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(ابو الزلف) (Abu El Zelof) (English translation)

Arabic
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(ابو الزلف)

تقول صباح:
 
هيهات يا بو الزلف عيني يا موليا
يشرب حصانك ضفر على أوكار مايا
 
يرد الرجل:
أوف.. أوف..
حصاني ما ينضفي جرتك اكسرها
ورجعك لي هلك فاضيه بلا مايا
 
ترد صباح:
أوف.. أوف..
جرتي ما تنكسر لا قبلك احصانك
و خليك طول العمر بلا خيوليا
 
يرد الرجل:
أوف.. أوف..
حصاني ما ينقبل لا قبلك جوزه
وخليكي طول العمر تبقي ارمله
 
ترد صباح:
أوف.. أوف..
جوزي ما ينقبل لا قبلك مراتك
وخليك طول العمر تبرم حالك
 
يحصل حوار بين الرجل وصباح تبتسم وتضحك:
خليني، شكلنا راح نبرم على طول،
بس انا بدي شي بيت عطاير
 
ثم يقول الرجل:
امم .. امم..
على هل حال ماعد معي شاة
بعلمك عقل راجح معي شاة
 
بعد ما كان محبوبي معي شاة
هجرني ونئلب مات لي الدياب
 
ثم ترد صباح وتقول:
حبي علينا بس حب متلنا
حبي علينا بس حب متلنا
 
اه.. اه.. اه.. ياباي..
غدار الأنس سلم وعلي
حبن علي ضيوف وعلي اه..اه..
 
غدار الأنس سلم وعلي
حبن علي ضيوف وعلي اه..اه..
 
ياوردن لنا زهر وعلي
ضريف ويحرسك شوك حراب
يابا.. بابا.. بابا..
 
حبي علينا بس حب متلنا
حبي علينا بس حب متلنا
 
Submitted by MJ-Q8MJ-Q8 on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 10:36
Last edited by MJ-Q8MJ-Q8 on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 21:25
English translationEnglish
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Abu Ez-Zeluf

Versions: #1#2
Sabah says:
 
Over my dead body, Yaabu Z-zeluf, 3ayni ya Moulayya1
That your horse should drink so much as a fingernail's worth of water at this here well
 
The man replies:
[*non-lexical vocables*]
No horse of mine gets shoved! [Give me] that pitcher of yours, that I may break it
And send you back to your family, empty-handed—with no water
 
Sabah replies:
[*non-lexical vocables*]
No pitcher of mine gets broke! Just wait till I send that horse of yours to its grave2
And make you live the rest of your days with no mount
 
The man replies:
[*non-lexical vocables*]
No horse of mine gets sent to no grave! Just wait till I send your husband to his grave
And make you live the rest of your days a widow
 
Sabah replies:
[*non-lexical vocables*]
No husband of mine gets sent to no grave! Just wait till I send your wife to her grave
And make you live the rest of your days chasing your own tail
 
A repartee takes place between the man and Sabah as she smiles and laughs:
"If I may—it seems like we're going to be going back and forth for a while,
I'd just like to sneak in this verse real quick!"
 
Then the man says:
[*non-lexical vocables*]
If it keeps going on like this, then it looks like I'm not going to have any more sheep to my name
I shall teach you to think straight, then perhaps I'd have a sheep to my name
 
After my beloved used to be a sheep to my name
They deserted me, and now I count them amongst those killed by the wolves
 
Then Sabah replies, saying:
You can love others beside us if need be, so long as you love us the way we love you3
You can love others beside us if need be, so long as you love us the way we love you
 
[*non-lexical vocables*]
To the old homestead, tell them to deliver my greetings, and to all
The ones I love, those who stay true! "And to all!"
 
To the old homestead, tell them to deliver my greetings, and to all
The ones I love, those who stay true! "And to all!"
 
