A Voice for Love

A Voice for Love

Waed Bouhassoun

“A Voice for Love” is how some have described Waed Bouhassoun, a talented Syrian musician, who sings to her own accompaniment on the lute.
The youthful Waed is undoubtedly the embodiment of love, as is borne out by the choice of poems and texts for this, her first recording. Sometimes with strength, sometimes with fragility, her voice intensifies emotion and meaning to the point of ecstasy in the poems of Ibn Zaydoun, Jalal-Eddine Rûmî, Wallada…or even Tahar Abou Facha or Mahmoud Bayram al Tounissi, the famous lyricists to Oum Kalthoum.
The purity and intimacy of this recording invite the listener to enter into a world alive with sensitivity and elegance.


1Yâ nâ’iman/O you, who are sleeping – 8’08
2Yâ wâhiban/O you who give – 5’59
3Aghâru calayka/I am jealous – 8’02
4‘Araftu l-hawâ/I know what love is – 9’53
5Taqsîm Nahawand/Improvisation in the Nahawand mode – 4’27
6Bismi l-Ilâh/In the name of the Divine – 6’00
7Biridaka yâ Khâliqî/Par ta seule volonté Ô Créateur/By your will alone, O my Creator – 5’13
8 Yâ fajr lamma ttoll/O Dawn, when you appear – 5’16
9Awqidû l-shumûcu/Light the candles – 6’26

Interpreters and instruments

Waed Bouhassoun (singing, oud)
Ghassan Ammouri (kanun)
Mahmoud Chaghallé (riqq)


The Palace of Culture, Assilah, August 2008. She is wearing a white dress, and is seated, holding a small lute on her lap. She stands up, puts down her instrument, raises her hand to her right ear and softly sings a poignant melody a cappella, a manner of performance rarely heard by connaisseurs. She murmurs, rising towards high notes, sinking towards low notes, gathering in intensity with each syllable, and finishes her lament almost exhausted, but with the feeling of a promise fulfilled. The spectators rise as a man and give her a standing ovation. They come from Morocco, from the Middle East and the Gulf States, from Europe, from North and South America. The meaning of the poem is secondary: what matters is the performance. This is the outstanding moment of the 30th International Moussem in Assilah. [1]

“I don’t know what I particularly like about Oum Kalthoum [2]. I like everything about her. I grew up hearing her voice, that’s all,” said Waed Bouhassoun. The jet-black hair is bunched at the nape of her neck, the emerald green eyes seem both shy and determined. She looks fragile, but her spirit is as strong as the Atlantic Ocean that she gazes out over. Waed sings timeless Arabic poetry, including the works of Râbi’a al-Adawiya, the miraculous figure of Muslim sufism, an emancipated slave born around 713 in Iraq, as well as the repertory made famous by Oum Kalthoum. Waed has also been inspired by male role models: the muezzin Sabri Moudallal (1918-2006) and Sabah Fahkri (born in 1933). Both of them were originally from Aleppo, a city in the north of Syria of great historic importance, and considered to be the “ear” of the Arab world. Before the advent of the provocative Algerian raï known to western audiences, or of Egyptian-Lebanese popular song, with its romantico-sexy flavour, that constantly pours out from the powerful television channels of the Middle East, Aleppo was considered to be the city of the sammâcîn-s, the Arab “listeners”, those who decide the relative merits of Arab singers. Waed performed there in December 2005, a baptism of fire in the icy streets of the khan Soumah, a souk that has been home to generations of craftsmen.

She sang. Someone had kindly placed a shawl around her shoulders; a brazier burned behind her. Like a nightingale with a timid voice, she closed her eyes and sang a cascade of notes that touched the depths of the soul, that reached the depths of her soul. Once the concert was over, the sammâcîn-s,tradesmen, officials, office workers and local celebrities like the first Arab to travel in space with Soviet cosmonauts, asked her some questions about her origins and her training. They granted her their “license to sing”. Hers is a great voice.

Invitations followed asking her to perform at the festival de l’Imaginaire at the Maison des Cultures du Monde and at the Institut du Monde Arabe, in Paris, at the Opera in Damascus and Aleppo, at festivals in Assilah and Tetouan, at the sacred music festival in Fes, Morocco and the Medina festival in Tunis. She sang works dating from the twelfth century by the greatest Sufi poet of them all, Jalal-Eddine Rûmi. The organisers responsible for “Damascus: Arab Capital of Culture 2008” asked her to sing at the opening performance accompanied by a group of Spanish artists. On this occasion, she performed her own settings of works by two Andalusian poets, Ibn Zaydoun and Wallada, while the flamenco singer, Curro Piñana, sang poems by Ibn Arabi (twelfth and thirteenth century). On 31st January 2008, the performers finished with a joint improvisation at the Ambassadors’ Salon at the Alhambra in Granada, broadcast by Syrian television, in the presence of the Queen of Spain and Asma el-Assad, the First Lady of Syria.

However, prior to this occasion, Waed, at the suggestion of the Maison des Cultures du Monde, had performed works by the mystical poet Rabi’a al ‘Adawiyya at the Opera Bastille, with the great Turkish ney player, Kudsi Ergüner. This performance would later be repeated in Suweida, Syria, in the presence of Asma el-Assad, and at the Spoleto festival in Italy, a prelude to the tours that she has since undertaken, singing solo, accompanying herself on the ‘oud that she always keeps on her lap.

