Must-Know Bellydance Song: “Lamma Bada Yatathanna”
Who, What and When?
“Lamma Bada Yatathanna” is a song with a hauntingly beautiful melody. Maybe that is why it is still around! This song is from the era of Moorish Spain, also called the Andalusian era (c. 711-1492). Yes, this song is somewhere between 500-1000 years old and rather than being a piece of obscure history, it is still part of our dance repertoire. It is from the “muwashshat”, or secular music of Al-Andalus. The original composer and lyricist are lost to time.
For most bellydancers, this is the first example of the samai thaqil rhythm, a 10/8 rhythm, they will encounter. Personally, I believe this enchanting song is what lures many bellydancers to tackle this less-common rhythm and learn to dance to it! If you are interested in exploring the rhythm as expressed in “Lamma Bada”, you might like this interesting article with example audio segments.
What is “Lamma Bada Yatathanna” about?
“Lamma Bada Yatathanna” means “When She Begins To Sway”. Remember that in Arabic lyrics, the male pronoun is used as a polite formality, so some translations will read “he”. Of course the subject is falling in love – what other thought would be so enduring over time?
Here is one translation, but you can find a few others here. Because this song is so very old, the form of Arabic used is very difficult to translate which accounts for the wide variations in translation. The central thought is the same, however.
When she started to walk with a swinging gait
Her beauty amazed me
I have become prisoner of her eyes
Her stem folded as she bent
O my promise, O my perplexity
Who can answer my complaint
About love and suffering
But the beautiful one?
You can listen to a version with lyrics, sung by Lena Chamamyan here:
A thought on dancing to “Lamma Bada Yatathanna”….
Many years ago, I took a workshop with the fantastic instructor, Cassandra Shore which I believe was titled “Dancing To Specialty Rhythms”. The 10/8 rhythm from this song, samai thaqil, was one of them. This rhythm is common in Andalusian muwashsha music and because of that, she felt it was not appropriate to play zills to this category of songs. I admit, my heart broke a teeny bit when she said this. I love playing zills and playing unusual rhythms is both challenging and thrilling, but ultimately we should respect the music and its traditions.