You flowers, that are all we have to our name, bloom and flourish,
Ya Zareef4, may you emerge amongst the watchful eyes of the thorns of thistles
[*non-lexical vocables*]
 
You can love others beside us if need be, so long as you love us the way we love you
You can love others beside us if need be, so long as you love us the way we love you
 
  • 1. See the comment under the song.
  • 2. I'm distinctly hearing لاقبرلك rather than لا قبلك, in this and all subsequent verses.
  • 3. In Arab culture, where polygamy is permissible, there are expressions that exist for the sole purpose of talking about polygamy. One is 'to love "on" Person A' or 'to marry "on" Person A,' which means to fall in love with or marry Person B even though you're already married to Person A. So this verse says 'you don't have to be monogamous with me, just as long as you're passionate about your love for me, the same way that I am with you.' The word 'us' means 'me' here, and has similar connotations to 'waa7id,' which we've previously discussed going over Nancy Ajram's 'W Ma3ak.'
  • 4. See Kitkat1 and YasserKatib's comments below.
Thanks!
thanked 6 times
Submitted by GuestGuest on Thu, 19/11/2020 - 18:01
Author's comments:

Okay, tell that brilliant mind of yours to get its coat, because we're going on a little ride, yeah? So, yeah, there is a kind of performative poetry in Arab culture called 'Zajal.' It can be traced back to 11th century Andalus. It is said to have been brought over to the rest of the Arab World by the exiled Andalusian diaspora. It flourished most of all after that in Lebanon. It is recited in dialect, not Standard Arabic, and is normally sung, but the same melody is repeated over and over for every verse, so I use the term "sung" loosely here. It is partially pre-written, but also partially improvised. It is typically presented as a conversation between two individuals who aren't very pleased to be talking to each other, like it is here. Improvised and snarky, it is basically the Arab version of rap battles, except it has mawwals instead of raps! EPPIC MAWWAL BATTLES OF ANDALUS!

Now, a kind of Zajal very common in the Levant is the "Abu Z-Zeluf" formula: each verse is 13 syllables, with one hemistich 7 syllables long, and the other 6 (A 'hemistich' is just a ~fancy~ term for when we divide verses into two halves). The first verse always goes هيهات يا أبو الزلف ، عيني يا موليا or a variation thereon. After that, you get another verse that rhymes with this one, then four more verses, three of which rhyme with each other in both hemistichs, then the fourth rhymes with the others for the first hemistich, then its second hemistich rhymes with the original verse again. Never mind, just having a nerd attack, sorry! But anyway, among other theories, it is said that the "Zeluf" in Abu Z-Zeluf is in reference to one of the names of Ishtar in pagan Aramaic tradition, "Umm Ez-Zeluf," literally meaning "Mother of Ornament," with the موليا in the second verse meaning "fertility" in Aramaic, the thing She was goddess of. They say invoking Ishtar this way was used in elegies originally, or in celebrations of the spring, all the way back when Lebanon was still pagan.

Anyway, an Arab, in general, would rather die than be rendered tongue-tied, so Arabs always have tens of established come-backs for every occasion, from haircuts to finishing their ritual prayers, for compliments and for insults, so they're never caught off guard:

Person A: "Good Morning" Person B:"Bright Morning"
Person A:"How old are you?" Person B:"May I live to be older!"
Person A:"Congratulations! May the sharbat be drunk at your wedding." Person B:"May it be in your presence."
Person A: (sees Person B done with their prayer) "May you pray in Mecca!" Person B: "May it be in your company."
Person A:"Yes" Person B: "May a jackal come your way!" (The word 'jackal' sounds like the word 'yes.' This is a favourite of mothers)
Person A:"No" Person B: "May you be struck with facial palsy!" (Again, the word 'facial palsy' sounds like 'no,' and again this exists solely for mothers to say to kids who talk back!)

My point is this exchange in the song, where somebody takes a word you said and bases an insult or curse directed towards you around it, is common even in everyday Arabic conversations, and not just in Zajal.

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Translations of "(ابو الزلف) (Abu El ..."
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Idioms from "(ابو الزلف)"
Comments
Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Thu, 19/11/2020 - 21:35

My teeth are - sunk - in! Listened to it again and it just melts me down eeeeevvvveeerryyy tiiimmeeeeee. Her voice is transcendent! You said you heard some discrepancies in the Arabic, is the rest of the original text ok? There are some parts in كلمات العربية that I had some things (?)'d cause I wasn't sure on the Arabic.

And again what a dense song! I'll see if I can find someone versed in the nitty gritty of the Lebanese dialect to take a look at it

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 05:17

She probably feels Tarab listening to the voices in her own head; probably why her smile never fades! Teeth smile Not going to lie, I've learnt to tune out the typos in the Arabic, because there tends to be quite a few sometimes, so there are a lot of typos that I never point out. At any rate, there are words spelt in this song in a way that is different from how I'd spell them, but this is the only typo I've been able to locate that actually affects the meaning drastically. Sabah is saying "I shall send X to the grave," the lyrics as they currently stand say "I shall kiss X"! Very different sentiments!

