Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah in Syria
Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah, is a very old traditional chant that the locals in Damascus repeat as an expression of joy to celebrate special occasions, such as in weddings or when someone returns from Hajj.
Only male members perform these chants which happen within groups not individually. They can be the friends and acquaintances of al-Hajji (the man who went to Hajj), or the friends of the groom.
The Band of “Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah”:
Most of the times, people aim for a good and more authentic show, so they hire a band which is specialist in “Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah”. These bands are between 20-50 men, they dress up with the traditional Damascus cloths which include: the cap, Hattah (fabric that covers the head or shoulders), and a vest over clothes which made of wool.
Sometimes the show can include a horse for al-Hajji or the groom to ride while the band is singing and performing Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah.
Also some musical instruments are used to enhance the show such as: the drums, tabla, flute, and Trumpet.
The Tabla or The Darbuka
The Drums and The Flute
Sword & buckler and duels:
Additional to the chants, the show is consistent with duels using swords and bucklers. The duels happen in between the chants where one or two groups of 2 guys each start to maneuver using the swords in a very skillful way. It is one of the main acts in the show and it never fails to amuse, every time you watch it.
The chanting and words of Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah for the one happening for the groom is different than the one happening for al-Hajji. The cloths though are the same.
And since Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah comes from Islamic culture, the chants mainly starts with praising the prophet Mohammed and then talks about the groom and his weeding night or al-Hajj.
Usually one person lead the songs and the rest of the members follow him and repeat his words. These shows take place in spacious areas to give enough space for the viewers to circle around them and watch, as well for the band members to be able to perform the show fully without having any trouble or concern to use the swords safely while doing the duels.
However, it is possible for the band to start singing inside the house of the bride and then continue the rest of the show in a wider place, in the street next to the bride’s house, then in the lobby of a hotel or some venue where the wedding is happening.
The concept of Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah is for the band to sing and celebrate the groom’s big night, starting from his house and following him to the bride’s house for him to meet her, then celebrate both of them, following them to where the wedding party is happening, while singing in a loud voice for everyone in the surrounding to hear and share the joy.
As for the sword & buckler show it usually happens in the last stop, where the bride and groom are having their wedding reception.
The only times when the band pause the singing is on road when they are traveling from one place to another.
As for Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah that happens for al-hajji, it goes the same way except that mostly the celebration is happening either in al-Hajji place or in another venue, so not much traveling for the band and it takes shorter time to do the show
There is not one wedding that misses having Al-aradah Al-shammiiyah. It is part of the traditions and strangely one of the remain ones, even though the times are changing and the new generation is taking off many traditional habits, this one is kept because we all appreciate the uniqueness of it and how it differentiate the Syrian wedding than any other.