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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

From the Site

Arab Song Translations

By Lennie Clark


From Lennie Clark's Web Site:

Lamma Badaa Yatathana
(When She Begins to Sway)


This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the fascinating ancient song "Lamma Bada Yatathanna". The song title is sometimes written as "Lama Bada Yata Thana".

The rhythm, known as samai thaqil, is in a 10/8 meter. The "doom" of the drum of played on beats 1, 6, and 7. The "teks" are played on beats 4 and 8.

Lyrics: Ancient 10th century poem
Music: Selim el-Masri (though I've heard others say Sayyed Darwish)




Listen to MP3 Clips of This Song


Performed by John Bilezikjian

Note Performed by Brothers of the Baladi
Note Performed by Mediterranean Raqs Band
Note Performed by Hossam Shaker on Jalilah's Raks Sharki




Notes from Lennie Clark: My tutor says that the Arabic in this song is so old (it was written around 800 she believes) that it was hard for her to determine the meaning from the written Arabic (and I did not have a recording with me when I had her translate for me). The following is what she came up with, but she says that the inflections of the singer would make the meaning more clear.

A polite tradition in Arabic song is to refer to a female love object with the male pronoun, so the love object could be either male or female.

Pronouncing the Transliteration Below

  • The "3" signifies the letter "aiyn" pronounced more like the "o" in hot, but with the back of the mouth more open. As in the "3ayn" in the popular well-known song, "Habibii Nur el 3ayn".
  • The "a" signifies the short vowel fat-ha, it's not pronounced like the Spanish a, more like our a in "hat".
  • The double "aa" signifies the letter "alif" which is pronounced more like a drawn out version of the "a" in the English word "hat". If you pronounce the "a"s in this song like the Spanish ones, the hearer might think you were saying the sound for the letter "ayn" when you are not, and it could be taken for a different word than you mean.
  • I have used "i" to signify the short vowel "kassra" pronounced like the "i" in the English word "it".
  • I have used "ii" for the long vowel "yaa" which is pronounced like the English sound of "ee".
  • For the long vowel "waaw" I have used "uu" it is similar to the sound "oo" in the English word "boo".
  • Where I have used "u" it refers to the short vowel sound "damme" which is rather like the "oo" in the English word "hook".


Arabic Lyrics

English Translation

Lamma badaa yetathaana When she* begins to sway
Hobbii jamaluu fataana My love, the beautiful one, attracts me
Amara ma bilahdatin assarna He* commands us with a look, with a wink, for a while we look at him, always
Ghahsoun thaana heyna mala When the branches sway gracefully
W3adii wayah hiratii My promise, my confusion
Man li rahiimuu shekwatii Will he / she* respond mercifully to my complaint?
Fil hobbi min lay3atii Who can understand my complaint of love
Illa maliik il gamal Except the king* of beauty.

*Could be referring to either male or female, see editor's note above.



Where to Get Recordings of this Song

Mediterranean Raqs Band


Listen to Clip

Artist: Mediterranean Raqs Band (Saqra)
CD Tiitle: Music Saqra Likes

Web Site:

Jalilah's Raks Sharki 3: Journey of the Gipsy Dancer CD Cover


Listen to Clip

Artist: Hossam Shaker and his Ensemble
CD Title: Jalilah's Raks Sharki 3: Journey of the Gipsy Dancer

Magic of John Bilezikjian Album Cover

Artist: John Bilezikjian & Souhail Kaspar
Album Title: The "Magic" of John Bilezikjian

(Part of the medley titled "Julia's Dream")

Dantz Records - John Bilezikjian
P.O. Box 2434
Laguna Hills, CA 92654-2434

Telephone: (+1) (949) 581-5664

Web Site:

Eye on the World CD Cover


Listen to Clip

Artist: Brothers of the Baladi
CD Title: Eye on the World

Simplified Middle Eastern Songs Volume 2


Artist: Melissa Murphey & Carmine T. Guida
CD Title: Simplified Middle Eastern Songs for Learning and Practice, Volume 2

Traditional Songs from Syria CD Cover  

Artist: Zein Al-Jundi
CD Title: Traditional Songs from Syria




About the Song

Note from Lennie Clark: My tutor told me some fascinating information about the composer/lyricist of this song. She said that he was a student of a famous court musician in the royal court of Iraq, but that his prowess made him so famous that his teacher told him to leave the royal court of Iraq as there was not room for both of them! So he traveled to Cordoba in Muslim Spain, and both he and his son gained fame and fortune there as musicians and composers of both melody and lyrics.

About the Source

This article originally appeared on Lennie Clark's web site, "Arabic Song Translations." Lennie created this web site in 2002 as a response to discussion on the Internet regarding incidents of dancers who performed inappropriate sensual dances to religious music. Lennie's web site resided on a free web hosting service known as Geocities.

When the planned October 2009 closure of the Geocities web hosting service was announced, Lennie and Shira agreed to move the contents of Lennie's site to To explore all the articles and song translations that once appeared on Lennie's Geocities site, visit Lennie's portal page here on

Lennie Clark



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