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 09:51

Ah that doesn't surprise me! Sometimes when I'm locating source lyrics I find HEAPS of typos that even my non-fluent self sniffs out immediately! Though the perfectionist in me would love a "perfect" text, so maybe this is one tiny detail for when everything is black and I'm smoothing out the last of the feathers on my baaaabbyyy [kissy faces]

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 11:30

I swear to God you could be in the K9 unit! Whenever airport security suspects somebody of trying to smuggle in letters of the Arabic alphabet into the country, they'd just bring you out, and you'd immediately sniff out the stash of Alphabet soup they have hidden in their socks! Teeth smile You can definitely bring your wee baby in and we'll do a full check-up, but for now, here are most of the things I'm uneasy with in this particular song, although a few of those, towards the end especially, depend on whether my interpretation of the song is actually valid:

Line 3: ظفر على وكار الماية
Line 10: لأقبرلك
Line 11: خيولية
Line 13: ينقبر لأقبرلك جوزك
Oh, this is actually another big one! جوزك ('your husband') not جوزة ('a hazelnut')! It doesn't even rhyme this way!
Line 14: أرملية
Line 17: ينقبر لأقبرلك
Line 20: بس بعد بدي شي بيت عالطيرة بس
Line 23: هالحال ما عاد لي معي شاة
Line 26: وانقلب مات للدياب
Line 32,34 : حبهن ع إنهن
Line 34: يا وردٍ لنا وزهر
Line 35: ظريف ويحرسك شوك الحراب

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 12:01

A full-check up!!! Gosh, I'd have to pop a bottle of champagne for that moment, may be one of the most satisfying moments of my life.

Thank youuuuuuuuuu for this I have edited accordingly!

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 12:33

Oh and it's بارجعك على أهلك in the song, not لأهلك actually. Anyway, I just had a thought listening to this, Sabah pronounces her ق as /g/! Which serves to indicate that she's playing the role of somebody from the countryside. As I said, Abu Z-Zeluf uses very rustic, "quaint" language. You wanted evidence that the Lebanese pronounce their ق like that sometimes too, and welp, here you go!

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 12:48

I thought that too! At first, I wondered whether she was doing the ج as a G thing, back when I could barely distinguish what she was saying at all. Here is all the proof I need! This song is one of those that absolutely transcends language. As much as I love having a translation for this and feeling like the puzzle is SOLVED, even before I did, I loved it so much.

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 13:03

Every time you say that, it makes me melt! I CAN'T STRESS HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS! Your love for this song is the purest thing I've ever seen, I swear to God!!!!!!! 😫️😫️😫️ And you know something, I'm often disappointed when a song I love is translated. Language is so constricting! My very favourite Fairouz song is one who lyrics don't actually have any sensical meaning, they're just like Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." But the fact that the words don't mean anything when put together makes you focus on their meaning more, ironically, and in the end, you feel like the lyrics mean more than their constituent words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBz0Rqp2aqA

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Fri, 20/11/2020 - 16:32

Gosh yes I know that feeling! Like you have this idea in your head of what the song could be about, or what beautiful things it could say, and when it's just not the same............ it's kinda sad! I've never heard this Fairouz song before (WHICH SAYS SOMETHING) - how beautiful is this!!!!!!!!! Her Christmas carols are some of my absolute favourites. SUCH a sweet tender voice!

YasserKatibYasserKatib    Tue, 29/12/2020 - 23:43

I took a look at the last couple lines (footnotes 4 and 5) and double checked with a native Lebanese Arabic speaker and this is what we came up with:

عالدار قلون سلم وعلي
بحبون يللي بيوفوا وعلي
يا ورد اللي لنا زهر وعلي
يا زريف ويحرسك شوك الحراب

The translation:

From my home, say hello to the...
one I love, tell the one that is loyal to me to the...
flowers that's ours, bloom and grow high
Oh beautiful, and the thorns of the thistles protects you

It looks a little weird, because Sabah begins her next sentence at the end of a line, so the "علي" is actually for the next line. It looks more coherent if written in paragraph form like this:

From my home, say hello to the one I love. Tell the one that is loyal to me. To the flowers that's ours, bloom and grow high. Oh beautiful, the thorns of the thistles protects you.

So, from the first line;

She's saying to say hello from the home or the yard. This isn't literal, but it's a common phrase in Lebanon where someone says "قولوا لبيتنا سلام " or something along those lines.

The second and third lines are pretty self explanatory.

