This week we visit the Sultanate of Oman, a rocky coastal nation with a keen interest in seafaring exploration. Friends of many, enemies of few, sneaking just below the international tabloids… for simplicity’s sake let’s call it Switzerland of the Middle East. Heck, they even manage the feat of having positive relations with both Iran and the United States. They don’t choose sides. Omanis are easygoing like that. They have a Sultan after all.
As for the music, there is a vast and complex history of intermingling to draw upon. Many Swahili rhythms have seeped into the Omani soundscape, as the Omani empire once stretched down the East African coast as far as Madagascar. There is also the potent influence of Arabic neighbors to the north, as well as the instruments of the Baloch people of Pakistan. Music is a part of everyday public life in Oman, not often recorded for posterity, and thus many of the sublime sounds from the ground are not readily available to our far-off ears. We can imagine.. And extrapolate from the few recordings that we have at our disposal: some gritty hip hop, vocal acrobatics, drums of thunder, and ambient oud sketches..