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2007 Artas Lettuce Festival: Popular Songs

Contributed by Artas Folklore Center on 08.06.2007:

From the Thirteenth Annual Artas Lettuce Festival Guide

To enhance your enjoyment and appreciation of the folklore performances we sought to provide guidance in interpreting the acts. Bashar Barghouti not only generously offered to share material from his website on Palestinian Folklore, but he translated it for us as well! Bashar says this about himself:

“I was born in Kufr-Ein, a village in the Governorate of Ramallah. My wife and I currently live in the USA where I work as a chemical engineer. I built the folklore website to express my connection to our rich folklore and help create a place for the seekers of Palestinian Folklore to find and explore. My love for our folklore started when I was little. I loved attending weddings and listening to the singers (zajjaleen) such as the late Rajeh Salfeeti. I grew up around the late Dr. Abdellateef Barghouti who collected numerous songs and authored several books on the subject. I also admired singers like Mousa Hafiz and my friend Awni Barghouti whose songs I memorized.”

Thank you Bashar! Now if you could only conjure up a stack of Dr. Abdelateef Barghouti’s Folkltales from Artas. The following material was provided by Bashar Barghouti.

Palestinian popular songs deal with different subjects, such as patriotism, love, mourning, pride, etc. A professional singer (zajjal) usually improvises the songs during an event or prepares them ahead of the event. Most of the popular songs are composed of four verses of poetry. The first three verses rhyme, but the fourth differs depending on the type of song. Watch and listen carefully and see if you can identify any of the following types of song.


‘Ataba is the most popular song in Palestine. You can hear farmers, workers, and shepherds singing ‘ataba while they are doing their jobs. However, weddings are the main environment for the songs. Usually, the singer (zajjal) starts with the long sound of (Ooaaaff) then the verses of ‘ataba follow. Not only does ‘ataba require the first three verses to rhyme but also all three verses must end with homonyms. The fourth verse ends with a sound like (aab, awa…)‘Ataba is usually accompanied by a Meejana verse, which has a different rhythm and tune and ends with a sound like (na). A full Meejana composition has the same requirement as ‘Ataba.


Second to ‘ataba, dal’ona is the most popular song. It is easier to compose a dal’ona song than ‘ataba because it does not require using homonyms in the first three verses. The fourth verse of dal’ona usually ends with a sound like (oana).

Dal’ona is the song of the Palestinian popular dance, dabka, where the dancers sing it along with the sound of shubbabah) or yarghool (flute).

Zareef eT-Tool

Zareef eT-Tool has a fair popularity and it is also used in dabka. Of course, the rhythm is different from dal’ona. The fourth verse of Zareef eT-Tool ends with a sound like (ana).


Jafra is also used in dabka, but the dance uses different steps to suit the tune. The fourth verse of Jafra ends with a sound like (eyya).


This is a popular song in weddings where people stand in two lines facing each other and sing. One line of people sings a verse and the other line repeats the same verse. Sometimes, the second line starts a new verse and changes the flow of the song.


Tal’ah (pl. Tal’aat) is composed of a refrain (chorus) and several stanzas. The zajjal starts with the refrain, which is then repeated by the audience as the chorus of the song.

Shurooqi and Mu’anna

Shurooqi is a poem of several verses which takes the same form of a classical Arabic poem. Mu’anna is similar to Shurooqi except it is a shorter poem. In both forms the zajjal inserts a bridge just before the last verse. The last verse is then repeated as the chorus of the song.

Palestine Popular Songs, Courtesy of Bashar Barghouti

Owner and webmaster of the Palestinian Folklore website on the World Wide Web.

To learn more about these and other types of songs and their rhythems, follow the links from:

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