The last line is a little complicated. Al-showk al-7araab is a sort of weed that grows in the Lebanese countryside, with thorns all around it. Kids back in the day would try to pick the weed, peel it and eat the inside, and I'm told it tasted like the stalk of a cauliflower. So Sabah is saying that these thorns of the thistles will protect the blooming flowers. Also, it's not spoken but I believe the intent is implied, where she's comparing the thorns of the thistles to a knife or "al-7araab", and saying it'll protect the flowers.

Here's a picture of the knife she's referring to: https://fscomps.fotosearch.com/compc/CSP/CSP991/الحراب-سكين-ألبوم-الصور_...

and the weeds or al-showk she's referring to: https://mkaleh.com/uploads/images/image_750x_5d37927e5d4bd.jpg

I hope I helped! And I hope the translation is correct haha as you guys have said there really is no sensical meaning.

Also, the man in the video I believe was a talk show host in the 60s and 70s in Lebanon. I'm unsure of his name (edit: his name is نجيب حنكش, he was a singer, poet, and tv show host), but here's a video of Sabah appearing on his show a few times: https://youtu.be/qdFsLhpDOrM

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Tue, 29/12/2020 - 23:35

🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 you are a legend thank you SO much for this!!!!!!!!!!

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Wed, 30/12/2020 - 12:27

The detail, the references, so delicious!!!!!!!! That last stanza is poetry!!!!
If you'd be able to, it'd be great if you and your Lebanese friend could look over the entire Arabic to comb out any mistakes, but no pressure of course Wink smile

YasserKatibYasserKatib    Wed, 30/12/2020 - 21:12

I can definitely ask the friend haha but I can't promise anything. I'm currently doing some other translating work but I can definitely fit this in somewhere :).

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Wed, 30/12/2020 - 15:32

I beg to differ. I think you're more of a rockstar than you are a legend really! It feels so good to have something demystified like this!

I've got a few questions before I finalise the edit if you don't mind though: Can the last line be understood as a prayer rather than a statement, as in "...to be beautiful, MAY the thorns of thistles protect you?" Sometimes in Arabic we use prayers as adjectives. "He is 'may the Prophet protect him.'" can be said of a child that exhibits above-average intelligence for their age for example.

Also, I assume the first line should actually read "TO our home, deliver my greeting," rather than "FROM our home." And that it should really say قلن يسلموا rather than قلن سلم?

Plus I'm not sure I understand the role that يا is supposed to play before ورد here. Or the one before زريف. I'm not sure I even hear the latter in the song.

And isn't ورد اللي لنا a bit wordy? "Flowers that are ours"? Why not just say "our flowers"? Is it supposed to emphasize that those flowers are all Sabah truly considers herself to own in the world or something, perhaps in contrast to the verses about the beloved that was a sheep to Naguib's name from earlier in the song?

And finally, where else would one use زريف? Does it mean something more specific than "beautiful"? Like, would it apply more to a flower than it would a woman?

Based on your translation, this is how I intend to edit so far, so I think the يا is what's throwing me off the most of all:
"
To the old homestead, tell them to deliver my greetings, and to all
The ones I love, those who stay true, and to ???
You flowers, that are all we have to our name, bloom and flourish,
To be beautiful, emerging amongst the watchful eyes of the thorns of thistles
"

Thank you so so much, Yasser! You're officially my favourite Lebanese person from Calgary!

YasserKatibYasserKatib    Wed, 30/12/2020 - 21:11

The last line can definitely be taken as a prayer rather than a statement. I think at that point it's just the intention of Sabah, if she meant it as a statement or a prayer, but I think either works fine.

The first line reads "قلون سلّم وعلي". I initially thought it was سلوا as well but if we take "وعلي" as meaning "and on," or "and to," (as it makes more sense in English to say "to the one I love" rather than "on the one I love" then it makes more sense that she's saying "From the house, tell them "salam" and to the one I love", rather than "To the house say "salam" and to the one I love". But again, it really is just how you interpret the lyrics when we get to the nitty gritty of it, whether it's to or from.

Concerning the يا قبل ورد I think this is one of the cases where there should be something after وعلي to make it make sense in English but there isn't, and it just goes into the next line. Kind of like in the mawaal of زفوني where Sabah says "لو بتعرفي اديش في حبي وفي". When translated it's "If you knew how much I love" and that's it haha even though in English we'd want to put something else at the end of it, like "If you knew ... then ..." but there just isn't anything there. So in this case I would say that the وعلي at the end of the line before is there for the flow of the song and not for actual meaning, and that the يا ورد is just the normal use of يا where she's talking directly to the flower. And the same goes for the next line I believe.

