Until the discovery of oil in Bahrain in 1932, the pearl diving industry was the main economic activity on the island. Each of the boats employed a professional singer or ‘nahh?m’ who took no part in the work of pearl fishing or sailing but exclusively encouraged the workforce in their various tasks with appropriate songs. Not all of the songs were meant to accompany strenuous activity. They often speak of loneliness, melancholy, of yearning, sighing for the beloved waiting on the shore. Since the decline of the Pearl industry, due to the invention of cheaper, cultured pearls, there are no longer any working pearl boats on Bahrain. However the music has survived and become closely associated with Bahraini national identity.
Alhaan Al Siduri written by the award-winning British-Bahraini composer and trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and performed by Yazz’ band. The piece was commissioned by Birmingham Jazzlines as part of their fellowship scheme. Siduri is a character mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, she is a goddess of the Gulf that lives on an island at the edge of the sea. Yazz describes the piece as “a combination of fragments of traditional Bahraini songs, translated into English and my own daydreams, musings on my homeland, written in this melancholy style”.
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