The vast spread of the ocean and its 1,700 kilometre-stretch of Oman’s coastline have had a tremendous influence on the Sultanate’s lifestyle and culture, including its music. Traditional Omani music is distinct and unique and poetically conveys the message of the sea meeting the desert.
Although there are various types of music, the ones that are most popular among Omanis and which is said to have been passed on from generations are the sea shanties and fishing songs. Music has evolved over the years, but the essence of it has been retained by the younger generation who learnt the art from their ancestors. The sea shanties, produced by both wind and percussion instruments, have a nice melody and are soothing to the ears.
The music seems to have originated as a result of Oman’s ancient maritime travellers, who went to Africa, Persia, and India and other Arab nations for trade and other purposes.
Instruments and musical connotations were adapted from different regions and brought to Oman. For instance, drums are an important part of Omani music, a similarity that the Sultanate has with African music. The drums here, which are made of wood, are called Rahmani and provide a rhythmic base and Kasir Qasir. Strangely, Omani music also has a bagpiper, a Scottish instrument that is played differently here in the Middle East.
Today, traditional music is mostly played during joyful occasions and festival, but many men still wear a blue Wizar (the underclothes Omani men wear under their dishdasha) under a white shirt, especially in the coastal villages. Among the 130 forms of traditional songs and dances practiced in Oman, some other noted genres include high pitched celebratory music, the desert’s Bedouin music, and the deep baritone mountain music.
Unlike other Arab music, Omani music does place a lot of emphasis on rhythm. As everyone in the Sultanate proudly celebrates talented Omani singer Haitham Rafi’s achievements in an Indian reality TV show, let’s also take some time to acknowledge and be inspired by traditional Omani music, which is rich, unadulterated, and is a representative of the nation’s culture and heritage.