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Meanings and songs in Tunisia’s Ma’luf tradition

Issue 28
Meanings and songs in Tunisia’s Ma’luf tradition

An Arab-Spanish genre of Oriental and Islamic music, Ma’luf emerged at the beginning of the 7th century under the Arab Islamic empire. It developed over a long period of time and evolved into a key musical model with a set of rules and special aesthetic aspects during the 13th century.

The traditional Ma’luf was introduced to Spain during the Umayyad period, when Islamic civilisation was revived under the Umayyad Caliphs. The Arab oriental music was influenced by the original inhabitants of the new country and by the Berber, who came from North Africa.

The Spanish version of the Ma’luf reached Tunisia during the 15th century after Muslims migrated from Spain. Soon the Spanish version replaced the local Arab-Islamic version, perhaps due to the poor content of the local version. This change was a result of the worldwide prestige that Spanish Islamic arts enjoyed at the time.

Today, Tunisia’s Ma’luf is considered a musical genre that comprises thirteen cycles, (a number of instruments and songs are played and performed in a specific sequence). These cycles have had a remarkable effect on the development of poetry and music. Singers and musicians gather and take turns performing. Each singer introduces a number of verses based on how they harmonise with the melodic modes with a variety of musical rhythm, poetic meters and rhyme.

Studies of the history of Ma’luf cycles disagree as to Ma’luf’s traditions, beginnings, original components and the origins of its composers and poets.


Rushdie Toumi

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