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 origin.

The Arab maqam system

Arab melodies consist of the following intervals:
a. Semitone
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.

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