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Music and Dance in Oman

Omani children perform a traditional sword dance (Photo by MOHAMMED MAHJOUB / AFP)

Oman’s heritage of performing arts, in particular music, songs and dance, is wealthy and diverse. Percussion instruments such as the kasir and rahmani are dominant in traditional music. Other instruments include various types of duff (tambourine), and khulkhal, an ankle bracelet. Music genres spring from all aspects of Omani life: festive occasions such as births, circumcision, marriage, religious celebrations, national festivals, children’s games. Music also played an important part in all activities related to the sea, such as the casting or hauling of nets, and hoisting or lowering of the sails.

Art, song and dance were influenced by contacts with Africa and the western part of Asia. (Several types of drums and many dance genres come from Africa.) The bowl lyre (tanbura, Oman’s only known chordophone, apart from the ud), came from Africa (where it is known in different countries under various names). The surnay, a single or double reed wooden oboe, is one of the few melodic instruments. It is of Baluchi origin. It spread from Oman throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The use of a conch may have been influenced by contacts with India.

The public is acquainted with western classical music through the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra (ROSO), founded in 1985. It has since become one of the best orchestras in the Arab World.

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