(b Damascus, 1842; d Damascus, 1903). Syrian musician, composer, playwright and pioneer of Arab musical theatre. Coming from a wealthy Damascus background, he learnt the art of Mūwashshah songs as well as studying Arabic, Turkish and Persian literature. He travelled to Aleppo to learn its mūwashshah and accompanying samah dance. In Damascus in 1880 he staged his first musical play, Nāker al-jamīl (‘The Ungrateful’), for which he composed new music and used old mūwashshah melodies, designing the décor and directing the play himself. Enraged, the conservatives of Damascus had his theatre burnt down. They objected to his use of young male actors for female parts, but they were also threatened because his theatre attracted young people and was a new medium of social expression.
In 1884 al-Qabbānī took his company, which included 32 musicians, actors and samah dancers, to Cairo. He established a theatre and in the space of 17 years presented 35 musical plays. Famous Egyptian singers joined his company, including ‘Abdu al-Hamuli and Salāma Hijāzī (later pioneer of Egyptian musical theatre). Al-Qabbānī's student, Kamil Al-Khula'i, later became one of Egypt's best composers of mūwashshah and musical plays. In 1901, while al-Qabbānī was touring outside Cairo, envious rivals took the opportunity to burn down his theatre. Heartbroken, he returned to Damascus where he died two years later.
SAADALLA AGHA AL-KALAA
The Doxology of the Synagogue liturgy. SeeJewish music, §III, 1.