ABŪ ʿAṬĀ (ʿAṬĀʾ), one of the twelve modes in the dastgāh system of classical Iranian music; more precisely, it should be called āvāz-e Abū ʿAṭā or naḡma-ye Abū ʿAṭā. The reason for this name is not known; it is alternatively called dastān-e ʿarab (“Arabian song;” M. Barkešlī and M. Maʿrūfī, Radīf-e mūsīqī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1963; M. Hedāyat, Maǰmaʿ al-adwār, Tehran, 1317 Š./1938, III, p. 94). “Abū ʿAṭā” is a comparatively recent designation; this mode was formerly called Sāranǰ/Sārang (N. Forṣat-al-dawla, Boḥūr al-alḥān, Bombay, 1332/1914, p. 37; R. Ḵāleqī, Sargoẕašt-e mūsīqī-e Īrān I, Tehran, 1333 Š./1955, p. 496). This term suggests a possible link with a north Indian rāg Sāraṅg.

The mode Abū ʿAṭā in contemporary practice has the following scale structure: Sol, La-koron, Si-bemol, Do, Re, Mi-bemol, Fa, and Sol (Sol being the finalis). This scale is identical with that of Šūr; therefore in theory it is considered as one of the derivatives (motaʿalleqāt “dependents”) of the dastgāh Šūr. However, Abū ʿAṭā has distinctive melodies which are based on its modal characteristics, which differ considerably from those of Šūr. The šāhed (“note of stress”) of Abū ʿAṭā is Do; the īst (“note of temporary stopping”) is La-koron, which is also often emphasized and may be considered as the secondary šāhed. Although Abū ʿAṭā is said to have formerly had no modulation as such, today this mode incorporates several gūšas such as Sayaḵī, Ḥeǰāz, ʿOššāq, Gabrī, and Čahār-bāḡ (or Čahār-pāra). Among these the gūša of Ḥeǰāz is considered the most important and is indispensable for an improvisation in the mode of Abū ʿAṭā. Ḥeǰāz is, in fact, an extensive gūša (šāh-gūša) of Abū ʿAṭā and possesses distinctive melodies which can not be confused with Abū ʿAṭā (H. Farhat, The Dastgāh Concept in Persian Music, unpub. Ph.D. thesis, University of California at Los Angeles, 1965, p. 68). The šāhed of Ḥeǰāz is Re, which is the note a perfect fifth above the finalis of Abū ʿAṭā. This note also functions as the īst. Therefore the melodic activity of Ḥeǰāz centers around the tetrachord of Re, Mi-koron, Fa, and Sol in the higher register; and it forms, together with the gūša of ʿOššāq, the awǰ (“highest point”) or climax of an āvāz of Abū ʿAṭā. The gūšas of Gabrī and Čahār-bāḡ share the same modal characteristics with Ḥeǰāz.

Historically, Ḥeǰāz (Hıcaz in Turkish) is one of the oldest modes of west Asia. Ebn Sīnā mentions Ḥeǰāz as a mode to be played “between the prayers” (H. G. Farmer, A History of Arabian Music to the XIIIth Century, London, 1929, p. 197). Ṣafī-al-dīn describes the maqām named Ḥeǰāzī in his Šarafīya (dated 1276) as a mode which has the following scale structure: Sol, La-koron, Si-koron, Do, Re-koron, Mi-koron, Fa, and Sol (Farmer in The New Oxford History of Music I, London, 1957, pp. 449-50). A mode named Ḥeǰāz is widely found today in the musical practice of Turkey and the Arab countries in western Asia and North Africa, as well as in Central Asia (Tāǰīk and Uzbek). However, the modal characteristics of each variant type resemble neither those of Iranian Ḥeǰāz nor Abū ʿAṭā. At the same time, those maqāmāt bearing the common name Ḥeǰāz show considerable discrepancies among themselves in terms of scale structure.

Abū ʿAṭā is one of the most popular modes used in Iranian folk songs. Its mood is said to be “melancholic and moving” and generally close to that of Šūr (N. Caron and D. Safvate, Les traditions musicales: Iran, Paris, 1966, p. 66). Deeply religious chants such as aḏān (“call to prayer”), the chanting of the Koran, and the singing/chanting of monāǰāt (“devotional prayers”) are often executed in the mode of Ḥeǰāz, which is an integral part of Abū ʿAṭā and sounds “Arabic” (ʿA. N. Vazīrī, Mūsīqī-e nażarī, part 2: Āvāz-šenāsī, Tehran, 1313 Š./1934, II, p. 36).

See also Dastgāh and Maqām.

For a music sample, see Qamar al-Moluk - Magar nasim-e sahar.

For a music sample, see Čahār pāra.

For a music sample, see Eqbāl Āḏar, Abu’l Ḥasan Khan Qazvīnī.

For a music sample, see Abu ‘Atā.

For a music sample, see Hejāz.

For a music sample, see Hejāz, Bastenegār, Yaquluna, Čāhārpāre.

For a music sample, see Tork čašmaš ar jānam fetne karde rāst.

Bibliography: Given in the text.


(G. Tsuge)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 19, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 259-260

Cite this entry:

G. Tsuge, “ABŪ ʿAṬĀ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 259-260; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-ata (accessed on 26 January 2014).