Most traditional musical instruments are linked to
certain funun. The structure of the instrument always
meets the requirements of the specific fann, or the
musical genre. These instruments were not made to
be used in all funun. By contrast, the instruments
of European music, e.g. the violin or the piano are
not tied to specific genres, but serve as a universal
means to express the musical ideas of the composer.
Omani traditional instruments, however, betray throughout
their construction and possibilities of performance
not only their origin - even when they do not originate
in Oman - but also the genres in which they find their
b. Wind Instruments
The mizmar belongs to
the double-reed wooden wind instruments. It
is cylindrical in form and is known by various names
such as the naghghar, surnai or sirnai. Playing the
mizmar requires considerable skill because the double
reed needs high blowing power. Furthermore, the player
should have the ability to perform with uninterrupted
blowing. This technique dates back to ancient civilizations:
it is found depicted on ancient Greek vases. In this
case, the player stores the air in his mouth and breathes
through his nose. Thus both of the player's cheeks are
inflated with the stored air, and while breathing, he
pushes the air from his mouth into the instrument so
that the sound can continue without interruption. Using
this technique, an experienced mizmar player can play
continuously for several hours.
The lewa is the most important musical genre which
employs the mizmar. The mizmar is the only melodic
instrument beside a complete set of rhythmic instruments
that usually consists of musundi lewa (standing or
sitting) as well as tabl rahmani and another kasir.
The tanak also has its fixed place in this genre.
This genre again shows many signs of African origin,
be it the typically African dance movement or the
pentatonic scale. Swahili language is used not only
for the text, but also in the names of parts of the
lewa genre, such as lewa itself, the sabata, the bum,
and the sudani.
The use of the mizmar is not confined to the lewa
genre: it can also be seen in the sairawan and the
kunzak genres as well.
zamr is a wooden instrument made from bamboo. Alternative
names are aba al-maqrun and sometimes gifti. The zamr
consists of two parallel pipes of equal length and size,
fitted together. The sound is produced in both pipes
by blowing into them simultaneously. Each pipe has one
reed that is cut into the body of the pipe. In the Sultanate
of Oman there are several types of the zamr namely with
five, six or seven holes, although the five-hole type
is the most frequently used. The player of the zamr
is often accompanied by many rhythmic instruments usually
from the rahmani class, such as the kasir, the ranna,
the rahmani and the rahmani tawil. The zamr is also
accompanied by singing as is seen in the zamr genre.
This instrument is widely used in many Arab countries
such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Therefore, the Arab character is heard in its simple
melodies, which usually include the three-quarter
tone intervals typical of Arab scales and agnas.
The qasaba is a pipe
made from bamboo, wood or metal. It is characterized
by its lack of mouthpiece for blowing, and is cylindrical
in form and open at both ends. It has six holes in the
front and one in the back. The sound is produced by
blowing sideways into one of its two openings. The qasaba
is similar to the nai to produce three-quarter tones.
The qasaba is the main melodic instrument in Dhofar
and is mostly used in the sharh and the bara genres.
A well-known qasaba player is Awad bin Guma bin Taufiq
habban is not really a traditional instrument: in Oman
it has only recently been used. It is found in the cities
such as Muscat, Salalah and Sohar. It is not confined
to a special art, but is used in many different genres.
The habban is a skin bagpipe so it is sometimes called
the girba, meaning 'bag'. It has several pipes, most
of them producing a fixed drone or Bordun and one, the
'melodic pipe' playing the melody. The impression of
polyphony is created by the continuous drone of the
Bordun pipes. The player blows air into the qirba where
it is stored and from there, pushed into the melodic
pipes so that the sound continues without interruption.
The habban is similar to the Scottish bagpipe but is
different to those used in Bahrain, Qatar and Iraq where
it has a pair of double pipes for the melody, but no