Islam House

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Traditional Music and Folk Dance

Music and dance are an enduring tradition in the Arab culture. In ancient times local music and dance forms have been used to entertain labouring folks whether they were diving for pearl oysters or hauling water at the well.

It is believed that a professional song leader, called nahaán, was assigned or kept on pearling dhows to keep the group of divers entertained. This person would commence singing, and the rest of the pearling team would join in the singing while they work. Traditional musical instruments such as the doumbek (dumbek), made of ceramic and goatskin, act as a percussion that accompany most traditional music and dance. Another popular musical instrument for the traditional Arab music is the oud, a stringed instrument.

In Abu Dhabi, dance and music – as seen in other cultures of the world - were used to express joy and contentment during happy occasions such as weddings, victory celebrations and successful pearling expeditions.

Today, young local men still perform ayallah, a popular battle scene dance, during special occasions such as weddings or anniversaries, or even conferences. This dance requires male participants to form two to four rows wielding sticks as swords and alternately moving forward and backward to symbolise victory and defeat. Harbiyah, another traditional dance which depicts victory and celebrates pride in power and courage, is sometimes performed by young locals to start a celebration or a conference.

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