Video-Analysis of “Akh tagorye hʾashyrie” (Syriac Orthodox Chant) performed by Evelyne Daoud

(Video-analysis and URL updated 22/01/2019)

This 45th video-analysis of the VIAMAP series features an introduction explaining the basics of video-analyses for maqām music. Note that this analysis is included under “maqām and not under “Byzantine” analyses, due to the particular scale of the chant.

Video-analysis of the takhshefto (“supplication”): “Like the Merchants” Akh tagorye hʾachirye 4:50+ trimmed (caudal silence) to 4:48, performed by Evelyne Daoud (Evlīn Dāwūd), recorded in the town of Qamishli (North-east Syria)

Analysis and editing: Amine Beyhom

Special thanks to Hamdi Makhlouf and Saad Saab for their insight for the maqām analysis, and to Aboud Zino who kindly provided additional historical and descriptive material concerning this chant and the performer

A CERMAA production

Notes for the graphic representation

The pitch contour is shown as a black broken line, with the relative intensity shown as a reddish (maroonish) line. Score scales are based on the conventional quarter-tone division (half-flat and half-sharp accidentals). The graphic scales are based on the same intervallic division and feature to the left (and in the intermediate column) the names of the degrees of the scale: these follow Amine Beyhom’s proposed solmization (available as FHT 57 p. 245 in the article “MAT for the VIAMAP” by the author/editor – downloadable here), namely, for the main degrees of the scale of maqām Rāst: rā = RĀST = c, = DŪKĀ = d, = SĪKĀ = e, ja = JAHĀRKĀ = f, na = NAWĀ = g, ḥu = ḤUSAYNĪ = a, aw = AWJ = b and Rā = KIRDĀN = c’ (C). The tonic is relative with note names undergoing a change of the case of the initial letter with the change of octaves. Intermediate notes (ʿarabāt) are likewise given corresponding solmization syllables. The upper stripe features a division of the vertical space based on the tonic and its octave (red horizontal lines, plain for the tonic), the fourth (green dashed line) and the fifth (blue dashed line).
Note also that s_a = “Analysis time”; s_v = “Video time”. The original tonic is dū = DŪKĀ, which corresponds to an unstopped string of the ʿūd.

Further notes

The upper and lower cases lettering differentiates (the scale of) for example maqām Rāst (initial uppercase) from the (pitch) tonic RĀST (uppercase) and the polychord (or jins) rāst (lowercase). In both literal analysis and annotations to the graphical analysis numbers between brackets are additional bordering intervals used (or not used) in performance; for example, a rāst tetrachord on NAWĀ = na will be noted na [3]433[4] if the performer uses one-interval extensions for the original tetrachord rāst 433 on RĀST. The rest note of the tetrachord is always na but the performer may use a lower interval of one tone (“4”) between f and g, and a higher one-tone interval between = upper RĀST = KIRDĀN = c’ or (Cand Dū = upper DŪKĀ = d’ (or D). In a similar way, a ḥijāz tetrachord on DŪKĀ = will be noted 26[2] if the performer does not use the upper semi-tone of the original tetrachord ḥijāz dū 262 (the [2]) in the described performance.

Preliminary research and analysis

From the CD Syrian Orthodox Church – Antioch Liturgy (1983/1992) D 8039 Auvidis-Unesco (rights of the recording acquired to date by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings).

Track and liner notes courtesy of 
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Cover of the liner notes of the CD Syrian Orthodox Church – Antioch Liturgy ‎‎(1983/1992) D 8039 Auvidis-Unesco (retrieved from ‎‎
Back cover of the CD Syrian Orthodox Church – Antioch Liturgy (1983/1992) D 8039 ‎Auvidis-Unesco (retrieved from‎antioch-liturgy-mw0000069908)‎
Excerpt from the liner notes: [p. 5]

This is another takhshefto (supplication) based on the sixth mode[1] according to the tradition of Tur ʿAbdin [Ṭūr ʿAbdīn, طور عَبْدِين] (the equivalent of the maqām ʿajam)[2] which, due to its melismatic character, does not function at all like a qinto [melodic style], but is rather in the spirit of the maqām.

Like the merchants, the martyrs entered into battle. They shed their blood in order to obtain spiritual wealth, in the manner of skilled merchants. They bartered their lives for death, preferring torment to rest. They chose death rather than a short life. They are in the kingdom, guests of the son of the King and we are invited to participate in the feast, proclaiming: Glory to thee, Ruler of the Universe

Note on the title (incipit): the word hʾachirye is pronounced “kashīrīh” by the singer as can be read in the “Karshuni” (translitteration of Syriac in Arabic) version “Akh tagorye hʾachirye” (below) listed as No. 419 in the book The Bread of Life published in 2002.

