Mohammed Ali Ahmed: ‘Can You Hear the Call?’

Egyptian poet Mohammed Ali Ahmed (d. 1977) wrote lyrics for songs by Abdel Halim Hafiz, Shadia, Huda Sultan, and other iconic singers of his era. His poem “هل أنتِ معي؟” was put to music by the Sudanese composer Buri’e Mohammed Dafa’alla (1929-1999) and performed by the great Sudanese singer Abdel Aziz Daoud (1927-1984):

Sudanese singer Abdel Aziz Daoud

By Adil Babikir

This poem first reached my ears on the baritone waves of Abdel Aziz Daoud’s captivating voice. The melody, composed by the legendary musician and oud master Buri’e Mohammed Dafa’alla, was a poem in its own right. It was another masterpiece that helped position “Abu Daoud” and Dafa’alla as one of the most successful duets in the history of Sudanese music.

Their combined talent transformed many poems into timeless songs that elated their audience to ecstatic rapture. I was not totally free from the spell of this song when I started translating the lyrics, by Egyptian poet Mohammed Ali Ahmed. Unlike his famous poems put to songs by Abdel Halim Hafiz and Shadia, which were written in colloquial Egyptian, this piece was written in standard Arabic, with an air of romance that captured the general mood of the 1960s.

You can listen to the song on one of ArabLit’s SoundClouds.

Can You Hear the Call?

By Mohammed Ali Ahmed, translated by Adil Babakir

Sounds from the past whispering in my ears

And dreams flickering over my bed,

Lost in a fancy world,

Almost unconscious I grow,

Overwhelmed with yearning for you,

Unable to put up with our prolonged parting,

And memories, fresh and fragrant, came pouring in:

I was in love,

Alas, a short-lived one.

I was full of dreams and passion,

Endowed with a soulmate who –

For my wounds was a balm like no other.

Then all’s gone, ended in despair;

Two alien objects, estranged we turned.

Everyone in the lovers club, the bartender no exception-

Drank and danced to their hearts’ content;

I alone sober remained,

Sober enough to see ghosts of darkness lurking in the light.

The glass in my hand collapsed into shards.

I was again aflame with passion

For my nights,

My brim-filled glasses.

The inferno of love setting me, my bed ablaze.

And the flames of yearning calling me in –

Can you hear the call?

هل أنتِ معي؟

همساتٌ من ضمير الغيب تشجي مسمعي
وخيالاتُ الأماني رفرفتْ في مضجعي
وأنا .. بين ظنوني وخيالي.. لا أعي
عربدت بي هاجسات الشوق إذ طال النوى
وتوالت ذكرياتي .. عطراتٌ … بالهوى
كان لي في عالم الغيب غرام … وانطوى
كان لي في الأمس أحلام وشوق وحبيب
كان لي للجرح طبيب … لا يجاريه طبيب
كان … ما كان … وبتنا كلنا ناءٍ غريب
سَكِرَ السمّارُ …والخمّار في حان الغرام
وأنا الصّاحي أرى في النور أشباح الظلام
وغدت كأسي على راحي … بقايا من حطام
عادني الوجدُ إلى ليلي … وكأسي المترع
وسعير الحب يشقيني… ويشقي مضجعي
ولهيب الشوق يدعوني فهل أنت معي

Adil Babikir is a Sudanese translator into and out of English & Arabic, living now in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  His translations have appeared in Africa World Press, Banipal, Al-Dawha Magazine, and others. His published translations include The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth, by Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin (Africa World Press, 2015), Literary Sudans: an Anthology of Literature from Sudan and South Sidan (Africa World Press, 2016), Mansi: A Rare Man on his Own Way, by Tayeb Salih (excerpted on Banipal issue #56), The Messiah of Darfur by Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin (Excerpted on Los Angeles Review of Books, 2015)., and Summer Maize, a collection of short stories by Leila Aboulela (Dar al-Musawwarat, Khartoum, 2017). 


    1. Thanks! I’ll make sure the translator sees this.

  1. The poem is really well known. The singer is a legendary one and the translator is a friend of mine who is really a gifted translator.
    It is a really master piece.


Comments are closed.