African identities, Afro-Omani music, and the official constructions of a musical past

Majid H. Al-Harthy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Based on dissertation research in the port city of Sur, historically significant both for trans-oceanic seafaring and trade, and more specifically for its connection to the east coast of Africa, this article analyzes the African-derived performance genres that dominate Sur s music scene within an ever-elusive concept of Africa. The sacred healing rituals zār, mikwarā, and tambūra; and the secular genres, mdema, andfann is-sawt have been renamed funūn taqlīdīya or traditional arts, national nomenclature that collects the myriad traditions of the country while marginalizing differential identities. Rhetorically, Suri musicians not only adopt, they also emphasize their national Omani identity, while expressing their African identity as of the "other." Musically, however, their approach to performance, including the use of Swahili texts, the predominance of body movement, and multi-layered musical textures produced by a variety of instruments from East Africa, reveals, I argue, the musicians 'African identity as a "self." The seemingly binary "self" identities articulated by Suri musicians through two differing modes of expression (rhetoric and performance) illustrate not only the problematic nature of the concept of Africa in Oman, but also highlights how simplistically the African presence in Oman has been treated in the music scholarship of this country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-129
Number of pages33
JournalWorld of Music
Volume1
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music

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