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Recent Recordings of Traditional music from the Arabian Gulf and Saudi Arabia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2016

Kay Hardy Campbell*
Boston, MA


The music of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf flourishes predominantly within its own regional boundaries, a function of both the fragmented music distribution channels in the Middle East and the deep imprint that local traditional cultures have left on it. While the music’s popularity is strictly regional, it is full of vitality, supporting an array of male and female song stars whose audiences eagerly await performances and recordings.

The distinct sound of Gulf music echoes the internal and external historic influences on the region, interwoven with the highly syncopated rhythms and the stark unaccompanied songs of the Bedouin. Pilgrims brought foreign music influences to Mecca and Medina and left their mark on the musical ensembles of the Arabian cities in rhythms and maqāmāt. The trading and pearling towns on the coasts and in the Peninsula’s interior also saw foreigners come and go, who left their music and songs behind. As a result, a rich and varied yet distinctly Arabian/Khalījī sound developed, echoing the voices and instrumental music of East Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Research Article
Copyright © Middle East Studies Association of North America 1996

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