Bouziane Daoudi

The Recordings

1 – Yâ nâ’iman/O you, who are sleeping – 8’08
a poem by Ibn Zaydoun

O you, who are sleeping and whose love awoke me
Lull me to sleep, you the sleeper
Love delights you and yet it wounds me
God alone may judge us
What harm would it do, if you took pity on me
For you know what ails me
Once my sorrow has lessened, I may speak
The unhappy words of a distraught heart
I revealed my love for you, for all to see
For love of you, my heart suffers and wastes away
When you are away, I feel as if the whole world had left me
When you are there, the whole world is present.

2 – Yâ wâhiban/O you who give –
a poem by Jalaleddine Rûmi

O you who give, who possess the mystery of the universe
You who know every secret, how do you explain my sorrow
What will become of me, with my soul full of pain
Full of this anguish that torments it
I have a beloved whose love devours me from within
He may do with me what he will [3]
The desire that feeds my pain
No scholar has ever spoken of

3 – Aghâru calayka/I am jealous
a poem by Wallada

I am jealous: of myself, of you
Of your time and space, of my own eyes
And even if I hid you in my own eyes
Until the end of time, it would not be enough
The nights fly past and still we’re apart
Patience cannot save me from the slavery of passion
If only, after this time of estrangement,
We could meet again and share our suffering
May God bless this earth, your dwelling place,
With the rain of plenty
I am, my Lord, worthy of every honour
I move onwards with pride
To my beloved, I hold up my cheek
And I cover with kisses, he who wishes

4 – cAraftu l-hawâ/I know what love is
a text adapted from a poem by Rabi’a al Adawiya

I know what love is since yours has been poured over me
And I have closed my heart to whatever is hostile to you,
I beg you ardently, you who look into our hearts
But who remain hidden from our eyes

Two loves I have for you: both passionate love
And the love you truly deserve and are worthy of
What of passion? When subject to it
I can invoke only your presence, you become my sole concern
As for the love that you deserve
It lifts the veil that keeps you from view
I do not deserve praise for either
But may You be praised for both
Two loves I have for you : both passionate love
And the love you truly deserve and are worthy of
For you I have two desires, the desire born of distance
And the desire to burn in your flame
What of the desire born of distance ?
It brings forth tears when you are away
As for the desire to burn in your flame
In the light of your existence, it consumes the light of my life
I do not deserve praise for either
But may You be praised for both

5- Taqâssîm Nahawand, improvisation in the Nahawand mode the ‘oud

6 – Bismi l-Ilâh/In the name of the Divine
a poem by Jalaleddine Rûmi

In the name of the divine, who puts
His servants to the test and opens doors to them
The all-merciful, the benefactor, is my God,
For he is the one who gives without counting
I have implored his forgiveness, for we beg him
To pardon our sins
O Lord, show mercy
I repent of everything that has gone before
If, stricken with remorse, forgiveness is refused me
Will the excuses of a distraught lover be accepted
I will sacrifice myself for him, who, if he sees me
Touches me, rejoices, hides from me, kills me
Like the full moon, his moments of absence disturb me
And like the moon, I wane when he speaks my name.

7 – Biridaka yâ Khâliqî/By your will alone, O my Creator
a text by Mahmoud Bayram al Tounissi

By your will alone, O my Creator, and not mine
My voice has been created, and by your hand alone, my limbs
By my voice, O my God, my wishes will be answered
When I pray to you fervently and you hear my lament

8 – Yâ fajr lamma ttoll/O Dawn, when you appear

O Dawn, when you appear bedecked in the colours of Arabian Jasmine
Rouse the whole world and go to my beloved, before any other
My beloved, before any other
When you reach this place bringing your light with you
Enter his house
O Dawn, his house before any other
Rouse the whole world and go to my beloved, before any other
My beloved, before any other
O Dawn, these tearful nights seem long to a wounded heart
Go to his home, go
O Dawn, to his home, before any other
My beloved, before any other

9 – Awqidû l-shumûcu/Light the candles
text by Tahar Abou Facha

Light the candles
Let us hear the drums
The bridal procession
Winds through the heavens
Grace and light
And lovely young girls
And love hangs over us
It is time for the stranger to find his protector
The day that comes is the shore of life
Desires are gathered and spin through the heavens
Let us hear the drums
O my beloved wanders wounded
His wounds bring him suffering
From the shelter of a doorway his desire calls out
Grace is infinite and reaches out to all
Desires are gathered and spin through the heavens
Let us hear the drums
The spirit of peace brings salvation
He awakens the sleepers
His unshakeable promise is an oasis, deliverance
The beginning of the way is also its end
Desires are gathered and spin through the heavens
Let us hear the drums

[1] This festival took place from 23rd July to 17th August 2008. The magnificent Palace of Culture in Assilah, a small town on the Atlantic coast, south of Tangiers, is the former residence of the pasha and dates from the beginning of the twentieth century.
[2] The Egyptian diva Oum Kalthoum (circa 1904-1973) was nicknamed “the fourth Pyramid of Egypt” by Gamal Abdel Nasser.
[3] Literally: “If he wishes to walk on my eyes, he may do it.”

  • Reference : 321.071
  • Ean : 794 881 913 923
  • Main artist : Waed Bouhassoun (وعد بوحسون)
  • Year of recording : 2008
  • Year of publishing : 2008
  • Music style: Sufi music
  • Country : Syria
  • City of recording : Paris
  • Main language : Arabic
  • Composers : Waed Bouhassoun ; Riad al-Sunbati ; Zakariyya Ahmad ; Mustapha Kreideh ; Mohammad Mouji
  • Lyricists : Ibn Zaydoun ; Jalal-Eddine Rûmi ; Wallada ; Râbica al-‘Adawiyya ; Mahmoud Bayram al Tounissi ; Tahar Abou Facha ; Traditional
  • Copyright : Institut du Monde Arabe