Tripolitanian traditional song 1960-2010

Another PhD thesis by a Libyan student has come to our attention, this time in the field of musicology. It can be accessed online at the following link.

Abdelmonam Ben Hamed, La tradition citadine libyenne et son acculturation: Etude du chant tripolitain (1960-2010) [The urban Libyan tradition and its acculturation: study of Tripolitanian singing (1960-2010)]. PhD thesis, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, 2014.

Abstract: “The goal of this thesis is to study in particular the repertoire of Tripolitanian traditional song at the core of the Libyan musical tradition with a method that brings to light both the melodic and rhythmic models which characterize this singing as well as the compositional structures which they exemplify. Specific attention is given to the evolution / acculturation of Tripolitanian traditional song.”


New PhD: Najah Benmoftah on Tripoli Arabic

Warmest congratulations to Najah Benmoftah, who has just completed her Ph.D. at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris with the following thesis:

Benmoftah, Najah. Des ligateurs de cause: étude contrastive entre le français parlé à Paris et l’arabe parlé à Tripoli (Libye). Propriétés syntaxiques et fonctionnements pragmatico-discursifs. Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 (2016).

Abstract: This contrastive linguistic thesis describes and contrasts the syntactic properties and the pragmatic-discursive function of parce que in spoken French in the seventh district of Paris and some of its Arabic equivalents in spoken Arabic of Tripoli (Libya) : liʔǝnna, ʕlēxāṭǝṛ , māhu and biḥkum.

Regarding the spoken Arabic of Tripoli, these ligators may belong to two different grammatical classes : they may be conjunctional ligators and / or prepositional ligatorrs. It depends on their degree of grammaticalization. While liʔanna and māhu are conjunctional ligators that introduce causal clauses organized around verbal or non-verbal predicates, ʕlēxāṭǝṛ and biḥkum can be used as prepositional ligators and introduce circumstantial complements or be grammaticalized as conjunctional ligators and introduce causal clause.

In addition, these ligators can occupy a canonical position when the ligator follows a main clause and introduces a causal clause, or a non-canonical position for which there are two cases : either the utterance begins with the causal which is introduced by the ligator of cause and is followed by the main clause, or the utterance begins with the main clause which is followed by the causal not introduced by a ligator of cause ; the latter is found at the end of the causal and closing the utterance. From a pragmatic point of view, changing the order of the constituents when ligators and causal clauses are not in canonical position allows the focalization of the causal clause.

Unlike the spoken Arabic of Tripoli, the examination of the Corpus “Français Parlé Parisien des années 2000 (CFPP2000)” shows that parce que is conjunctional ligator. It introduces a causal clause organized around verbal predicate, rarely non-verbal. parce que can occupy a canonical position when the ligator follows a main clause and introduces a causal clause, and a non-canonical position when parce que follows “c’est” and introduces a causal clause. However, it can not be postponed and it does not accept either suffix. When parce que introduces several causal clauses, it may be taken but in reduced form “que”, giving a series of “que”. In addition, from a pragmatic point of view, when the utterance begins with “c’est parce que” this structure allows to focalisation of the causal clause.

Italy and France in the Fezzan | اطاليا و فرنسا في الفزان

A PhD thesis concerning the transition in the Fezzan from colonial rule by the Italians to the immediate post-colonial administration by the French has recently been completed.

Palmieri, Tomasso. Étude comparative de l’administration militaire de l’Italie et de la France au Fezzan libyen. Un cas de modèle colonial en continuité (1930-1951). Ph.D. dissertation Aix-Marseille Université / Università di Pisa (2015). [PDF, in French]

Abstract: The goal of the present research is to analyze the structural development of a brief colonial presence. Beginning from a comparative historical study, it describes the process of installation, creation, and governance of a double European colonial administration: that of fascist Italy and of France, in the Fezzan region of the southwestern Libyan desert. We show, in a longue durée perspective, how the urgency of controlling the Sahara’s extensive spaces deteremines, from the Empire’s perspective, the strategic necessity of creating a colonial macro-region to be directed solely by the military. The kernel of this thesis analyzes both the manner in which the structures of these administrations were conceived and put in place by European militaries and their real impact on the region’s social fabric. Finally, by way of conclusion we evoke elements of rupture and continuity throughout the two experiences and the consequences of colonial administrative actions in terms of independent Libya’s identity formation.

