True Track 9: “Lama Bada Yatathana” by Lena Chamamyan

Have you ever listened to Andalusian music? And what does is have to do with Middle Eastern music? Well, you are in for a surprise!

I found an interesting response, from Quora user Cassandra Strand, to the question “What is the best Arabic music?”. She listed a piece called “Lama Bada Yathathana” at the top of her list. It’s origin was given as “(Andalusian, circa 1492CE)”.  Andalusia is a territory located at the south of Spain. So in essence, one of the best pieces of Arabic music came from Spain! It’s proximity with Africa, specifically Morocco(which is part of the Middle East), has influenced that region of Spain in a unique way. And the song “Lama Bada Yatathana” is a great testament to this influence.

This ancient love song is made in a genre of Arabic music and poetry known as a “Muwashah”. The “Muwashah” genre originated in Andalusia in the 10th century AD.  This genre is famous for its complex rhythms.  For instance, in the song “Lama Bada Yatathana”, the rhythm is in 10/8. That is 10 beats in a bar! You can think of that as counting “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10” over and over again during the song. That kind of rhythm is so rare in pop songs, that I am sure you will find the track below refreshing to listen to!

Lena Chamamyan is a Syrian singer who adds a modern twist to this ancient song. Her rendition of this piece uses a modern “takht”(chorus of instruments) of piano, strings and tabla, and bass. The  traditional “takht” for the song is made of Middle Eastern instruments like the lute, the zither, the tambourine, and the flute.

This mushawah has been redone many times in different styles. But the original tune and rhythm has remained intact throughout the ages. I encourage you to check out the different interpretations!

PS: If you found the “mushawah” genre fascinating, and want to know more about the technical aspects of the song, I’d highly recommend this awesome post. This blog here has a detailed explanation of this piece:


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