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Al-Taghrooda

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Poetry in Song

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A traditional verse that gives voice to the essence of Bedouin life
Al-Taghrooda has its origins in the desert, the mountainous regions and rural villages of the United Arab Emirates and is a form of improvised poetry. It began among Bedouin camel riders and herders but is today found throughout the nation as a beloved component of Emirati culture.

This chanted verse evolved as a means of passing the time during the long desert treks. Riders also believed it encouraged the animals to walk in time with each other, and could even be used to increase their pace as the chanters quickened the rhythm of the poem.

Riders would improvise the words of each Al-Taghrooda poem during their journeys, creating short poems of seven or fewer lines, each of which is then repeated alternately between two groups of riders. Generally, a lead singer would chant the first line and the rest of the group would respond. Then the second line would be chanted and then repeated, and so on.

Themes
Al-Taghrooda poetry is straightforward and does not use complex metaphors. One of its most important traditional functions was to document the social and cultural history of the region. The most common theme in Al-Taghrooda is the love and devotion of the singer to loved ones, relatives, friends and tribal chiefs. Poets also use Al-Taghrooda to comment on social issues, and to highlight historical achievements. Poems are frequently cited in daily conversations and are seen as an important source of wisdom and insight into Emirati history.

A glimpse back
Today, Al-Taghrooda performances give Emirati audiences insights into their history, culture and traditions. In a change from the past, Al-Taghrooda is not necessarily accompanied by chanting and is enjoyed in written and recorded form as well as at live events.

These poems are chanted around campfires, at weddings, at camel races and at heritage and national festivals, while some forms of Al-Taghrooda are incorporated into traditional performances, such as Al-Ayyala. Women also compose and chant Al-Taghrooda poems while engaged in collective work such as Al-Sadu weaving. For Emiratis, the most important aspect of this poetry is the social bonding that takes place during the exchange of verses.

In 2012, Al-Taghrooda was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Did You Know ?

A distinguishing feature of Al-Taghrooda is the exaggeration and extension of the Arabic vowel sounds as the lines of verse are chanted.

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