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A gift of song

A gift of song

A gift of song

‘Composition with fish,’ (1975), oil and sand on masonite, by one of Saudi Arabia’s most respected artists: Abdul-Halim Radwi. Originally from Makkah, Radwi (1939-2006) was a painter, poet and sculptor with a special focus on traditions, and a pioneer of contemporary arts in the Kingdom. Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah.

By Rym Al-Ghazal
June 15th, 2020

Bring her home…Bring her home… Songs, lullabies, nursery rhymes and chants are melodious echoes from the past. They capture a story, an identity, a feeling and a memory. And one of the most powerful nostalgic timeless songs are the traditional ‘songs of the seas’ by pearl divers from the Arabian Peninsula. Hums and drums and chants of the blues, of love, of home and the great yearning for families back on land. 

Pearling dominated the thoughts and way of life of nearly all the coastal inhabitants of the Gulf for centuries. The industry gradually collapsed due to cultured pearls and other factors, and by 1939, pearling had almost completely disappeared from the ports of Saudi Arabia. 

But the songs live on.

Pause and enjoy this traditional pearl diving ballad, passed down across many generations. 

For a modern artistic interpretation, listen to Bahara (Men of the sea) by Saudi artist Ahaad Alamoudi who stages a soundscape in which the reverberations of the sea are merged with a modernized version of the song of “El Yamal,” a folkloric anthem sung by Saudi pearl divers and sailors, known in Arabic as Bahara, to give them strength in their seafaring endeavors. For the artist, this work honors the traditions of these seamen whose now defunct trade was in its heyday a crucial part of the economy of the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Project commissioned in 2018 by Ithra, the video courtesy Ahaad Alamoudi and Athr Gallery, Jeddah.

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