The Melodic System
The culture of Oman's traditional music has vast
dimensions which do not stop at the Sultanate's present
borders because what is found on the territories of
Oman is the outcome of long historic interaction in
which several civilizations were melted together.
On scrutinizing Oman's traditional funun the outcome
of these interactions in the different styles of melodic
structures or formations in them can be found. Beside
the Arab Islamic civilization, which is the pillar
of the Omani civilization, elements of the cultures
of the East African coast and Baluchistan and Lawatia
can be found. All these elements have contributed
to enriching Oman's traditional music not only in
quantity but also in quality.
In order to study these
funun it is important to know how they are made. Singing
plays an important role in all aspects of Omani music,
be it religious or social, entertainment or sabre genres
etc. These fields reflect man's vocal expression through
singing. To examine the different types of melodies,
the different melodic systems used all over the Sultanate
must be reviewed. It is thus necessary to take the following
melodic systems into consideration:
1. The Arab maqam system to cover Arab Islamic genres.
2. The Pentatonic system to cover the genres of African
The Arab maqam system
Arab melodies consist of the following intervals:
b. Three-quarter tone
c. Whole tone, Arabic: bud tanini
d. One and a half tone
These intervals can be regarded as the 'bricks' with
which the melodic structure is built. And as these
intervals are different, there are different scales
obtained through different combinations.
The Arabic scale is made up of a diwan or octave
which is divided into 24 quarter tones: so some specifically
Arabic accidental signs have to be added to mark the
raising or lowering of single notes by a quarter-tone.
Many Omani melodies
have a small range: sometimes they do not exceed four
notes. This is characteristic of most popular music
pieces whose simple melodic structure allows everyone
to join in the performance quite easily.