I can hear the يا قبل يا زريف, it is a little hard to hear because Sabah connects it to the وعلي before it. If you take a closer listen it should sound like "ou 3aliya zareef".

You're right! Flowers that are ours is very wordy haha I only realized after I read the comment again but forgot to edit it to say "our flowers". I think she could've just said "Our flowers" but, again, for the flow of the song it sounds better to say اللي لنا and connecting it to sound like اللنا.

I could be completely wrong in my translation as we don't really have anything to go off of, so it's just whatever makes the most sense.

زريف can mean elegant or charming, though it's mostly used for beautiful in the colloquial sense. You can use it for anything from flowers to women to anything else you can think of haha. It's not a very common word but it's pretty much just a synonym of حلوي.

For the third line of your translation I would use "To the flowers" or "Oh flowers" because I think Sabah is using يا in the same way you'd use it for a name or person, like "يا ياسر". You wouldn't say "You Yasser", just "Yasser". I swear I hate translating these old songs because I just wanna enjoy them in the Arabic without picking apart the English and trying to make it make sense because it loses so much of its meaning.

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Fri, 01/01/2021 - 18:34

Dude, you're a saint! So much patience, so much help. I can't thank you enough, seriously!

YasserKatibYasserKatib    Fri, 01/01/2021 - 18:40

Of course! Regular smile thank you for including me in this too! You make the translation sound so beautiful by the way, a lot better than just the direct translation. You really convey the meaning of the song :).

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Fri, 01/01/2021 - 18:50

You're so sweet! I try, although my translations can be a bit TOO poetic at times if you ask me! Wink smile And I agree, translating things can make them lose their magic, but sometimes, it can also make you appreciate the beauty in the things you consider banal. And for bilingual people, it can really help you make connections you wouldn't make otherwise, and then they create new magic altogether to make up for the one they made you lose, you know. It's worth it if you ask me!

And even though you're going by ear, I can tell you are right on the point with your transcription! Once you hear it, you can't unhear it!

KitKat1KitKat1    Fri, 22/01/2021 - 06:17

I am coming to this incredible discussion a bit late but I just had to add a little more density for Eva. The “man in the video” is indeed Najeeb Hankash. He was a beloved singer, composer, TV talk-show host and raconteur from Zahle who died in 1977. I was surprised not to find more songs of his on YouTube, but I went ahead and added him to the database so we can link this song to him here:

https://lyricstranslate.com/en/najeeb-hankash-lyrics.html

A fun fact is that he was known by the nickname “Zareef Lebnan” (زريف or ظريف or however you want to spell it) as referenced in the line “ يا زريف ويحرسك شوك الحراب”
(which is how I hear it too). “Zareef“ can be translated as “beautiful” but in Levantine Arabic it is commonly used in reference specifically to a nice, handsome, socially desirable young man, like the eponymous Zareef al-Tool from this popular song sung here by Nasri Shamseddine:
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/nasri-shamseddine-ya-zareef-al-tool-lyric...

And here is Hamza Namira’s remix of the Palestinian version:
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/hamza-namira-ya-zareef-al-tool-%D9%8A%D8%...

Another completely irrelevant but intriguing detail about Najeeb Hankash is that he was once married to the journalist Baria Alamuddin, who later became the mother of Amal Clooney.

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Fri, 22/01/2021 - 06:52

I - love - you!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for this extra trivia!!!!!! Definitely makes the song make more sense - love it when they shout out the person they’re singing with lol
And what a small world! The mother of Amal Clooney was once married to the man who had a he blessing of singing with Shahroura!

Readwriting BonnetReadwriting Bonnet    Fri, 22/01/2021 - 12:00

Kitkat, you've outdone yourself! I want to marry this comment and have a baby with it that grows up to be a famous lawyer married to a famous actor, or not, I won't pressure it, I'll love it forever no matter what! It really does take a village to translate a song! Now Eva will have a whole newfound level of appreciation for her favourite Sabah song! Heart Heart

I think I'll edit my translation to just point to the comments since "Zareef" has so many connotations in this context.

Eva PriestleyEva Priestley    Fri, 22/01/2021 - 15:32

For real! When I thought I couldn't love the song any more you all come and bless me by peeling back the layers of mystery!

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