Lamma Bada English Translation, Pronunciation for Singers, and Samai Rhythm
Lamma Bada Yatathana is a beautiful old song to belly dance to. Lamma Bada is also The Danceable Song for the 9th episode of my belly dance podcast A Little Lighter
If you want to sing Lamma Bada, print these:
Lamma Bada is a “muwashsha”, meaning a secular poem which grew out of al-Andalus. This often refers to Southern Spain before Christian invaders came in the late 1400s and kicked out a hell of a lot of great musicians and architects. Muslims and Jews were forced to either convert to Christianity or leave Spain. Some stayed, many left. Thankfully the song Lamma Bada survived. Maqamworld.com also writes that muwashsha can come from places like Syria and muwashsha often have less-common rhythms, like this song in 10/8.
A couple of my Arabic speaking friends (who asked to be unnamed) helped with the translation of Lamma Bada available on aliciafree.com. It is not an easy song to translate to English. The lyrics are poetry written in classical Arabic. There are many versions and different Arabic pronunciations possible, and my friend and fellow musician Fatma suggested sticking to the classical Arabic pronunciation when singing the song.
A Turkish member of my band noticed that the singing of “Aman Aman” is often sung with joy in other songs, but in this song it sounds more like struggle. There is an undercurrent of meaning to the song that we may never fully understand. Maybe the singer is committed to someone else but loves this person they are singing about.
The song starts with “When she begins to sway”. I am fascinated by her beauty. Captivated. There is a line about a branch bending where she leans. Maybe bowing to her.
And there is a promise and confusion. A complaint. Obsession. And finally a request for mercy from the angel or god of beauty.
It seems to be a song of longing for something beautiful that we can’t or should not have. And we suffer from this unfulfilled desire. Beauty is elusive. It crumbles and fades. It is a concept we create in our own minds and collectively, and being attached to beauty can be painful. Maybe the angel of beauty who is beckoned in the song can help us enjoy the beauty we find in life without obsessing over it.
Maqam (mode): Nahawand
Iqat (rhythm): Semai Thaqil 10/8: D..t.DDt.. (3-2-3-2)
Language: Classic Arabic
Source: al-Andalus 1400s?
Muwashsha (secular Classical Arabic poetry often paired with unusual rhythms like 10/8)
Aquabella version (with Fatma’s pronunciation):
This line 2x: La ma ba da … ya ta than na
He bee ja ma.. loo-fa tan na
Am ron ma bee lah tha ah sar nah
(G)hoose nunn thah(3) nah(3) hey-nah(3)-mah(3)L
2x: Wah(3) dee wah yah hee-rah-tee
Mah(3)n lee rah heem shahk waht tee
Fill hub bee min law (3)atee
Eel lah mah(3) leek ool (sh)jah mahl
Aman aman aman
“3” is for the sound “ayn” = Smiling and press your finger against your throat while saying “ah-eye”
Lamma Bada translation to English:
When she began to sway
My love’s beauty fascinated me
Something in a moment captivated me
A branch bent when she leaned
My promise and oh my confusion
Who has mercy for me and my discontent
In love from my obsession
Other than the God of beauty?!
Oh oh oh
Lamma Bada is quite difficult to translate to English and “the Arabic words are way more poetic”. The translators asked to be unnamed. There are differences in regional pronunciation of Arabic, so even though this song is in Classical Arabic modern pronunciations can be heard when people sing it. One example is that in classical Arabic the “th” sound in the line “ya ta tha na” is actually pronounced with your tongue against your teeth like the American English pronunciation of “th”. Modern Egyptians may pronounce that “th” more like “s” and Syrians and Turks may pronounce that “th” more like “z”.
How to Count the Rhythm of Lamma Bada: Samai
This 10/8 rhythm is called Samai Thaqil or just Samai for short. If you want research rhythms, you will love maqamworld.com . Such a great resource.
You can count it as two sets of 5
Many versions start with the string instruments plucking the base of this rhythm, which is nice because it’s easy to identify the rhythm when it’s played simply without embellishments.
I’ve always felt a hip slide in the double doum.
D..t.slide slide t..