Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Book sections

Music in the Arabian Peninsula. An Overview.

Abstract : Given the difficulty to describe the musical forms of the Arabian Peninsula, which are very little known, three main geographical areas are presented here : the Arabian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In the Gulf, there are two main styles : pearl-divers' songs, al-ghaws, and traditional urban music, sawt, accompanying the zafan dance. In Saudi Arabia and the Nejd, four main categories of music can be distinguished : the dewînih, a solo voice accompanied with rabâb, the sâmirî, a collective chanting with frame drums, târ, performed during the night ; the 'arda , a ceremonial dance for political and tribal events and the riddiyya, a poetical contest. The main poetry is the nabatî genre, in colloquial Arabic. In Hejaz, the urban music is influenced by the cultural trends brought by the Pilgrimage, and show influences from Yemen, Syria, Egypt and Irak, although it has its specific features. In Yemen, three main regions can roughly be distinguished : the Zaydi Highlands, dominated by cultivators tribes which have war and agricultural songs, but with an old urban civilization in Sanaa ; the Shafii coastal plains, with a music typically influenced by the sea (fishermen, sailing from the Gulf and Egypt) ; the Hadramawt (inner and outer) which developped very specifical form, mainly based on the dân poetry, with cultural influences from south and south east Asia. In most of the rural forms, the percussions instruments are predominant, when in the urban forms, several forms of lute are dominant. This article does not cover Oman nor the Sanaa Song. The diversity and unity of music in the Arabian Peninsula express themselves in a series of sociological, linguistic and performing features common to all these countries, but with many related variants.
Complete list of metadatas

Cited literature [26 references]  Display  Hide  Download
Contributor : Jean Lambert <>
Submitted on : Monday, May 26, 2014 - 12:12:26 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - 10:10:02 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 10:41:02 AM


Files produced by the author(s)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00995989, version 1


Jean Lambert. Music in the Arabian Peninsula. An Overview.. Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus, Dwight Reynolds (Ed.). The Garland Encyclopaedia of World Music volume 6, The Middle East, New York, London, Routledge, pp.649-661, 2002. ⟨halshs-00995989⟩



Record views


Files downloads