Marfa (music)

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The Marfa (Urdu: مرفع‎) is a form of celebratory rhythmic music and dance in Hyderabad, India, among the Hyderabadi Muslims, adapted from Afro-Arab music of Hadhramawt in Yemen.[1] played with high tempo using Marfa (instrument) daff, Dhol, sticks,[2] steel pots and wooden strips called thapi.[3] The Chorus effects and vocal meter are set according to beats.[1][2]

It was introduced during 18th century in Hyderabad State by the Siddi community and Chaush diaspora, who used to serve as a Cavalry Guards of Asif Jahi Nizams irregular army. Asif Jahi Nizams had patronized Marfa Music and it was performed during there official celebrations and ceremonies as they also claimed Arab ancestry from the first Caliph Abu Bakr Siddique through the Bayafandi Clan of Asir province in Arabia. It got popular in India, particularly in Hyderabad state. It was brought to Hyderabad State by the diaspora of Siddis and Hadhramis.[1][2]

The associated Marfa dance is typically performed with janbiya daggers and/or talwaars (swords) and latts (canes), and is likely to have been derived from the Bar'a (Arabic: برع‎‎) dance of Yemen and Ethiopian drum sounds.


Marfa is a Hadhrami Arabic word used for Kettledrum.[4] Due to the large influence of Hadhramis on the culture of Ethiopian Siddis, the word Marfa got symbolized for the music played using Kettledrum.[5][6] Whereas kettledrums are replaced with Handi kettledrum[3] in Siddi form of Marfa Music played in Hyderabad, India.[7]


Marfa music is generated due to three different musical rhythmic beats also called "teen maar taal".[2] A typical dance is performed jiggling with swords and sticks based on tempo and rhythm of music.[8] This music is performed only by men, whereas dances and jiggling is common among both male and female.[1][2] Popular marfa rhythms include:

  • sewari
  • bamb sheklah
  • ya abu bakar-ya abu salah.
  • salaam almukallah
  • jumbali zimbali
  • benazeer benazeer
  • ahlan wasahlan


Playing Marfa has become popular in Hyderabad and it is considered as mark of traditional welcome.[2][9][10][11] Since 1951, it is performed officially by the government of India as part of the annual celebration on the occasions of Independence Day and Republic Day at Red Fort, New Delhi, India.[2] It's also played in Hyderabadi Muslim weddings, with great fervour.[12]

Reference List[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "'Marfa' band of the Siddis 'losing' its beat". Hyderabad, India: The Hindu. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ababu Minda Yimene (2004). An African Indian community in Hyderabad: Siddi identity, its maintenance and Change. Greenwood. pp. 209–211. ISBN 3-86537-206-6. 
  3. ^ a b "It's "teen maar" for marriages, festivals". Hyderabad, India: The Hindu. 23 October 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Michael S. Kinnear (1994). The Gramaphone Company's first Indian recordings, 1899-1908. Popular Prakashan. p. 203. ISBN 81-7154-728-1. 
  5. ^ British-Yemeni Society: Traditional music in the Yemen
  6. ^ Yemen Music | Enjoy The Poetry In Yemeni Music
  7. ^ Census of India : Andhra Pradesh. India. Director of Census Operations, Andhra Pradesh. 1981. p. 82. 
  8. ^ Welcome to the Telangana
  9. ^ "US Consul General floored by Arabi daf". The Hindu. December 1, 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Spiritual leader of Dawoodi Bohras in city". Hyderabad, India: The Hindu. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Sania-Shoaib-enters-Mirza-residence-hand-in-hand". Hyderabad, India: The_Times_of_India. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  12. ^ "From the era of the Nizams 'Arabi marfa' continues to be a hit even now". The Hindu. 2012-10-26. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2016-03-19. 

See also[edit]