Where the Ocean meets the Sea: Traditional Omani Music

Where the Ocean meets the Sea: Traditional Omani Music

Where the Ocean meets the Sea: Traditional Omani Music

by May 29, 2017

Somewhere between where the Arabian desert dust meets the sea is a space for traditional Omani music. The local sounds carry the sounds of the dry desert with a festive twist and African beats. The style of music has been strongly influenced by centuries of trade in the region which has given the melodies a different tang.

Where the Desert Meets the Sea

Oman is a large country settled to the south of the UAE and the east of Yemen. Music has a long tradition in the Middle Eastern culture. Due to its location, it also has a long history of change. Muscat, the capital city of Oman, is a coastal town. This has enabled a rich culture to form through sea and land trade, as many would travel from inland to the port for buying and selling goods. This has opened up the cultural scene to influences from Egypt, Tanzania, other Gulf countries, and even Portugal.

An African presence can be detected in the song and dance. So much so, that listening to east and central African music is a part of daily life in Muscat. The melody usually has a festive tone, but the harsh conditions of the Middle East are carried across the coarse voice trickling through the speakers.

“There are songs for special occasions, songs for seafarers, fishers, the Bedouins and mountain farmers.” – Oman Tours.

A Call for Celebration


This celebration above is unique. It is in honour of Sultan Qaboos who has reigned over Oman for 50 years. This is a common scene when Omani music is at play. In Oman, traditional music marks several stages of life at their rites of passage. Hence, a musical element is usually present at birth, circumcision, marriage and death. It is really a culture of celebration that is reflected in its music.

In the typical celebrations, the musicians are seated in the centre of a circle. The usual percussion instruments are the kasir and rahmani, which are dominant in traditional music. Other instruments include various types of duff (tambourine), and khulkhal (an ankle bracelet) which resembles the exotic cultural influences. Men in white march in a slow procession around them. These tunes twist in the humid air and the dancers pick up the beat and swing to the rhythm.

Additional props are also used in these live performances. There can be a mix of rifles, ceremonial swords and Omani Assa (sticks).