The Arabian Peninsula, State of Knowledges

Given the difficulty to describe the musical forms of the Arabian Peninsula, which are very little known, three main geographical entities are presented here : the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

In the Gulf, there are two main styles : pearl-divers' songs, al-ghaws, and traditional urban music, sawt, accompanying the zafan dance.

In Saudi Arabia and the Nejd, four main categories of music can be distinguished : the dewînih, a solo voice accompanied with rabâb, the sømir¡, a collective chanting with frame drums, târ, performed during the night ; the ‘arda , a ceremonial dance for political and tribal events and the riddiyya, a poetical contest. The main poetry is the nabatî genre, in colloquial Arabic. In Hejaz, the urban music is influenced by the cultural trends brought by the Pilgrimage, and show influences from Yemen, Syria, Egypt and Irak, although it has its specific features.

In Yemen, three main regions can roughly be distinguished : the Zaydi Highlands, dominated by cultivators tribes which have war and agricultural songs ; the Shafii coastal plains, with a music typically influenced by the sea (fishermen, influences from the Gulf and Egypt) ; the Hadramawt (inner and outer) which developped very specifical form, mainly based on the dân poetry, with cultural influences from south and south east Asia.

In most of the rural forms, the percussions instruments are predominant, when in the urban forms, several forms of lute are dominant. This article does not cover Oman and the Sanaa Song.


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