Beiram Al-Tounsi: pioneer of vernacular Arabic verse 'Zagal'
Egypt, People, 3/5/2001
A Satirical vernacular Arabic poet and playwright of a unique style and distinct flavor, Beiram Al-Tounsi, with his rich contributions to lyric drama at the early 20th century had a far-reaching literary influence on prominent contemporary vernacular poets such as Salah Jaheen, Fouad Haddad and Ahmed Fouad Nigm.
Originally named as Mohmud Mustafa Al-Hariri, commonly known as Beiram Al-Tounsi, he was born in March, 1893 in a popular district of Alexandria, to parents of a Tunisian descent.
As a child, he was sent to the preschool Kuttab, where he memorized the Holy Qur'an and learnt reading and writing.
On his own, he educated himself by carefully studying classical masterpieces of Arabic literature, rhetoric and linguistics, in addition to advanced methods of Qur'anic recital.
At the age of 20, he published a series of vernacular poems, which reflected his genuine talent, culminating in his most famous satirical poem "The Municipal Council ", wherein he poignantly derided the exorbitant taxes imposed by those councils.
In 1919, he released " Al-Misallah" (the Obelisk) magazine, which was closed down following the 15 th issue.
His second publication " Al-Khazouq" the pile" was closed down after the first issue, because it contained a poem that was considered a libel against the Royal Family.
He contributed weekly poems in vernacular to an art magazine called "Ahl Al-Fann" ( Artists)
He was an enthusiastic advocate of artists copyright law.
Al-Tounsi was highly-conversant with the phonology of both classical and vernacular Arabic dialects and accents.
His verses in colloquial Arabic were also as beautiful as classical.
Al-Tounsi was deeply involved in the lives of the rank and life including peasants, laborers and low-class employees.
In his verses, he gave interesting account of their qualities, strengths and weaknesses and lovingly criticized their frailties.
Beiram's creative writings covered a variety of art genres, including verses, lyrics, plays, operates, articles and stories. He was also an exceptional film dialogue writer, particularly for bedouin-type films such as Rabeha (1943), Antar and Abla (1943) and Adventures of Antar and Abla (1949).
When 1919 Revolution broke out, he wrote a number of patriotic lyrics that enflamed nationalist feelings.
Long years of exile and devoted interest in the issues and plight of his compatriots had sharpened his feelings as well as his talent. In all his works, he reflected the concerns, sufferings and aspirations of his people.
Many of his verses, wherein he sharply criticized social, political and bureaucratic ills and deficiencies, still hold true.
Beiram wrote plays for the radio as musical comedies (operates).
He also wrote lyrics for key singers, including Um-Kolthoum, Laila Mourad, Mohammad Fawzi, Fareed al-Atrash, Abdel-Halim Hafez among others.
Beiram was awarded the Order of Science and Arts of the first class by late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser.
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