SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

POSTPONED: A Call for Papers: Muwashshah, Zajal, and the Early European lyric

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Date: 25 March 2020Time: 10:00 AM

Finishes: 26 March 2020Time: 6:00 PM

Venue: Fundación Euroárabe de Altos Estudios / Euro-Arab Foundation, San Jerónimo 27, Granada, SPAIN

Type of Event: Conference

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the Granada conference has been cancelled. However our work is ongoing, and draft papers will be circulated. For further details contact

An international conference organised through the School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS, London], and open to the general public.

Papers are invited for this two-day conference

The conference will address two principal themes:

(a) the history and development of muwashshah and zajal lyric forms;

(b) musical and lyrical crossovers from medieval Andalus into Early Europe.

These are hotly contested topics. We propose to refresh the terms of the debate.

Registration: For abstract submission and conference registration, write to the conference organiser:


Deadline: Proposed abstracts should be posted by Monday 16 December 2019. Expressions of interest prior to submission are also welcome. Notifications will be sent on 15 January 2020.


Objectives of the conference

This is the fifth in a series of conferences [Oxford 1988, Madrid 1989 and SOAS London 2004, 2007].

There is ample evidence that medieval musical instruments crossed from the Iberian peninsula into early Europe  (‘ud >> lute, rebab >> rebec, naqqāra >> nakers, etc).

There is also ample evidence that the medieval Arabo-Andalusi dance-song forms of muwashshah and zajal (tawshih) spread in viral fashion from Andalus through North Africa and the Arabo-Islamic world. The songs of Ibn Quzman travelled from Cordoba to Baghdad, and a religious judgement by Maimonides testifies to the use of tawshih song at Jewish weddings in Cairo.

The southward spread of these song forms from Andalus is widely studied, documented, and is part of Maghrebi and Arabic musical “heritage”.

A crucial question remains to be researched: Along with the northward exportation of musical instruments beyond the Pyrenees, did the rhythms and melodies of this formidable dance-song genre also reach into early Europe?

A prima facie examination says yes – the Italian ballata, for instance, is generally taken to have “zajalesque” roots and origins. But in-depth research since the days of Julián Ribera y Tarragón (1858–1934) and H.G. Farmer (1882–1965) has been relatively thin on the ground. The time has come to re-address these questions.

Ours will be an international conference, and we welcome contributions in the fields of Arabic, Jewish and Romance medieval poetry, music, song and dance.

The official languages of the conference will be English, Spanish and French.

Submission of Abstracts:

Abstracts of proposed papers should be sent in the following format:



-- ABSTRACT [max. 200 words]

-- CV OF PRESENTER(S) OF PAPER [max. 100 words]


The conference will be open to the general public. Registration is free for presenters of papers.

There will be a small registration fee for non-presenting participants. Write to the above address for further details, and for all inquiries.

Confirmed speakers include (in alphabetical order):
  • Saadane Benbabaali
  • Clélia Bergerot
  • Manuela Cortés García
  • Carl Davila
  • Ed Emery
  • Yousif Fakhr al-Deen
  • Amal al-Jubouri
  • Alan Jones
  • Dwight Reynolds
  • Yosef Tobi

Fundación Euroárabe de Altos Estudios / Euro-Arab Foundation
San Jerónimo 27, Granada, Spain

See website

We are grateful to the directors of the Foundation for their kind offer to host the conference in Granada.


Last updated: 2.xi.2019