Tunis), Muhammad al-Sabsabi (Beirut) and Salim Husayn (Baghdad), he has developed a highly potent art of improvisation and accompaniment. He is the creator of a very complex prototype entrusted to the Turkish lute maker, Egder Güleç (one hundred and two strings with fifteen movable nuts per string), and has accompanied the greatest contemporary Arab singers and instrumentalists (Lotfi Bushnaq from Tunisia, Hamza Shakkur, Sabri Moudallal and Abd al-Salam Safar from Syria, Munir Bashir and Husayn al-A’zami from Iraq). In 1983, he founded the al-Kindi instrumental ensemble in homage to the great Arab music theoretician, Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Kindi (c. 769-873). He has made numerous world tours with his musicians and is the author of articles on the qanun and Arabo-Islamic musical theories.

Adil Shams al-Din, percussion

Adil Shams al-Din was born in Alexandria in 1950. A master percussionist (dabit al-iqa’), he is the student of Fathi Junayd and quit his engineering studies in order to dedicate himself entirely to music. Capable of performing the most complex rhythms of Arabic music, he is at ease on all sorts of drums and tambourines, and accompanies the greatest Arab, Persian, Kurdish, Armenian and Turkish singers all with equal ease. He participates brilliantly in research on rhythms with J.J. Weiss and other contemporary Oriental and Western musicians.

Bernard Moussali,
Translated by Delia Morris

The recordings

1 – Wasla in the bayyati mode – 29’34
– 1.1- Sama’i – shortened version in dulab
– 1.2- Taqsim ‘ud/Improvisation on the lute
– 1.3- A’uddu l-layaliya laylatan ba’da laylatin wa-qad ‘ishtu dahran la a’uddu l-layaliya/I count the nights, vesper after vesper, although I have lived an eternity without counting the nights
– 1.4- Hajabuki ‘an ‘ayni, la-qad zalamuni, akhadhuki min qalbi fa-la rahamuni/They took you away from my sight, and made me suffer, they seized you and had no pity on me
– 1.5- Fa-wa-l-Lahi, lawla l-Lahu wa-l-khawfu wa-l-haya’, la-qabbaltuha bayna l-Hatimi wa Zamzami!/I swear that I would have embraced her in the divine temple, if it was not for God, the fear of sin and modesty!
– 1.6- Qabbaltuha fi-s-sabahi, qalat : tuftiru, ya hadha, wa-nahnu siyamu ?/When I kissed her in the morning, she asked me: “How can you break your fast when it’s a ritual we respect ?
– 1.7- Min elli al es-samra helwa we-sh-sha’ra ma ‘endha jamal ?/Who says the brunette is beautiful and the blonde ugly?
– 1.8- Ya bah ‘enak tenam we-‘eni sahira lela ?/Friend, how can you doze while I stay up all night?
– 1.9- ‘Asarti qalbi bi-lahzin minki fattaki/You have made my heart suffer with your fatal glance
– 1.10- Qalu: tasalla ‘ani l-mahbubi, qultu: kayfa t-tasalli wa fi l-ahsha’i niranu ?/They said I had consoled myself, I asked them: How can I be consoled when passion is burning me to the core?
– 1.11- Ya sahi s-sabru waha minni wa-shaqiqu r-ruhi na’a ‘anni/Friend, patience has abandoned me and my love has turned away from me
– 1.12- Awaddu sabbaka rahmatan wa-hananan, a-yawman tarda bi wa-z-zamanu ramana ?/I wish you would love me out of mercy and tenderness. Will you accept to do this one day, even though fate assails us?
– 1.13- La tahsabi anni salawtuki wa-l-Ladhi ajra dumu’a l’ashiqina gharama/In the name of He who made lovers cry passionate tears, do not believe I am consoled of your love
– 1.14- ‘A-l hela l-hela, ya rab’ina, ya rabbi tejma’ bi-l habayeb shamlina/Let us sing to the rhythm of hela hela, Oh companions: Lord, unite us with our loved ones

2- Wasla in the sikah mode – 16’20
– 2.1- Dulab
– 2.2- Taqsim nay/Improvisation on the nay
– 2.3- Jalla l-Ladhi khalaqa l-jamala wa-abda’a, fa-Huwa l-Ladhi fatara l-fu’ada ‘ala l-hawa/Glory to Him who created beauty and who excelled therein: It is He who made the heart prone to love
– 2.4- Hilwatun, huriyyatun, law ra’aha ‘abidun lanaha/She is beautiful, splendid like a houri of paradise. A believer would renounce his faith if he saw her
– 2.5- Shattatuni fi l-bawadi, akhadhu minni fu’adi wa-man li idha akhadhu hubbi/They abandoned me in the deserts and took away my heart. Who will help me if they abduct my love?
– 2.6- Ya man hawahu a’azzahu wa-adhallani, kayfa s-sabilu ila wisalika? Dullani!/You, my love makes you proud and humiliates me: so how could I ever be united with you? Give me guidance!

3- Wasla in the rast mode – 25’55
– 3.1- Dulab
– 3.2- Taqsim qanun/Improvisation on the qanun
– 3.3- Bayda’u, la kadarun yashubu safa’aha, kal-yasamini naqawatan wa-‘abira/Such white beauty that no imperfection mars her shine, Jasmine of purity and perfume
– 3.4- Bi-ruhi, fatatun bi-l-‘afafi tajammalat, wa-fi khaddiha habbun mina l-miski qad nabat/Upon my soul, a young virgin has dressed in virtue and a musky beauty spot has budded on her cheek
– 3.5- Dhikraki tasbihun wa-nahdayki ma’badu wa-ana t-taqiyyu r-rahibu l-muta’abbidu/Evoking you is heavenly praise, your bosom a temple and I the praying hermit, adoring you
– 3.6- ‘Ala rakhamati sadriha l-fatini r-ratibi ara s-saliba wa-fi silsalihi dh-dhahabi/On her generous breasts, seductive and tender, I see the cross and on her chain, gold
– 3.7- Ya zen dani ‘ala rumman sadrak herez/Oh Beauty, I see a charm hung on the pomegranates of your breasts
– 3.8- Talabta l-jamala ya Rabbu wa-qulta: ya ‘ibadi (i)t-taqun/Lord, You have sought beauty and told Your servants to adore it
– 3.9- Sil man tuhibbu wa-da’ kalama l-hasidi, laysa l-hasudu ‘ala l-hawa bi-musa’idi/Love who you want and let yourself be reproached, because the envious are of no help in passion
– 3.10- Ya mo, ya mo, shufi we-shufi n-naqsh ‘ala khaddo/Mother, mother, look at the tattoos on her cheeks

  • Reference : 321.013
  • Ean : 794 881 640 324
  • Main artist : Adîb al-Dâyikh (أديب الدايخ)
  • Year of recording : 1995
  • Year of publishing : 2002
  • Music style: Wasla
  • Country : Syria
  • City of recording : Paris
  • Main language : Arabe
  • Composers : Walîd Sûdâ ; Julien Jalâleddin Weiss ; Traditional
  • Lyricists : Aziz Dede ; Qays ibn al-Mulawwah, dit Majnûn Layla ; Abd al-Qâdir al-Aswad ; Kâmil Uthmân ; Abd al-Rahîm al-Husnî ; Abû Firâs al-Hamadânî ; Amîn al-Jundî ; Anonymous ; Traditional
  • Copyright : Institut du Monde Arabe