May 8, 2018

Bint El Shalabiya

Ronnie Malley has provided quality information on this piece in his songbook: “The Essentials: Music Selections for Cultural Learning“. Paraphrased, he writes:

The best known version of Bint El Shalabiya is sung by Lebanese icon Fairouz (1935 – present). The song is a well known fold melody from the Greater Syrian region before the area had split into many countries. 

The word shalabiya (f) or shalabi (m) is often used in the Levantine Arabic dialect to denote something or someone of refinement, quality, or beauty. The word shalabia in the song is also meant to represent an old city in Andalusia. 

Fairouz is an internationally recognized artist and household name in the Middle East and North Africa. Many of her songs represent a vast spectrum of Middle Eastern culture and heritage. Fairouz’s style spans multiple genres including popular, folk, classical, and political music, as well as religious hymns. Bint El Shalabiya is considered one of her most popular songs. 

The composition uses maqam (Middle Eastern music theory) with the melody using a maqam Nahawand  mode, the harmonic minor scale in Western music theory. The instruments respond to the vocal melody (called lazma), a common practice in this music. 

Traditional instruments include the: oud, qanoun (plucked zither), violin, and Mid Eastern percussion (darbuka, riq, and tar). Fairouz’s version includes Western instruments: guitar, drums, piano, and accordion as well as non-traditional rhythms. 


Backing track created with iReal Pro for iPad.
Arrangement created with Sibelius notation software.

The same arrangement using Sibelius software, but if you have the Scorch plugin, you can also see the score as you listen.