Aleppo — known as the radiant city, the capital of Muwashahat, Qudud (traditional music), and Samah Dance (Sufi dance) — holds a special place in the biography of the musical genius Sayed Darwish (1892-1923).
He discovered his compositional talent there and released his first melody, “Wana Mali.” Under his masters, he fulfilled his dream of studying oriental music in a scholarly manner, and from there he returned to Egypt as a full-fledged artist.
He created the most exquisite Muwashahat, Adwar, and Taqatiq, which deeply resonated with the hearts of Egyptian and Arab citizens. These compositions are still sung by male and female singers from Morocco to the Gulf.
The city of entertainment and music
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Aleppo was a dream for any Arab musician. This was due to its social clubs, Sufi corners, and ancient houses entrenched in the arts of singing and poetry deeply rooted in its culture.
The Egyptian actor and musician Omar Wasfi (1874-1945), who visited Aleppo in 1897, accompanied by his teacher Abu Khalil Al-Qabbani, left us with a rare description of the musical atmosphere that dwelled in this city located in northern Syria. They were searching for the renowned singer of their time, Malika Surrur.
He says: “In the morning, we set out for Aleppo. After two days of travel, we arrived there at night. When we got there, we found ourselves in a wakeful city of entertainment, music, dancing, and singing."
"The streets were lined with cafes saturated with customers. In it were musicians that delighted the ears and dancers that captivated the eyes. The music resonated everywhere."
"Aleppo, the city that never sleeps, alternates between music, dance, and song. As night fell and morning came, people woke up and rushed to the cafes. Music filled every corner and there was singing and dancing everywhere."
"The morning music continued until midday, known as the ‘Subhiya.’ Then, the parties returned in the afternoon and continued past sunset. These parties were known as the ‘Asruniya.’"
"After that, the evening festivities began and extended past midnight. This was the city of art, where the love of music preceded you wherever you went. Even in homes, banquets were held, accompanied by music and singing. People were passionate about art, so it took control of them and their feelings."
"Have you heard, O reader, of the tales of Arabian Nights? Every house in this city was like a palace from those mentioned in Arabian Nights.”