Tuesday, 27 January 2015


This blog is a platform for the translation from Arabic into English of the lyrics contained in the 10th century work known as The Book of Songs, or Kitab al-Aghani (كتاب الأغاني  in the original Arabic).

The Kitab al-Aghani is a compilation of songs which Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani (or Isbahani) collected over many years. It runs over twenty volumes in modern editions, as it also includes instructions for the performance of many of the songs, as well as annecdotes and information related to composers and performers. The focus of the project, however, will be exclusively the song lyrics. 

The lyrics are comprised in three parts:
  • a selection of songs selected by musician and singer Ibrāhīm al-Maws̩ilī for the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid;
  • a selection dedicated to the members of the caliphal family who composed songs;
  • the songs selected by the author.
The songs (s̩awt, inArabic: صوت) are interspersed with information about their origin and the lives of the poets who composed them, which in fact takes more space than the songs themselves.

Anyone wishing to take part can browse through the lyrics and choose one they would like to work on. The hundred songs chosen for Harun al-Rashid is a good place to start.

Below is a link to a pdf version of the whole work:

Part of the work can also be viewed  in pdf format following the link below:

This is a non-profit commons project to be carried out by volunteers. 

In the first phase of the project, anyone interested in taking part chooses a poem / song, or as many as they like, and produces two versions in English of the text:

1) a literal translation

2) a translation of the meaning

During a second phase, volunteering poets will use the material to produce poems in English.

Another way to get involved is by producing voice recordings of the poems that will be added to the blog as resources. 

For help with translation,  here are some online resources:

Lane's Dictionary of Classical Arabic and English:

Learner's Dictionary of Classical Arabic Idioms:

Anyone interested, please get in touch.

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