Oman's Traditional Music and Musicology

Musicology usually deals with written music, or at least with written history about musical practice. In this respect, Oman's traditional music does not fit in very well as it depends wholly on oral transmission and narration between generations through practice and practical communication.

Omani music, like the music and culture of other people, does not depend, in its narration, practice, or preservation, on notation, be it musical notation or the writing of the general history of music. These are the main differences between Oman's music and that of the European countries which relied, for the musical entity, on the use of notation as a constructive element of their music and not merely as a means of preservation or transmission.

The geographical aspect and strategic location of Oman has had a great impact on the development of the country and still does to this day. The 1700 km coast line that stretches from Yemen in the south to the Musandam Mountains in the north has had its effect on the way Omanis have traditionally excelled in all kinds of maritime activities: Omani sailors were pioneers in the sea trade with China. The Omani sailor, Abu Ubaidi Abd Allah bin al Qasim sailed from Oman to the Chinese region of Canton at the beginning of the 8th century, covering a distance of over 7000 km. Other outside influences on Oman have come from Portugal, during the Portuguese occupation of the Sultanate at the beginning of the 16th century.

Musical influences have regularly come from Oman's neighbours. Oman borders Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and, across the Gulf of Oman, Iran and Pakistan. Thus its musical heritage is enriched through neighbouring cultural interaction. The size of Oman (309,500, further contributes to this musical richness. Musical genres often diversify, just as does dialect and vocabulary, according to their association with tribal traditions and habits. As the number of tribes increase, so do the numbers of musical genres.

Oman's relations with the East African Coast became so close in the 18th century that Sultan Said bin Sultan moved his court to Zanzibar. The political and economic impact of this move was seen not only in the social structure of the Omani population (on the ethnic variety of the Omani tribes, for example) but also on the cultural lifestyle, including music. The musical interaction between Oman and East Africa is still seen today and is traced in several funun (genres).

The role of music in the Omani society is seen in every stage of the Omani citizen's life. Starting from birth and through circumcision, marriage, professional life and even in death, the Omani is accompanied by traditional arts which express his joy, pain or simply help him with his everyday work. This refers equally to all members of the Omani society, independent of age, sex or social status. We see the young man, the old and the child, side-by-side. Men join women in the love of music on all occasions. Even political events are usually expressed through music and other types of artistic activities.

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