One of the most common types of folk music in Qatar is that of sea shanties. And in particular, work songs that were created for the pearl divers. These songs were sung only by men which encouraged everyone to keep in a routine while working and to give them something to focus on during the long, tedious days. They would have different songs for the different activities they were doing, each activity with a different rhythm. Group singing was an important part of the job, and each boat had its designated lead singer. In a way, I suppose the lead singer is the one responsible for production?
Women also had their music as well. Most of their traditional songs were also work songs, except theirs were about gathering crops and cooking. Of course, they also developed songs for when the pearl divers came to shore as well. Whenever a ship would come in, they would gather and break into song. (That happens at my work sometimes, too. But it’s usually met with mixed reaction.)
Many of the instruments used in Qatari music are similar to that of nearby countries. Instruments generally fall into three categories: strings (oud, rebaba), percussion (cymbals, tambourines, tabl, tus/tasat, galahs, and a variety of drums including the al-ras), and wind instruments (ney, other types of flutes)
The Qataris have several dances that accompany their music. One dance that is still danced in Qatar is the ardah. This is a men-only dance, where two lines of men face each other. Sometimes a few dancers may don swords, because you know, swords are cool. The actual music behind this is generally just percussion and spoken poetry. The ardah is actually performed across the Persian Gulf states, and there are two types: land ardahs and sea ardahs. But the Qatari ardah is somewhat of a mix of the two styles. Women only have two dances that are performed a couple times per year. The al-moradah dance is generally before Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Dancers find a place off the beaten path and wear their best embroidered clothes. All women, despite where they fall in social class, gather to dance this dance. Although it’s somewhat fell in popularity since the 1950s, it’s sometimes performed at weddings. The other dance, al-ashori, is almost solely performed at weddings. The lyrics are typically based on nabati poetry and are accompanied by the tabl drum.
There weren’t too many examples of modern music from Qatar. Popular music is still pretty censored and restricted, I gathered. However, there was one musician, Naser Mestarihi, who has ties to Qatar. This Jordanian-Pakistani musician was born in Qatar and has worked with both a metal band called Asgard Legionnaires along with producing his own rock album. To me, it was definitely a hard rock album, with a few elements of 80s hair bands like Whitesnake, Cinderella, or Def Leppard. Not only do they do hard rock, but they also show a softer, more melodic side to them as well. I actually really liked the music, and they sing in English, so that’s a plus for me as an English speaker. It’s the type you can rock out to in your car with the windows down.
There is also a small but growing rock band following in the Doha area. Although there aren’t as many bands that are widely known outside of the area, there are several smaller local and amateur bands that entertain locals and expats alike. And for the most part, these bands are made of ex-pats and foreigners living in Qatar. One of the problems is that there aren’t that many places to play a gig, but that’ll chance, I hope. Most of these bands end up doing covers of familiar songs because that’s what tourists know. I found a few bands on YouTube like Yema, The Exiles, Cronkite Satellite, and Sector 9 (a Lebanese band based in Qatar).
Up next: the food