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Songs of the past still thrill today
January 27, 2018 | 7:23 PM
shopkeeper Khalfan Al Siyabi of Wilayat Nakhal serves customers with a large smile, giving each one his undivided attention and their CD or cassette tape of choice - Ismael Al Farsi
 
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Muscat: In a corner of Muscat Festival’s heritage village at Amerat Park, classic Arabic tunes reverberate from a loudspeaker. The rhythmic beats and hypnotic lyrics of some of the most legendary singers in the Gulf are regularly played from a small booth, where streams of customers from Oman and the region can be seen buying CDs of their favourite songs. Behind the counter, shopkeeper Khalfan Al Siyabi of Wilayat Nakhal serves customers with a large smile, giving each one his undivided attention and their CD or cassette tape of choice.

“I’ve been coming to the festival to sell music since 2003,” he noted. The veteran shopkeeper also runs a store in Ruwi. “This year has been great at the festival, and back at my shop too. Business is doing very well. Most of my customers at both venues come from outside Muscat and around the GCC.”

When he first began attending the festival, he explained, most of his customers would ask for whatever was new and popular at the time, many preferring the latest Arabic pop and dance hits. Over the past two years, however, he has noticed a considerable shift in demand. “Now, the vast majority of my customers want traditional and older music. Very few are interested in the latest stuff. They are of all ages but most are young and searching for vintage performers and ask for what their fathers used to listen to.”

The most popular musicians are from other generations, including Omani artists such as Salim As Suri, Moza Khamees, and Hamdan Al Watani. Even old Khaleeji vocalists are in demand, such as the iconic Muhammad Zwaid from Bahrain, Kuwaiti poet and composer Abdallah Fadhallah, and Jabber Jassim from the UAE.



Many of the most-asked-for-singers were performing in the 1930s, making them among the first popular musicians in their respective countries, at a time when radio stations were new in the region. The songs are filled with instruments that have been used throughout the Gulf for centuries, including the oud.

“This has been happening, especially, over the past two years. The youth are no longer looking for new hits, as they can easily find them on their phones and the internet. Today, they come to me looking for something different, something they’ve never heard before and probably cannot find online. Some don’t even know the names of the musicians they want, but hear when we play something that catches their ear and they immediately want it. Sometimes, they come to me and simply ask for whatever is old and classic,” he said. With retailers such as Khalfan ready to quench the thirst of the general public, the traditional music of the Gulf will continue to be discovered by the youth of Oman and the Gulf.

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