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Poetry Guide: Muwashshah

Muwashshah is an Arab poetic form and an eastern secular musical genre which uses muwashshah texts for lyrics. The poetic form is also used in Andalusi nubah and is similarly of Al-Andalus origin. In Maghrib the term refers to the poetic form, while in Mashriq it refers to the "poetic-musical product in its entirety." In North Africa poets ignore the strict rules of Arab meter while the poets in the East follow them. (Touma 1996, p.83)

Musically, the ensemble consists of ud (lute), kamanja (spike fiddle), qanun (box zither), darabukkah (goblet drum), and daff (tambourine), all of whom often perform as the choir. The soloist performs only a few chosen lines of the selected text. In Aleppo multiple maqam rows and up to three azwan are used and modulation to neighboring maqamat was possible during the B section. Until modernization is was typical to present a complete waslah, or up to eight successive muwashshah including an instrumental introduction (sama'i or bashraf). (ibid, p.83)