Omani traditional arts
In the course of my fieldwork I recorded many occasions where the wearing of the khanjar was integral to the success of traditional celebrations. This appendix records this phenomenon and can be seen as developing the context in which my research into the manufacture of the khanjar took place.
Omani traditional arts are a record of the life of the people of Oman. They represent and visualise the life of the Omanis, both in their day to day way of living and celebrating different occasions as methods for expressing their feelings and thinking, which appear in the traditional arts performed. Traditional arts do not stem from a vacuum, but result from the interaction between individuals and groups as well as the effect of the environment around them during different time periods. The performing arts are part of the customs and traditions of Omani society.
By watching these performances, one will note the Omani pride in traditional costumes. Male performers wear the Omani turban, dishdasha and khanjar, and hold a sword with shield, and sometimes guns. In addition, one will see female performers wearing different costumes from different provinces and jewellery in the form of gold or silver ornaments.
Omani men wear khanjars during traditional celebrations
Al Razha is the oldest traditional arts celebration in the Sultanate of Oman and is as old as Oman. Al Razha is famous in a wide geographical area of Oman and practised in many of the provinces and states of the Sultanate except the southern region. It is the art of swordplay and poetry among the top poets. The wearing of Omani uniforms is required along with the khanjar for added relevance, as is carrying the sword and shield ostentatiously.
Omani men hold sword and wearing khanjar in Al Razha dance
Al Azi is the traditional Omani art practised in all governorates of the Sultanate, without exception. It is the art of pride and praise and poetry recitation. Al Azi is also the name given to the man who is the champion poet. The Al Azi is treasured and his family and relatives or clan take pride in him. He usually performs poems in worship of God, morals and grandparents, and in praise of His Majesty the Sultan.
Omani man’s hold sword with shield and wearing khanjar in Al Azi dance
Omani man’s demonstrating war fights in Al Azi dance ©Khalid Al Busaidi
Al Tariq means ‘the melodious tune’ and it is the art of leading occasions without musical instruments. It takes the form of Badwen vocals that are individually performed and repeated in association (one or more), while riding on camels. One performer starts singing first and then the other person or persons repeat the verse sung by the first singer until the poem is finished. The tune in Al Tariq is constant and does not change from one singer to another or from state to state within the Sultanate. The varied themes of poetry in Al Tariq may include sweet memories, praise for the tribe and its men or in praise for the camel and their virtues. The performer would put on his Omani dishdasha and wear on his waist the Omani khanjar with pride, thus completing the final form of the art of the singer.
Omani man ridding camel in the desert
Al Wana is a Badwen performance performed by groups (men and women) sitting in front of their tents or around a fire. Al Wana is a song that has its origins with long distance camel travel, where the rider would sing a traditional song to keep him awake.
Al Wana is the art of memories as it is sometimes called. The singer puts his hands on the cheek while leaning on his cane and closes his eyes during the performance, which is usually characterised by grief, especially when it is the poetry of memories.
The singer starts to sing first line of the first poem and others then repeat the same line with the same melody, and so on with the rest of the verses of the poem, till the poem ends.
Omani man sitting with his camel in the desert
Omani man in front of his tent
Al Tagrood is a Badwen art characterised by the appearance of horses or camels. A horse Tagrood is different to a camel Tagrood. A horse Tagrood is aimed at rallying horses and riders and peppered with shouts to increase their enthusiasm. A horse Tagrood aims to boost courage, bravery and gallantry and also to rescue the weak and praise horses acquired by the horse breeders. In order to create a more spirited atmosphere keen performers wear the khanjar.
Omani men riding horses and singing
Al Habot (Al Medan)
Al Habot is a traditional musical style played by men on the occasion of weddings, social events, and various tribal and national official celebrations, as well as celebrations in regional areas the such as Habot Al Badia, Habot Al Gabal and Habot Al Moden.
This performance is performed without the use of musical instruments and performers wear the best types of dress, swords, Omani khanjar, guns and sticks, led in the front row by sword players (sword dancers).
Al Habot is one of the most popular arts in the southern region. It is based on poetry and poetic banter between the poet and one other. Topics may refer to praise, pride, wisdom, advice or a private issue between two people or between two tribes. Al Habot poetry is an inherited folk art. Tribal Al Habot is significant to the population of Dhofar. Al Habot art acts as a core to all the historical issues of the Omani society in Dhofar.
Omani mans holding sword and dance
Al Rabobah is a musical performance and is traditionally performed by men and women together as a team consisting of several dancers (male and female), one male singer and other female singers to repeat the song, and performers of musical instruments. Female dancers wear Dofari dress, authentic ornaments and various jewellery, while male dancers dress in a turban and dishdasha with a preference for showing a "loincloth" underneath (that makes it easier for them to move during the dance) and the khanjar on top of that. Percussion instruments are usually used including different types of drums. Rababah, which is its Arabic name, is a string instrument played with a bow that has a low range but plays long, harmonically rich notes.
While the dancers are performing during Al Rabobah, other women sit behind the singer and repeat the song while clapping so as to complete the rhythmic beauty and lyrical quality of the performance.
Omani man playing music
Al Madar is traditionally performed in Dhofar by men and women. This is done two ways depending on the type of event. The first way involves a big number of people led by men wearing uniforms and a khanjar, and carrying swords and sticks, followed by women wearing various jewellery silver or gold, as well as musical percussion.
The second way to perform Al Madar is lining up men and women opposite to one another flanked by ranks of musicians and musical instruments.
Omani man playing music
Al Bara’a performance is practised in the states of Dhofar and in some states of the East (Sur, Jalan Bani Bu Ali). Al Bara’a comprises one dancer or two dancers at the same time, and the attendant art focuses on repeating the song (done by women) accompanied by percussion instruments (drums) and some wind instruments. Al Bara’a art differs from the rest of the arts in the southern region, where the configuration of the movement differs, and they do not use poems.
Omani man and women dancing in Al Bara’a
Al Razfah art is traditionally performed by the Badwen men in all governorates of the Sultanate. Women do not participate in all of the states. It is one of the performances that do not use musical instruments except in the Musandam state which uses different type drums made of leather known as Al Rahmani and Al Khaser. Two lines of men face each other, and ritually celebrate traditional poetry by reciting it backwards and forwards between one another in repetitive sequences.
Omani men heating drums in Al Razfah dance
Al Hambal or Al Maserah
Al Hambal is performed on horseback or camels. A horse Hambel involves men singing on horseback while participating in a social event, or greeting and walking normally. This is a new performance in national events. It is held in most states of the Sultanate and the men are always be careful with their appearance during riding - especially those in the front row - and carry the khanjar and bamboo sticks.
This art is performed without musical instruments. There is a total reliance on the poets to sing in a unified tune. Al Hambal art is used in the glorification of the horse, enumerating the beauty, pride and courage of those on horseback.
Omani men riding horse
Omani men holding camel