USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘syrian’
Customs
Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dabke

So anytime there is a gathering of Syrian-Lebanese people, and um it’s a celebration of any type, there will be music playing, and the music has a very unique rhythm, usually a very strong percussion base, and so that lends itself to a lot of folk dancing, and the folk dancing is when the families, members of all ages, get together and hold hands and do a um a dance, and it’s a repetitive dance of about eight or twelve counts, and you just do it as long as the music is playing. So if you have someone playing, oh and the percussion I mentioned earlier is called a derveke, and uh used to be made of a wooden or metal drum with animal skin stretched on top, and it could make a really loud sound, so as long as the dervake is playing, you can dubke, so whether you have a full band or just a derveke, you can do the dubke. It is significant to me because well that if I don’t carry on the family traditions and teach my children how to do the dubke and the family recipes, it will die out and there will be no heritage.

Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.

Analysis:

I believe that this tradition and practice of dance and folk music greatly exemplifies the communal aspect of the Syrian-Lebanese culture. The gathering of Syrian-Lebanese families is usually quite large, as extended families come together to celebrate. The music lends itself as a great example of the history of the culture, as the specific instruments that are used to play music in America are derived from or are the same as those that were originally played in that region. As the rhythm lends itself to folk dancing, the communal aspect of the culture is apparent in the holding of hands during the dance, and the need for each participant to be synchronized with the rhythm. Because it is a line dance, if one person missteps, it can interrupt the synchronization of those around them. It is also interesting how the repetitive nature of the dance movements demonstrate how the dance is learned, as anyone can stand up, hold the hand of the last person in line, and follow their steps that match the rhythm. This once again demonstrates the communal aspect and the importance of celebrating the Lebanese-Syrian community through dance.

I also thought it was interesting about the association of “heritage” with this dance. Because the dance is learned from other people and can vary from place to place and person to person, it is more of a tradition than heritage, especially because it is a mode of activity that represents the past. Heritage, on the other hand, is not an activity, but rather an inherited set of relationships about who you were in the past. So, this practice is a tradition that celebrates the past of Lebanese-Syrian cultures and in doing so, it is a way for the people who partake in it to acknowledge their heritage. I was also able to learn parts of this dance, as I was invited to partake in the tradition. This was a lot of fun for me, because the rhythm is very up-beat and perfect for dancing.

Annotation:

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

Proverb-Lebanese/Syrian

“So my grandmother used to have a saying, “if you spit in the wind, you’ll get it back in the face,” um because she never wanted us to speak poorly of other people or say anything disrespectful or rude, so that was her saying.”

Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.

Analysis:

This saying highlights the Catholic traditions of the informant and her family. In a stringently Catholic family, the way in which one treats another is especially important, as they are taught to love everyone as themselves. This saying exemplifies this Christian teaching, but also seems to have the influence of the Hindu tradition of karma. Although to the informant, the meaning is simplistic in that they shouldn’t speak poorly of others, the aspect of karma comes from “you’ll get it back in the face.” To me, this means that not only should I not speak poorly of others, but if I were to do so, I would feel the repercussions from my actions.

The proverb is also interesting in its literal interpretation. As this saying may also have originated from a region in which the weather conditions allowed for strong winds. If this were the case, then the saying in that context would have a sensible literal interpretation. If one were to actually spit into the wind, the spit would most likely return and strike them in the face. Therefore, the context and the literal sense of this proverb convey the message of not being rude so that one might avoid embarrassing or harsh repercussions because of the things that one says. This saying, as the informant learned it from her mother, could have been passed down through generations even if the weather conditions are not the same, and may continue, due to the fact that the underlying message is apparent.

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