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Music and dance

The UAE enjoys a strong tradition of music and dance, both of which played a vital role in people’s lives. Songs were composed to accompany different tasks, from hauling water at the well, to diving for pearl oysters in the Gulf. A professional song-leader was kept on the pearling dhows; it was his job to rally the men to work through music and song. The nahaan would launch into song, and all the sailors would join in as they worked. Each song had a rhythm for a particular task and, like the shanties of Western sailors, the music inspired teamwork. Singing and dancing also took place during celebrations, and many of the songs and dances, handed down from generation to generation, have survived to the present. Young girls would dance, swinging their long black hair and swaying their bodies in time to the strong beat of the music. Men would re-enact battles or successful hunting expeditions, often symbolically, using sticks, swords, or rifles.

The country today, with its international population, has a wide range of mini-cultures of singing and dancing. Local radio stations and TV channels play songs and dances from different parts of the world, in keeping with the cultural traditions that define their audiences. Western, Indian, and Arabic music (from the UAE, the Gulf, and the wider Arab world) are widely available and popular.




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