Traditionally, music from Oman borrowed traditions from many of its broader neighbors, including Egypt, Tanzania, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Portugal. Omani sailors would pick up various musical traditions and bring it back to Oman where it would mix with their own local traditions.
Typically traditional music would center around life changes, like marriage, birth, death, and even circumcision (I bet those are really weird songs). Much of their music is steeped in the musical traditions of the broader scope of Arabic music, which are built on tetrachords. Unlike Western music, Arabic music also includes different intervals like three-quarter tones (an interval between a half step and a whole step). I was reading up on quarter tones, and even though I was a music major, I still find the notation for quarter tones strange (it’s either a backwards flat sign or half of a sharp sign cut vertically).
Omani music typically uses many of the same instruments found in the Arabic music of other countries along with Western instruments as well. Some instruments that can be found are the manjur, a type of instrument that is looks like an apron of sorts and worn around the waist, decorated with cut-up goat hooves. As the performer shakes their hips, it rattles. It’s typically used in the zar dance (a dance to get rid of demons) and the fann at-Tambura (a dance for healing). A tambura is a bowl lyre, or type of long-necked lute. To accompany many of these performances, the mirwas drum is used. The mirwas drum is a type of small double-headed drum.
Along with the dances mentioned above, the liwa dance and its music stems from East African traditions. It has its ties with Zanzibar and other places along the Swahili Coast. Basically, several males will form a circle with one member in the circle playing some kind of reed instrument. The people who form the circle will dance and clap along. The singing that’s done is also sung in Swahili. (Makes sense.)
Salim Rashid Suri is one of the distinguished oud players and singers who combines sawt musical traditions from the northern regions of the Persian Gulf with other musical traditions of the Indian Ocean. He calls it Sawt al-Khaleej, or Voice of the Gulf. He was known as the Singing Sailor, but his family wasn’t happy about him wanting to sing. His brother even threatened to shoot him if he didn’t stop. (I’ve done that but for different reasons.) But it was good that he persisted regardless, even though he had jobs and a family to take care of.
I ran across a band that goes by the name T-band. They’re apparently a pretty good cover band from Muscat who won the Battle of the Bands in Oman a year or so back. They’ve got some talent, but I think the next step for them is to develop their own writing and their own sound.
There are a few underground metal bands that are moderately known. A couple of these bands are Belos and Arabia. (Belos now performs in the UK.) I’ve listened to a few songs by Belos, and they fall into that category of metal music that uses more string music into it. They do incorporate some of the death screaming, but otherwise, it’s not bad. I actually kind of like it. This is about the extent of what I could find. There aren’t many musicians or bands that popped up in a basic search.
Up next: the food