“Karshūnī” (transliteration of Syriac in Arabic) version of “Akh tagorye hʾachirye” from the Lahmo Dhayé (The Bread of Life) published in 2002 – Courtesy of Aboud Zino
Cover of the book Lahmo-Dhayé (The Bread of Life)
More about the chant (freely translated from a private communication by Aboud Zino – See also at the end of the post the Arabic translation and the original Syriac version) …

The takhshfotho (pl. of takhshefto) are a melismatic, non-measured type of chants which span a complete octave. This particular type of takhshfotho is attributed to Bishop Rābūlā a-r-Rahāwī (“Bishop Rabola of Raha”) who died 425 CE. These were gathered and classified by one of the fathers of the Syriac Church, Jacob the Rahawite (Yaʿqūb a-r-Rahāwī) who died in 708 CE.

… and about Evelyne Daoud (same source as above)

Malfonito Evelyne Daoud (1935-2002) was a respected Lebanese cantor of the Syriac Orthodox Church who lived in Qamishli in Syria. She was very active in Church life, including teaching and scout movement.

Video Analysis (updated 22/01/2019)

Literal Analysis

On the general ascending scale of what the analyst called maqām Syriac Bayāt (equivalent to the scale of maqām Ḥusaynī dū 3344334) the singer begins with a jump of third from to ja slightly lower than the theoretical pitches corresponding to the first (more or less) stabilized tonic measured around 7 s_a rising then to na to complete the jins bayāt 334 on and concludes this introductive section of the first part on the tonic [end at 11.5 s_a]. Follow then [14-38 s_a] in a very linear manner a jahārka trichord ja 44 with a brush of the aw, a rāst 433 on na with occasional brushes of the ja and a stop on ja for what may be understood as a transitory (and intricated) jahārka 44 in trichord (skimmed from the usual caudal semi-tone when tetrachordal) then by a conclusive bayāt 334 on . This first part is similarly concluded [40-53 s_a] by a jahārka trichord on ja intricated with however a bayāt trichord 33 on.

The second part [55-103 s_a] has a similar structure (as with the first part). The third part [105.5-142 s_a] is initiated with a (near) jump of fourth on the (upper) and features a jins rāst 433 on na with a rest on this secondary tonic, the whole repeated once, followed after a silence directly by [144.5-193 s_a] a jins bayāt which announces the remake (here by the same performer) of Part 1, 3, and 1 [Parts 4, 5 and 6]. (Note a clear tendency to raise the final na for jin rāst on na.)

Additional info

About the recording

The recording was made ca 1980 (or before – estimated). The original LP was released in 1983, and the CD version in 1992, but the liner notes (by Christian Poché, [p. 3]) say that the first track[3] was recorded in Damascus: the former “Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, who died suddenly on 25 June 1980, celebrates in this track the prayers of consecration”. However, the web page featuring the extract of this song on the Smithsonian Folkway Records website[4] says that the original album was released in 1971 under the title Ritual Chant and Music with the catalog number UNES08103_114, as Track 14 (the caudal number 114 seems to indicate the CD number “1” and track number “14”) with duration 3:58… However,  the web page of the album[5] and the release tab[6] list August 10, 1996 as the first release.

Back cover of the CD Ritual Chant and Music (1996) D 8039 Auvidis-Unesco (retrieved ‎from‎

Track 14 in D 8103 was clearly picked up from D 8039 (Track 7), as the CD rank numbers indicate (8039 comes before 8103). The back cover (last line) of D 8103 (above) also states that recording copyrights (℗) for this compilation range from 1971 to 1996, which would explain the confusion on the track page.

[1] The sixth mode in the Greek-Orthodox tradition is a plagal mode the scale of ‎which is equivalent to the scale of maqām Ḥijāz-Kār (d 2 6 2 4 2 6 2 in an ascending scale expressed in approximate multiples of the quarter-tone). ‎

[2] The scale corresponds theoretically to (ascending) 4 4 2 4 4 4 2 on bb for maqām ʿAjam-ʿUshayrān in multiples of the quarter-tone, and to (ascending) 3 3 4 4 4 2 4 on d for maqām ʿAjam as such (without the caudal ʿUshayrān which points to bb as a tonic).

[3] “Sanctus” from the tradition of Mardin, Tagrit, Urfa.

[4] “Smithsonian Folkways.” Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Accessed December 19, 2018. accessed 18/12/23.

[5] (accessed 18/12/23).

[6] (accessed 18/12/23).

