Mohamed Ben Hassan et Mohamed Cherif

La Musique Classique Tunisienne Congres du Caire 1932 Malouf (Tunisie)

01 Nouba Rast Dhil, Istiftah-Sadr,
Abyat-Btaïhi, Touchia-Berouel, Darj et Khatm [
x] (x) 30:26
02 Qacida : Alihadou Dhabyine [x] (x) 3:28
03 Mouwachah [x] (x) 3:33
Taqcim : R'haoui et Dhil [x] (x) 2:55
05 Taqcim : Araq et Sika [x] (x) 3:02
06 Qacida : Tab'Husseïni [x] (x) 3:08
07 Taqcim : Rast et Raml Maya [x] (x) 2:52
08 Taqcim : Mazmoum et Asfahan [x] (x) 3:02

CD total time: 52:51

Club du disque Arabe - AAA 094
P. 1994

Comment: Recordings of the Tunisian ensemble at the Conference in Cairo 1932

English Liner Notes from the CD

The Cairo Congress of Arab Music 1932

Tunisian Malouf

Mohammed Ben Hassan & Mohammed Cherif

Baron Rodolphe d'Erlanger, who had just finished his
momentous work on Arab music (four volumes published by
the Paul Geuthner Librairie orientaliste) wanted to go further
into some of the information collected by his collaborators : the
Tunisian professor Mennoubi Senoussi, the Lebanese scholar
Iskandar Shalfun, and Sheikh Ali Derwish from Aleppo with
whom he was working at a fifth volume about the modes and
rhythms of Arab music.

It was on the occasion of his visiting Egypt, Baron d'Erlanger
suggested King Fuad I that he convened a congress at which
the greatest scholars of Arab music should be called upon to
participate, either they came from the East or the West such as
Robert Lachmann, Henry Georges Farmer, M. Collangettes,
Alexis Chottin, to name a few of the well-known European

By a royal decree on January 20-1932, a commission was
effectively appointed to organize a congress, headed by the
Minister of Public Education Muhammad Hilmi Isa Pacha, with
Baron d'Erlanger as the vice-chairman and Doctor Mahmud
Ahmed ElHafni in charge of the General Secretariat.

This first congress of Arab music was formally opened in Cairo
by King Fuad I, and held for three weeks at the National
Academy of Music, Malika Nazly street, 22. Besides the
scholars, delegations of musicians and singers from some of the
Arab countries also took part in the proceedings. In the
Tunisian group three great artists must be mentioned :
Mohammed Gnanem, Mohammed Ben Hassan, and
Mohammed Cherif.

The congress has had beneficial effects on both the evolution
and the keeping of Arab music throughout the Arab world
where it has kindled a renewed interest for the Arab musical
heritage. In the Maghreb many societies were set up to save
Andalusian music from oblivion and hand it down to the rising
generations. In Iraq, an Academy of Music was founded in
Baghdad. Other ones were set up in Damascus, Aleppo and

Many ensembles, all playing traditional music, were set up to
meet the needs of the newly created broadcasting stations.

The congress greatly stimulated the creation of musical
societies throughout the Arab world. Their number has gone
on increasing up to the present time. After World War II, and
within the framework of the Arab League, it led to the
foundation of the Arab Academy of Music created to answer the
very purpose ascribed to the Cairo Congress by its organizers
i.e. collect and keep all existing works of the Arab musical
heritage, get the different conservatories of music to teach their
students in similar ways, promote Arab music by means of
specific festivals, prompt musicians and singers to take part in
all kinds of musical events beyond the borders of the Arab
World, encourage the composition of new works in the specific
Arab modes and rhythms. As to how Arab music might evolve
in the future, none of the congressmen could give a definite

We are indebted the Cairo Congress for 162 records released by
«HMV». A whole collection of those records was given the
Musée Guimet in Paris by King Fuad I.

In this album you will find the Tunisian contribution to the
Congress. May we draw your attention to the fact that the
present recordings were made before the ones of record AAA
054 : «Tunisian malûf - volume I».

In Tunisia, the nawbah begins with a prelude called istiftah,
a melody performed in unison by the instrumental ensemble. It
can be compared with the Moroccan mishaliya and was, in
earlier periods, a musical theme on which one of the players
improvised variations, followed by the whole ensemble.
Nowadays not much of this way of playing has survived except
for what was set in 1935, when the Rashidia Institute was
founded and collected the musical heritage. After this prelude,
the ensemble plays another piece, named m'saddar, which
uses three different rhythmical organizations, going from a
slow rhythm to a fast one. Sheikh Mohammed Ghanem, a very
famous rabab player who died in 1940, mentioned that the
second part of the m'saddar was called tawq (necklace) and
the third one silsilah (sequence), the latter being a musical
phrase repeated in several tonalities. The m'saddar ends
shrilly and violently. After a short pause, the ensemble plays
dkhûl-el-abyat, a prelude to el abyat (the verses) which uses
successively two different rhythms (barwal and btayhi). After
these instrumental parts, the head singer, or Sheikh, of the
vocal ensemble, sings two improvised lines of classical Arab
poetry. Between the first line, which is repeated twice, and the
second line, the instrumental ensemble plays two short pieces
which differ in their composition, the farighat. Then they play
the dkhûl-el-btayah, a prelude to the btayah which the vocal
ensemble will sing. These btayah are either a mûwashshah
in classical Arabic or a zajal in dialectal Arabic, both of which
belonging to the Andalusian heritage. Then the ensemble plays
the raddan-el-jawab (called mohassaba in the East), which is
an instrumental repetition of the singing.

After the last btayhi, the ensemble plays the tûshya, an
instrumental piece which begins with the barwal rhythm ;
then one of the players improvises musical phrases on the same
rhythm. The whole instrumental ensemble, after having
repeated the beginning of the tûshya, starts playing the part
composed on the btayhi rhythm. Then the lutanist improvises
harmonic modulations called istikhbarat in North Africa and
takassim in the East, followed by the sawaket (the music of
some folk songs). Sometimes the singer also improvises a few
poetic lines before beginning to sing the mûwashshah. The
vocal ensemble then turns to the last parts of the nawbah,
singing thebarawel i.e. several Andalusian mûwashshahat
(plural for mûwashshah) or azajal (plural for zajal) on the
typically fast barwal rhythm. Then the instrumental ensemble
plays the music of both the farighat-edarj and the
farighat-el-khafif respectively followed by the singing of a
darj and a khafif.

As finale there is the khatm which can be compared with the
Algerian khlass or mokhlos and the Moroccan qoddam. Its
text usually deals with the Oneness of God.

There are thirteen classical Tunisian malûf nawbah-s. Two
more nawbah-s have been composed in this century, the
former by Khmeyés Tarnan in the nahawend mode (1956),
the latter by Salah ElMahdi in the ajam oshairan mode (1960),
whom we are undebted to for most of the information here to
be found.

A. Hachlef
November 1993

after «Anthologie de la musique arabe»
published by Publisud - Paris. Translated by M. Stoffel

Adapted for the web by Lars Fredrikson with the kind
permission of
Amin Hachelef.
Copyright remains with the author!