Music in Saudi Arabia

Music in Saudi Arabia

There are obstacles in reading the information and material on the music in Arabia Peninsula. For very long time ago this place is off close for the people of the world because the Arabian people are scattered throughout the Arabian land and are never approached by the single nation. With references to the oral traditions, there is little authentic data and information present that could be reviewed and understood. Scholars note that there are fewer concepts of specificity but the conventional distinctions between the classical and popular music are present in the land from where the major musical formats and forms emerge. Therefore, this paper deals with the little music known to the world through the best of the information available on music and popular forms of music.

For the world, the modern boundaries of the Arabia Peninsula are arbitrarily spans due to the cultural units. For centuries there are fishermen songs that exist in the land while other land had beduin songs prevalent in the hearts of the people. Apart from these the other types of the music can be heard from the main land in Arab Peninsula for instant fishermen songs from Gulf section, nomads music from Saudi Arabia section and Yemen mostly deals with the sedentary villager’s songs. The focus of this paper leads the readers towards the nomad songs in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia

In the land of Saudi Arabia, people live as nomad, so the music of the land is also nomad in nature. Little musicological fieldwork is present in the Saudi Arabia that provides good information on the nomad music in the land and its true nature (Altwaiji, 2017). However, concerning Nejd, there are some examples of good music founded in Saudi Arabia. The influence of the other regions is also noted in Nejd with references to the political centrality and Wahhabi movement, but there are certain comparisons in the forms of Arabia’s margins and other lands concerning the music. In the same way, apart from Nejd, Hijaz will also be the centre of attention in this paper due to its historical importance in music.


In Nejd, there are four categories of the music founded and noted to date. These four categories are dewinih, samiri, arda and riddiyya. All of these four categories of the music are elaborated as follows.


This form of music is emblematic in the nomads in Arabia. Dewinih comes from the classical songs of Yemeni Jews that are interpreted by the solo singer or a capella accompanying with one string fiddle. It is noted in the history that this instrument was built by the woman who lost her child and was lamenting her lost children. The open poetry and lyrics are epic and famous in the nabati genre. In this format of the song, the melodies of the music are noted through the oldest modal of the Arabic music while the locals refer to the rhythm of targ or theme for the song.


The second form of music is the samiri. The samiri is very important yet popular genre in the nomads especially surrounded by the sedentary villagers and urban people. This form of music comes in the weddings and Thursday evening celebration due to being vibrant and healing nature. The samiri comes in the Saudi Arabia through kneeling in the sand and facing one another while leaving a large space for the dancer in the middle. There is the presence of choirs in this form of songs while it is mostly accompanied by frame drums and cylindric double skin drums or hand clapping. There is a choreographic movement in people while they sit in the sand. It should be noted that the poetry in the song comes from the nabati genre and they are rich repertoire in Saudi Arabia. There are only two rhythms, one in binary and other in ternary forms. The melodies are formed through octave and transcription on Dokhi (Campbell, 2007).

Arda or sung dances of the desert

In the middle of Peninsula, there are combine or collective dances and poetry illuminated for the tribe. The arda category of music comes in the simplest form of rhythmic and singing. From the literary meaning, the arda comes from the demonstration of the force and is mostly famous in the form of sung dances in Saudi Arabia. All the men are gathered in the community in semi-circle, and they wave their swords and play the choir.

This form of singing and dancing is very famous in Saudi Arabia because it celebrates their tribe and honor the great men of the tribe in a manly way. The acrobatic figures and hieratic steps in arda ranks in several poets and singing. It is mainly a celebration of ideal Beduin life and the identification of the Saudi sovereigns publically. The forcefully dancing and singing are observed in the military precession and Fantasia that often take places on roads. In Saudi Arabia, the arda music category comes in the form of two or three rhythms, and it is accompanied by the cylindrical drum that moves around the people and dancers.

The poetical contest, sociable rhythms and tribal calls

In Saudi Arabia, there is improvising of traditions that lead to the lesser role of music in society and absent of performance. For instant in the riddiyya category, there are only two poets that takes a turn in reading the lyrics while the choir sings the last verse. A structure and performance of the music are based on the social occasions and festivals that are necessarily accompanies by the traditional drink coffee. The symbol of hospitality and pestle in the mortar grounding the voice or dance are observed. In Saudi Arabia, the music is tribal calls, and it is more or less adopted and less frequently used in musical forms. It has taken more of animal-like shouts, i.e. high pitch voice that rhythm pattern.

The Hijaz

The first modern history of music is located in Hijaz and is brought by the Dutch orientalist converted to Islam. Hijaz is the historical significant due to being the birthplace of Islam and a cradle of music in the Arabia world. It is unknown in the modern history, but it is the first cosmopolitan center for the music until the Wahhabis traditions. The Dutch musicologist performed the wedding in the songs and transcribed the songs in head dress and some traditional songs. It is due to his efforts that youth in the older Mekka raised to listen to the qanun and South Arabian lute. Many of the popular forms of music were raised in Hijaz, and it is dealt with urban traditions to depict the richness of the country through music. Many of the solo singers played lute and darbuka together and evolved into a much modern style of music. The rhythmic cycles of the music are binary and resemble culture through specificity musical phrases that are particular to the stylistic aspects.