About the Tur ʿAbdin tradition and the Syriac oktoechos (liner notes p. 3)

The tradition of Tur ʿAbdin, tenaciously upheld in the Syrian border town of El qamishli (Syria), is a reflection of the remarkable golden age of Syriac, from which it has assimilated the various tendencies.

The Syrian Church, as is the case for all the eastern Christian communities, groups its melodic styles (qinti) within an overall unit (oktoechos, or set of eight modes), also known as ikhadia, and indicates the mode to be used for each Sunday of the year, rising every week by one scale degree.

The Syriac word ikhadia was formed from the Greek ikhos, meaning “sound” and athos, meaning “chant”. It refers to simple melodic formulae which, by virtue of the historical developments, have begun to relate to the Arabic notion of maqām, without adopting all its aspects, however.

The bet-gazo, or treasure of melodies, also known as shimo, or ferial breviary, is a compilation of non-biblical texts used as reminders for the deacons.

In practice, it is impossible to generalize the use of the eight modes throughout the community. Experience shows that the oktoechos varies in terms of the nomenclature of its scales according to province. It is as though a practice, patterned after the musical dialects stemming from local customs and usage, corresponded […] to a universal theory of oktoechos.

The scale

At first sight (listening) the scale is composed of two sometimes slightly shrunk bayāt tetrachords with central disjunction – sometimes wide – and a steadily changing tonic. This is equivalent to the scale of maqām Ḥusaynī as explained for example under maqām Bayātī (no. 59 p. 118-119) in

Ḥilū (al-), Salīm سليم الحلو. الموسيقى النظرية Al-Mūsīqā a-n-Naẓariyya [La Musique Théorique]. 2nd ed. بيروت – لبنان Beyrouth – Liban: منشورات دار مكتبة الحياة Dār Maktabat al-Ḥayāt, 1972, p. 119

but also in

Erlanger, Rodolphe (d’). La Musique Arabe (5) – Essai de Codification Des Règles Usuelles de La Musique Arabe Moderne. Échelle Générale Des Sons, Système Modal. Vol. 5. 6 vols. Paris, France: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1949, scale under no. 57, p. 240

and others…

[see Beyhom, Amine. “3. Systématique modale ‎–‎ Volume III.” Thèse de doctorat, Université Paris Sorbonne, 2003 ( p. 57, scale (0,19,4,4,3344334)].

MaqāmʿAjam is frequently equated today with maqām ʿAjam-ʿUshayrān with the scale bb 4 4 2 4 4 4 2; maqām ʿAjam per se (without the caudalʿUshayrān) may have an equivalent scale to maqām Bayāt (3 3 4 4 2 4 4 – see Erlanger no. 62 p. 250) but would be notably distinguished by the necessary use of aʿajam tetrachord (4 4 2) or trichord (4 4) on bb and of a jahārkā tetrachord (4 4 2) on f. However, the use of NAWĀ = na = g as a secondary (if not first) tonic and the rare use of the upper DŪKĀ (MUḤAYYAR) = Dū = d’ argue in favor of a tetrachord rāst (4 3 3) on na = g instead of a bayāt (3 3 4) on ḥu = a; while a few maqām(s) have such a configuration in the ascending lower octave, maqām Ṭāhir (aforementioned Erlanger, no. 72 p. 270) seems to be another maqām based on the tonic which has an identical ascending scale (in the lower octave) composed of tetrachords bayāt on and rāst on na=g, with an insistence on the central na. The descending scale contains however a būsalīk tetrachord, which makes it a poor candidate for this performance.

More important however is the inner structuring of the scale in Daoud’s performance, made up of (effectively) a lower bayāt tetrachord 3 3 4 on dū = DŪKĀ = d and of a joint rāst tetrachord 4 4 3 on na = NAWĀ = g, but with an intermediate, and sometimes intricated trichord jahārkā 4 4 on ja = JAHĀRKĀ = f. This seems to indicate that this maqām, that we shall call “Syriac Bayāt” (Bayātī-Siryānī), is specific to this particular tradition, or at least not of common use as I could not find an equivalent in the literature nor could specialists of Arabian music which I consulted do so.

Arabic version of “Akh tagorye hʾachirye” from the Lahmo Dhayé (The Bread of Life) published in 2002 – Courtesy of Aboud Zino
Original Syriac version of “Akh tagorye hʾachirye” from the Lahmo Dhayé (The Bread of Life) published in 2002 – Courtesy of Aboud Zino
A capella choir of deaconesses of the Church of the Virgin (Qamishli) and conductor Malfono Paul ‎Mikhael (detail). Back cover of liner notes SOC Auvidis D 8029 – Photo credit: Jochen Wenzel