Lama Bada Yatathanna لما بدا يتثنى (When He Appeared with a Sashaying Walk) Nour el Houda

“Lama Bada Yatathanna” is one of the most famous songs in the classical repertoire of Arabic music. It belongs to the muwashshah genre, which began as a poetic genre in medieval al-Andalus before migrating to the Arab East, where it became the name of a musical genre for songs composed using lyrics from Andalusian muwashshahat poems.

As with most muwashshahat songs, the lyrics of “Lama Bada Yatathanna” are in Classical Arabic and are taken from a poem composed in Islamic Spain in the Middle Ages, while the melody now associated with the muwashshah has been composed more recently in either the late 19th or early 20th century.

First recorded in 1910 by Sheikh Sayyid al-Safti, the song has been performed by masters of the muwashshah genre such as Muhammad Khayri and Sabah Fakhri,  the inescapable Fairouz, and in more modern arrangements by Lena Chamamyan and Nabyla Maan. The version we’ve chosen to highlight here is by Nour el Houda, who recorded a series of muwashshahat for Lebanese TV in the 1960s. This version gives a good idea of the traditional arrangement of the song in a clear, high quality recording.

When he [1] appeared with a sashaying walk لمـــــا بدا يتثنى
My darling infatuated me with his beauty حبي جماله فتنــا
He shot a glance that captivated me أومى بلحظة أسرنا
He’s a branch [2] that enchants when he sways غصن سبا حين مال
Oh my fate and my confusion! وعدي و يا حيرتي
Who will have mercy when I complain ما لي رحيم شكوتي
Of anguish in love في الحب من لوعتي
ُُُُExcept for the king of beauty? إلا مليك الجمال

[1] This poem follows the convention of Classical Arabic love poetry where masculine gender pronouns may be used to refer to either a male or a female, and so the verses can be read as describing either a man or a woman.

[2] The word ghusn (“branch, bough”) is a common metaphor in Arabic poetry for a slender, graceful body.