Must-Know Bellydance Song: “Lamma Bada Yatathanna”

August 2, 2015 6 Comments

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.

Here is my favorite recorded version

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.


Mahin (121 Posts)

Professional instructor and performer of Middle Eastern belly dance, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and author or the “Daily Bellydance Quickies”. Belly Dance Artrepreneur, Workshop instructor, performer, event producer, and bellydance writer.

  1. Susan Reid
    August 6, 2015 at 4:05 am

    What a beautiful version of this song, thank you for sharing this Mahin

  2. Shirleyann
    September 12, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Beautiful voice, beautiful song!

  3. Atisheh
    October 13, 2015 at 1:28 am

    I love this! I danced my first Muwashahat song with my troupe to Lamma Bada. The song started haunting me, and I wound up trying to gather as many versions of it as possible. It is so, so beautiful.

  4. Patty
    November 25, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Lost for words. It’s really beautiful!!!

  5. Kim Leary
    October 27, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Such a soulful piece of music. Thanks for sharing this version.
    One of my favs is by Hamza El Din. Same song but entitled “Mushwa”,
    Hope it’s ok to share this here:

  6. Maryam
    February 2, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    By any chance do you know whether the actual song itself is copyrighted?


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