Oral literature in Ghadamsi Weddings | الادب الشفوي في الاعراس الغدامسية

Room in a Ghadamsi house (Plate 1). © AM Yedder.
Room in a Ghadamsi house (Plate 1). © AM Yedder.

Searching the British Library database recently for Ph.D. theses related to Libya yielded an unexpected gem: The oral literature associated with the traditional wedding ceremony at Ghadames, a 1982 thesis written at SOAS by A.M. Yedder, a native of Ghadames. I first had a look at the physical copy in the SOAS library: a 431-page tome containing dozens and dozens of transcribed and translated texts in the Berber language of Ghadames, not to mention quite a few color photographs hand-pasted into it.

As with any Berber language in Libya, more material is a great boon, and this one contains a rich variety of oral literature used during weddings: 82 wedding songs, 20 ‘ritual utterances’, 3 ‘calls’, and 4 ululations. Many of the texts preserved here may no longer be known in Ghadames–Yedder gives details about each of his 19 informants, for example, several of which were born not long after 1900 and knew texts that were already in the 1970s forgotten by most other informants. A detailed discussion of the town’s social structure, unique house architecture, and the long and complex wedding ceremony itself means that the work is interesting even for those who do not specialize in Berber language.

Ghadamsi wedding jewelry (Plate 30). © AM Yedder.
Ghadamsi wedding jewelry (Plate 30). © AM Yedder.

It strikes me that this thesis may be one of the most detailed descriptions of a North African wedding ceremony ever made. Its wealth of information and uniqueness mean that it should be published, even, or especially, after having lain unconsulted in the SOAS library for thirty years. Thanks to some colleagues who helped allay the costs, I had the BL scan the entire thesis. It can be downloaded from this link (the file is large, > 100mb).

Research on Libyan Nawba Music | بحوث في النوبة الليبية

Two studies on a type of traditional Libyan music called nawba (النوبة) appeared in 2012. The first is by a Maltese academic who conducted fieldwork in Libya and interviewed many well-known musicians (such as Hassan al-Areibi حسن العريبي).

  • Ciantar, Philip. 2012. The Ma’lūf in Contemporary Libya: An Arab Andalusian Musical Tradition. London: Ashgate.

More information can be found at the publisher’s site, including the table of contents and Preface. The title translates to “المعلوف في ليبيا المعاصرة: تقليد موسيقي عربي اندلسي”. From the publisher’s description:

“The musical tradition of Ma’luf is believed to have come to North Africa with Muslim and Jewish refugees escaping the Christian reconquista of Spain between the tenth and seventeenth centuries. Although this Arab Andalusian music tradition has been studied in other parts of the region, until now, the Libyan version has not received Western scholarly attention.

This book investigates the place of this orally-transmitted music tradition in contemporary Libyan life and culture. It investigates the people that make it and the institutions that nurture it as much as the tradition itself. Patronage, music making, discourse both about life and music, history, and ideology all unite in a music tradition which looks innocent from the outside but appears quite intriguing and intricate the more one explores it.”

nawba-selectionThe second is a PhD thesis by a Libyan student at the Free University, Berlin. Both a summary in English as well as the entire PDF (in German) are available. The thesis provides a wealth of detail and analysis of individual nawba melodies and lyrics (including sheet music), but remains unpublished as far as I can tell.

  • El-Ageli, Muftah Ali. 2012. Die Andalusische Nauba in Libyen: Struktur und Aufführungspraxis. Ph.D. Thesis, Freie Universität Berlin.

The title translates to “The Andalusian Nawba in Libya: structure and performance practice” and “النوبة الاندلسية في ليبيا: هيكلها و ممارسة اداءها”.