The rhythmic modes of Arab music are known as iqa'at (singular iqa'), or sometimes as awzan (singular wazn). They consist of regularly repeating sequences of beats, with each beat represented by one of two different types of drumstroke: the 'dum' stroke is produced at the centre of the drum and the 'tak' stroke at its edge. The time signature at the beginning of the pattern consists of two numbers: the bottom number indicates the relative length of each beat and the top number indicates how many of these beats make up the repeating unit of the pattern. Some of the more common iqa'at are listed below, together with some of the rhythmic patterns associated with them.
Sama'i Darij (Yuruk Sama'i)
These two terms seem to be fairly interchangeable and refer to very popular 3/4 or 6/8 rhythms that are often used for the fourth khana in the performance of a sama'i. The word darij means 'popular' or 'common' in Arabic, which reflects the widespread use of this rhythm, whereas yuruk is Turkish for 'fast'.
Masmudi saghir ('small') is half the length of masmudi kabir ('big'), and is widespread thoroughout the Arab world:
The word nawakht comes from the Persian verb 'to beat'.
This is a very old pattern whose name means 'Indian cycle':
This pattern is twice the length of masmudi saghir, and there are two very similar versions which may be encountered:
The name of this mode comes from the Turkish word for 'limping', which reflects its Turkish origins. The two main forms which may be encountered are shown below, and in the first of these, the rest on the sixth beat can also be replaced with a 'dum'.
This is the standard rhythm used to accompany a sama'i, and the word thaqil means 'heavy' in Arabic. The two main forms are shown below - the first is the most common, although the second may also be encountered:
This an Armenian rhythm which has become very popular in the Arab world. Note that in Egypt it is pronounced gurgina.
The word awis means 'difficult' in Arabic and may refer to the 11/4 time signature, which is not that common in Arab music. Note that the pattern begins on a 'tak'.
Three common variations of this rhythm are shown below. The first is called mudawwar masri (or often just mudawwar - mudawwar means 'round' or 'circular' and masri means 'Egyptian'. The second form is known as mudawwar halabi (where halabi means 'originating from Aleppo' in Arabic), and the third is called mudawwar shami (where shami means 'Syrian').
The word murabba means 'fourfold' or 'square' in Arabic. It is often used to accompany a muwashshah, which is a vocal genre based on poetry.
This is a popular Arab dance rhythm.
This mode, and its variations, are distinguished by the three 'dum' strokes at the beginning. Also used to accompany a muwashshah.
There are several different versions of this mode, one of which is shown below. The word mukhammas means 'fivefold' or 'pentagonal'. However, it can also refer to a type of Persian poetry with Sufi connections based on a pentameter, so it is possible that this rhythm was used to accompany such poetry.
This is an old Persian pattern. The word awfar means 'more abundant' in Arabic.