A moorish banquet

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A moorish banquet

By Lisa Yarde When the Moors invaded Spain in the eighth century, they brought the classical traditions of a rich culture steeped in the arts of poetry and music for two centuries.

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Before Islam, Arabian culture celebrated music and poetry, but the Prophet Muhammad disapproved of the arts so linked to lingering pagan practices. Later, the courtiers of Moorish Spain composed qasidas to commemorate important events and extoll the virtues of their patrons.

The nubah involved a group of people singing verses individually, accompanied by bow-stringed instruments and drums. The muwashshah typically has three line stanzas with a recurring rhyme, introduced at the beginning. The zajal was a spontaneous form of short poems, sung in stanzas and followed by a different rhyme each time.

A moorish banquet

Many of the themes in both poetic forms expressed ideals of religious duty but more often, beauty, sensual pleasures or love, typically lost love. The qasidas were the longest form of all, at least 50 lines that rhymed. Oud player Ziryab is the father of the Hispano-Arab musical styles of the Moorish period and founded the nubah tradition.

He was born in Iraq in the early ninth century, and may have been Kurdish or of mixed Arab and African descent. He lived in the cultural capital of the eastern Muslim world at Baghdad and trained under another musician until he surpassed his master. A dangerous rivalry developed and Ziryab wisely left for Moorish Spain.

The prince paid Ziryab a monthly salary of gold dinars, which the musician spent on his richly decorated home and costly brocades. He also founded a school in Cordoba, where he taught fellow musicians. Ziryad also improved the oud, more commonly known as the lute in medieval European society, by adding a fifth red string between the second and third ones.

Click here for a sample of the oud played in composition with the guitar and drums, similar to music of the twelfth century in Moorish Spain.

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Nearly two centuries after Ziryab, inthe Caliph of Cordoda fathered a child, Wallada. Historians have described her as beautiful, with fair skin, light or blue eyes or blonde hair. In her mid-twenties, her father died and since he had no living sons, Wallada inherited all his property.

She used this wealth to build a home where she entertained guests and dazzled them with her poetry. Wallada never married but she did take an equally famed lover, the poet Ibn Zaydun. As the pair were from rival clans, their love affair was a risk but neither cared for the consequences.

They demonstrate a passionate, but tumultuous relationship that ended bitterly and with some regret for their lost love. A monument to their love exists in Cordoba.

At the beginning, the lovers enjoyed the following poetic exchange: Wallada The nights now seem long to me, and I complain night after night That only those were so short, which I once spent with you Ibn Zaydun Your passion has made me famous among high and low your face devours my feelings and thoughts.

When you are absent, I cannot be consoled, but when you appear, my all my cares and troubles fly away. When Wallada later feared that Ibn Zaydun had fallen in love with one of her slaves, she recited: If you had been truly sincere in the love, which joined us, you would not have preferred, to me, one of my own slaves.Moorish Blue is located in North Sydney on Blues Point Road, McMahon’s Point.

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