It should be noted that the brief history of music in Saudi Arabia reflects on the variety of the unity in music and the cultural aspect of the nomadic people. The Nejd and Hijaz are often taken as the varying terms of the music and vocabulary poetry due to being related to the tribal dances and forms. It should be noted that history might have separated the genres in the music, but they still hold the common origin and style that overflows through the natural borders and desert. In Saudi Arabia, there are many styles of traditional urban music that have common features and characteristics. They are preserved in the tradition through soloist and choir form combined with the musical instrument.

The traditional urban art is basically cultivated through the social sessions that are changing with the passage of time and mainly focusing on the rhythmic variation of modal and dominate scale. The tones and quarters of the diatonic are less spread seemed to be the influence of the foreign nations. Before long, the advent of recording the music and travelling to the Arabian world for the music history, the musicians come from other regions to share their pieces of music and respond to the intense pressure of the change and commercialization of the industry and production. The melodies of the Arab world are accelerated through the place, and it is due to the music.

Folk Heritage in Saudi Arabia

Concerning the folk heritage in Saudi Arabia, the traditions like oral poetry, tales, music, dance, magic, legends and other superstitions are adventurous. Many of the tellers indicate that the history of the folk in Saudi Arabia is moved by the oral generation of people from ethnic groups to the nomadic nature. The folk literature in Saudi Arabia is based on the traditional, unofficial and institutional part of the culture that encompasses the understanding of the values an attitude of the beliefs. It should be noted that folk heritage in Saudi Arabia is based on the indispensable parts of the oral literature that are all very important in communicating the experience of the old and new form of music.

Saudi Arabia considers the assortment of the solidarity in music and the social part of the travelling individuals. History may have isolated the class in the music yet despite everything they hold the regular beginning and style that floods through the characteristic outskirts and abandon. In Saudi Arabia, there are numerous styles of customary urban music that have normal highlights and qualities. They are protected in the custom through soloist and choir shape joined with the melodic instrument (Lambert, 2002).

The conventional urban workmanship are essentially developed through the social sessions that are changing with the progression of time and primarily concentrating on the cadenced variety of modular and overwhelm scale. The tones and quarters of the diatonic are less spread appeared to be the impact of the remote countries. After a short time, the appearance of recording the music and setting out to the Arabian world for the music history, the performers originate from different districts to share their bits of music and react to the extreme weight of the change and commercialization of the business and generation. The tunes of the Arab world are quickened through the place, and it is because of the music.

In Saudi Arabia, there is extemporizing of customs that prompts the lesser part of music in the public eye and missing of execution. There are just artists that take hand over perusing the verses while the choir sings the last verse. A structure and execution of the music depending on the social events and celebrations that are essential joins by the conventional drink espresso. The image of friendliness and pestle in the mortar establishing the voice or move are watched. In Saudi Arabia, the music is ancestral calls, and it is pretty much embraced and less habitually utilized as a part of melodic structures. It has taken a greater amount of creature like yells, i.e. high pitch voice that mood design (Campbell, 2007).

Factors influenced the folklore of Saudi Arabia.

It should be noted that there are factors that influenced the folklore of Saudi Arabia due to being the birthplace of Islam. In the Deserts many of the major religion constitute the country and people are inhabitants of such religious practice. This has affected the music history from its roots, and this is the major reason that many of the music records are not found in the rich culture of Arab. The civilization of Arab concerning music only has two major sources in the form of Hijaz and Nejd. Modern Saudi Arabia has been correct to identify them as roots, but again as the center of music, there are external elements that prevent them from extending the music field. It should be noted that it is the diversity in the folklore of Saudi Arabia that builds its characteristics in culture, but the imperial ambition and diverse establishment of the country conflict with the history and its social structures especially in cultural and heritage perspective.

The factors also include the prevalence of Islam in the country. It is the major powerful influence on the moral bonds that hold the social conduct and moral actions in the society. The influence of the Islam on Music is prevalent in Saudi Arabia, and this is the reason that many of its folklore histories are not even considered. Although the country is rich in its culture, but there are factors like above that prevented the rich heritage of music from expanding. The music culture in Saudi Arabia comes from varies factors that also shaped it, and tribal areas are one of them. Oral portray and music in Saudi Arabia hold practice in everyday life and music plays an important role in the practice of everyday life, but the literature on this perspective is missing.


Altwaiji, Mubarak. “History of Saudi Folklore and Factors That Shaped It.” TRAMES: A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, vol. 21, no. 2, Apr. 2017, pp. 161–171. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3176/tr.2017.2.05.

Campbell, K. H. (2007, April). Saudi Folk Music: Alive and Well. Saudi Aramco World Magazine, pp. 3-13.

Lambert, J. (2002). The Arabian Peninsula. In V. Danielson, S. Marcus, & D. Reynolds (Eds.), The Garland Encyclopaedia of World Music (Vol. 6, pp. 649-661). New York: Routledge.

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