Andalusi nubah

For the Algerian musical form, see Nuubaat.

Andalusī nūbah (نوبة أندلسيّة), also transliterated nūba, nūbā, or nouba (pl. nūbāt), or in its classical Arabic form, nawba, nawbah, or nōbah, is a musical genre found in the North African Maghrib states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya but, as the name indicates, it has its origins in Arabo-Andalusian music. The name replaced the older use of sawt and originates from the musician waiting behind a curtain to be told it was his turn or nawbah by the sattar or curtain man (Touma 1996, p. 68).

The North African cities have inherited a particularly Andalusian musical style of Granada (Menocal, Scheindlin, and Sells 2000, pp. 72–73). The term gharnati (Granadan) refers in current Algeria, especially in the region of Tlemcen, the entire directory Andalusian scholar, but in Morocco it designates a distinct musical style of the Andalusian "Tarab Al Ala", as confirmed by the authors Rachid Aous and Mohammed Habib Samrakandi in the latter's book Musiques d'Algérie (Samrakandi 2002, pp. 15, 24).

Form, texts, and performance

According to tradition there were initially 24 nubat, one for each hour of the day. Each nuba must have a duration of 1 hour.

Lyrics are sung by a soloist or in unison by a chorus, and are chosen from the muwashshah or zajal poetic forms, which are in classical and colloquial Arabic, respectively (Touma 1996, pp. 70–71).

An andalusi nubah uses one tab' (similar to a maqam, or mode) per performance, and includes several instrumental pieces as well as predominantly vocal pieces accompanied by instrumentation. These differ as to mizan (pl. mawazin) or rhythmic pattern (wazn, pl. awzan) (Touma 1996, p. 68).

Formally the tempo increases while the awzan simply within each of five sections, called mawazin. The sections are introduced by short instrumental pieces and vary according to region, the name of a section indicating the wazn used:

The instrumental ensemble used includes the ud, rabab or rebec, nay, qanun, tambourine, and a goblet drum called darbuka. The instrumentalists also serve as chorus (Touma 1996, p. 70).


In Tunisia, the 13 nubat are traditionally said to have been classified and organized by the 18th-century aristocratic amateur Muhammad al-Rashid Bey, who died in 1759. He is also credited with the composition or commissioning of the 27 instrumental pieces (bashrafs, etc.) that introduce and separate the main vocal pieces in the nuba cycle. In this system, the 13 nubat are treated as a single overarching cycle, given a sequence in which, ideally, they should be performed (Davis 1996, 425–26).


The nubat of Morocco were collected and classified in the 18th century by the musician Al Haïk from Tetuan (Eisenberg 1988, ).

Unlike the nubat from Algeria or Tunisia, Moroccan nubat are long, so it is rare for a Moroccan nuba to be played in its entirety. Another distinction is that many Tunisian or Libyan nubat and some Algerian nubat are considered as being of Turkish inspiration, whereas Moroccan nubat are free of this influence.


See also


Further reading

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