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The Maqam and Taqsim
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     As stated previously, a maqam is more than just a scale. It is associated with a sayr (path) which guides how it is to unfold. The most perfect expression of the pure maqam is found in taqasim, or instrumental improvisations (a vocal improvisation is a mawwal or layali). However, the classical repertoire also develops according to the sayr.

The Dominant
     In a maqam, there is a "dominant" note. It is not the very first note of a taqsim, but rather the first emphasized note. There are usually some standard lead-in notes which get you to the dominant. Unlike in western music, the dominant is not always the fifth scale degree, nor is it always the same note emphasized in a cadence. It can be the 3rd, 4th, or 5th.

Some generalizations about dominants in various maqamat:

Hijaz and Bayati families: usually the 4th; however, the tonic is often also the beginning note.
Rast familiy: usually the 5th; however in maqam Rast, the tonic is often the beginning note.
Saba family : usually the 3rd
Sikah family: usually the 3rd

The Qaflah
     There are also standard cadential formulae used to resolve to the tonic of a particular maqam (or a jins within the maqam). Most of the time, this involves ascending to some note, then rapidly descending down to the tonic. A melodic cadence is called a qaflah (pl. qaflat).

Some generalizations about qaflat:

Kurd family: usually 4-1. In the key of C (Hijaz Kar Kurd), the 7th below tonic commonly precedes 4 (Bb - F - C).
'Ajam family: usually either 5-1 or 3-1. Jaharkah (in F, see note previous page) is usually 3-1.
Bayati family: usually 4-1
Hijaz family: usually either 4-1 or 5-1 (often with secondary emphasis on 3 or 2). A lot of variety here, though. Sometimes 3-1 (often with secondary emphasis on 2). Suzidil (Hijaz on A) often emphasizes the b5 before the 4-1 cadence, but this is not required.
Saba family: usually 4-1
Sikah family: usually 3-1. However, this is very tricky, because it depends a lot on the tonic and the whole structure of the maqam. If the 4th is a ½-flat, sometimes 4-1 or 5-1 will be used. Additionally, I've heard 6-1 used. Very often, the ¼ step leading tone will be included (e.g., G - D# - E½b). This family of maqamat is very complex and difficult to generalize about.
Rast family: usually 4-1, sometimes 5-1, although I've heard b6-1 used in maqam Suznak (C D E½b F G Ab B C)
Nahawand family: extremely variable; I've heard a lot of different qaflat used, including: 5-1, 4-1, 3-1.

In additional, the octave can be used (8-1) in most maqamat.

     In a classical taqsim, a musician will usually make 3 modulations. The specifics vary greatly according to the particular maqam, but a common structure is:
Lower jins-----upper jins (on 3, 4, or 5)-----high jins (on 7 or 8)------back to lower jins.
Note that the fact that a taqasim may have the 4th or 5th as its dominant and start there doesn't necessarily mean that the taqasim is starting in the upper jins. Often it's just a starting point to lead into the lower jins. Sometimes, however, a maqam characteristically will start in a different place. For example, Hijaz Kar Kurd (Kurd on C) will usually start at the octave, and work its way down.
In modern practice, a musician will often modulate far more than just these 3 times. There may be extended modulations or very brief hints at modulation (sometimes called tonicization). Note that although these are the same terms used in Western music, their meaning is somewhat different. While the Western concept of modulation refers narrowly to extended changes of key center that are achieved by clear harmonic formulae (e.g., cadences), the Arabic concept relies on changes achieved by melodic formulae (e.g., qaflat).
Each maqam has several modulations which are possible, depending on the key center, the ajnas involved, etc. It's nearly impossible to generalize about the modulations, but here's a try:
First identify as many ajnas as possible in the basic structure of the maqam. For example, let's look at Rast (C D E½b F G A B½b C). Obviously the the first four notes are the jins Rast. Going up the scale, we have Bayati on D, Sikah on E½b, Rast on G, Bayati on A, and Sikah on B½b. Note that the four notes starting on F do not correspond to any jins.
All these ajnas are related to maqam Rast, and are potentially areas to which one can modulate (although some might be more common or preferred).
Now let's look at the jins on F. If we lower the B½b to Bb, then we have 'Ajam on F (although one would actually tend to use Jaharkah, see note previous page). So here's one possibility. The Bb would also give us: Nahawand on G and Kurd on A.
Further, if you lowered the A to A½b, you would now have: Rast on F, Bayati on G, and Sikah on A½b. If you continue and lower C to Cb, you would have Saba on G.
Other possibilities include raising the B½b up to B natural and lowering the A to Ab, giving us: Hijaz on G, and Nawa'athar (Nakriz) on F.
I'm not saying all these are good choices, but that they are all structurally related to maqam Rast.
Second, see what related maqamat can result from these new combinations, either starting on the original tonic or on one of the ajnas. For example, if we have lowered the A and B½b to A½b and Bb, respectively, we could have the following possibilities:
Bayati on G (G A½b Bb C D Eb F G),
Sikah on A½b (A½b Bb C D E½b (or Eb) F G A½b),
Nairuz on C (C D E½b F G A½b Bb C) etc.

Additionally, there may be maqamat starting on the original tonic to which one can modulate, but are not theoretically obvious. Modulation from Bayati to Saba or from Kurd to Bayati, or from Hijaz to Saba on the same tonic are all possible in certain circumstances.
When players modulate, the skill and subtlety with which they do so is critical. Modulations occur often in many Arabic songs and instrumental compositions; it is helpful to study the ways in which composers move from one jins to another. Some modulations may not change very many notes (for instance, modulating from rast in C to Sikah in E½b), but subtly alter the character of the melody.
That's about as much as I can say about modulation without dealing with specific maqamat, except it's a good idea to listen to compositions and taqasim carefully in order to hear how modulations are used, and what ones are typical in a given maqam.

     Various devices are used to emphasize particular notes of the maqam, such as: repetition, dynamics (soft and loud), ornamentation, sustain, alternate octaves, drone, and most importantly, pauses. Interestingly, a method some players occasionally use is to leave a note out for a while, or only play it briefly—this has the effect of reinforcing its importance when it finally is emphasized.¹ A masterful example of this is in Simon Shaheen's improvisation on maqam Nahawand (it is actually Ushshaq Masri, a distinct member of the Nahawand family) on Saltanah (see recordings page). It is in D (D E F G A B½b C D), yet for the first few minutes he alludes to D only briefly. When he finally emphasizes the D (with the low string), it is a powerful resolution. However, other techniques are also effective. In Munir Bachir's taqsim on nahawand (in F, from L'Art du 'Ud), he fequently emphasizes the tonic note: 14 of the first 38 phrases end on F, 7 on Ab, and 6 on E. So he emphasized the tonic twice as much as any other note. Of course, one cannot discover the full identity of a maqam from a single taqsim. Each player has his own voice and will interpret it in a unique way.

Click Here for page 3.

¹Thank you to Ali Jihad Racy and Simon Shaheen for their enlightening lectures, from which much of this material is drawn.


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