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Ramadan Song

Imagine these palms
full of singing children!
This is a view from inside the walls of Medina.  Note
how the palms are the tallest things.  Children climbed
to the tippy top and sang their hearts out in
A beautiful view of the wall of Medina at dusk.
Tala Albadru 'Alayna (O the White Moon Rose Over Us) is the story of Mohammed bringing the Koran into the city of Medina.  To learn more about why he was in Medina, click here.  If you want to know more about Islam and the month of Ramadan, click here for a series of videos.  It's enough to say that Ramadan, a month of fasting, concludes with the celebration of Mohammad coming into the city of Medina.  Children climbed into the palms to get a glimpse of Mohammad and his many followers arriving from Mecca.

The lyrics of the song are told by the children, clinging to the tops of the palms, waiting for Mohammed with anticipation.  Tradition holds that this is the actual song sung to The Prophet 1400 years ago! Here is the first verse.

Tala'al-Badru 'alayna, 
min thaniyyatil-Wada' 
wajaba al-shukru 'alayna, 
ma da'a lillahi da' 

O the White Moon rose over us 
From the Valley of Wada' 
And we owe it to show gratefulness 
Where the call is to Allah 

If you want to extend the piece, why not sing one verse in Arabic and the next in English then switching back.  It's also possible to hum or solfa a verse while reciting poetry.  Brainstorm performance ideas with your students.  Improvisation and embellishment are highly prized in Islamic performance.  Don't worry about betraying the Kodaly goal of "authentic" folk music.  Messing with ornaments and rearranging the song to include poetry IS authentic!

Tone set: l, Drmf

d r m f m r f m d d
d r m f m r f m
d r m f m r f m d d
d r m d r l, r d

This song is THE song to know if you ever meet an Islamic person.  Just humming it will put a smile on their face!  Here are some of my favorite youtube renditions.  Enjoy!
Don't cringe at the intonation.  IF THEY ALL DO THE SAME THING, IT'S RIGHT!  Your ears are Western, they are singing in a maqam, not a scale.  "Do" drifts up in a slight microtone at the end of the phrases.

This next one is very Disney.

Now for a European girl singing in the style your ears might be more used to.  Lovely!

The Date of Ramadan
Muslims follow the lunar, not the solar calendar.  Since the two reckonings of the year differ by 11 days, Ramadan is earlier and earlier each year.  At the beginning of my teaching career, Ramadan was at the time of Christmas.  For this reason, I associated it with the other winter holidays and wanted to incorporate it into winter concerts.  Only now, after teaching over 10 years, do I know that Ramadan changes.  During the course of a person's life of 60 or so years, they will celebrate Ramadan throughout the year, twice!

This song will be a spring song around 2018.  It was a fall song for the past 5 or so years and is going to be a summer holiday (in the northern hemisphere) for the near future.

When can I perform this song?
You can program this song during an informance, winter concert or spring concert.  It is a wonderful song for a special day of sharing.  I intend to use it very soon.  I'm thinking that it would be a great song for my preschool in the winter concert.  It may also be wonderful for Grandfriend's Day, a special day we celebrate on the Friday before Mothers' Day.

My first step is to informally share what I've learned and sing this song to my Moslem colleagues and pick their brains about it.  I work with women from Pakistan, Malaysia, and Iran.  I have students from Lebanon, Syria, Malaysia, India, and Morocco.  My next step is to gently share and discuss the song with their parents.  After feeling them out on the proper context for presenting the song I may choose to simply use it in music class.  Perhaps I'll save it for a unit on religion in Upper Elementary or for a U.N. Day concert next year.

Joan Litman with some of
her charges.  
If you would like to incorporate this or any other Arabic or Farsi songs into your teaching, do so carefully and with the greatest respect for the culture of your school.  Make sure your administration knows what you are doing.  They really hate to be blindsided by anything that might be considered controversial.  In this age of post-9/11 stereotyping, it's very important that we carefully pave the way of peace with sensitivity and love.

This song was taught to me by Joan Litman, music teacher and choir director at The United Nations International School (UNIS).  Joan doesn't shy away from incorporating religious music or sacred music into the curriculum, but she does so very gently and with respect.


tbonegrl said…
I love Joan...she is an amazing woman!
annewalker said…
Great songs, perfect for this coming Ramadan 2012. Thanks for sharing ;-) Keep it up!

More power to you,
Ramadan greetings

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