I noticed during my stay in Houston that I would hear song after song after song about Texas. It made me wonder in turn, how many songs do I know of which are about Saudi Arabia? Of course there is the Saudi National Anthem but I wasn’t sure if that would count. As a result, I began a little bit of research of my own pertaining to songs of Saudi Arabia.
According to Wikipedia the music of Saudi Arabia includes both Western and traditional music. Like many of its Persian Gulf neighbors, khaleeji folk traditions are popular styles. The most distinguished musician in recent Saudi history is Tariq Abdulhakeem, who composed hundreds of famous Saudi songs for himself as well as for other singers. Saraj Omar has become a very prominent composer after composing the music for the Saudi national anthem.
Later musicians include the pan-Arab star Mohamed Abdu, Saudi Arabia’s first pop star, and the late Talal Maddah, known as the “Sound of the Earth”, who died in August 2000 while singing in the summer festival on the stage of Al-Muftaha Theatre in the southern region of Saudi Arabia. Of the same generation was the ‘ud virtuoso Abadi al Johar, and lately Abdul-Majeed Abdullah came strongly to the scene.
Saudi traditional music is quite limited, however. The migratory lifestyle of the bedouin militated against carrying excess baggage, including musical instruments. Simple rhythms, with the beat counted by clapping or striking together everyday implements formed the basis of the music. Instruments like the double-reeded ney or the stringed rababa were sometimes used, after being obtained in cosmopolitan cities such as Basrah, Baghdad, and Jeddah.
Music, however, is considered “sinful” by some Muslims. This is based, in part, on certain ahadith which speak negatively of non-percussion musical instruments and the idea that music and art are distractions from God. Particularly in the early days of the current Saudi state, religious authorities were quick to repress music other than the rhythmic percussion that still dominates contemporary Saudi music. The advent of radios, tape and CD players in the country saw the attendant growth of shops supporting them. Most cities of any size now have crowded music shops. With the coming of satellite TV, music video stations, ranging from MTV (Europe and Lebanon versions), VH1, and assorted European and Arabic music channels are very popular.
Samri is a popular traditional music and dance.
It seems to me that while the Songs of Saudi Arabia may not necessarily contain the words of Saudi Arabia, the traditional songs instead tell the stories and history of various regions and times of Saudi Arabia. Yes, one must have an understanding of Arabic to appreciate the stories which are told through song. In some cases, many of the songs are more like poetry which is conveyed through song. One of the most comprehensive and mesmerizing accounts of Saudi Arabia and its songs (and dance) are in this spellbinding article from the January/February 1999 edition of Saudi Aramco World.
Following is a taste of old Saudi music accompanied by mesmerizing photos of Saudi Arabia!
And I could not resist adding this clip on how much a parrot finds itself enjoying Saudi music:
By the way, in regards to songs about Texas, I found many web sites and articles which support my premise that there are more songs written about Texas than any other state in the United States! Even National Public Radio had a program about the 100 best Texas songs!
In closing this post, I look forward to your comments on identifying more songs uniquely about Saudi Arabia.
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