UAE’s sea songs to set tempo of Sounds of Arabia today

ABU DHABI - The third annual Sounds of Arabia festival, to take place in Abu Dhabi from today to May 15, is a much bigger affair this time.


Silvia Radan

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Published: Thu 6 May 2010, 10:35 PM

Last updated: Tue 18 Apr 2023, 8:52 AM

Taking place at the Emirates Palace auditorium, the nine-day festival is bringing top musicians from throughout the Arab world, North Africa and Iran, some of whom will also hold workshops and lectures alongside the festival.

“There are many types of musical genres from the Gulf that are disappearing because the lifestyle has changed,” said Abdulla Al Ameri, manager of Culture and Arts at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), organiser of the festival.

“Take the music of the sea, for instance. When sailors used to go out diving, they had their own songs, but since pearl diving is no longer practised, their songs fade away too, with each generation.”

What the ADACH is trying to do, through festivals like Sounds of Arabia, is to revive this music, which is part of the UAE’s oral heritage.

To emphasise emirates’ rich and nearly forgotten musical tradition, a newly published book by the authority will be launched at the festival — in both Arabic and English.

“It’s a biography of Jasim Jaber and his music — a great voice, a pioneer and a representative of Emirati traditional music,” explained Al Ameri.

Originally from Abu Dhabi, Jaber was a famous singer in the 1970s and 1980s, with a repertoire of old “sea” songs.

In the Sounds of Arabia, the Emirati music will be represented by Saeed Al Salem, who will open the festival with four songs. The opening gala night will be closed by Lofti Bouchnak, a unique voice and an extraordinary oud player of Tunisia.

The other highlights of the festival include the young and hugely talented Mustafa Saeed of Egypt (May 7), the Syrian ensemble Hewar with clarinet virtuoso Kinan Azmeh and singer Dima Orsho exploring with classical Arabic music mixed with contemporary world sounds (May 10), Sabah Fakhri, the veteran living master of Arabic Tarab music, known for his several-hours-long ecstatic performance (May 12), the Iranian evening featuring Neyestan — a young Iranian group performing classical Persian Dastgah with lyrics from the poetry of Hafez and Zarbang, another Iranian group famous for their astonishing rhythms from throughout the Persian musical heritage (May 15).

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