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Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar



This book provides a pioneering overview of folk and traditional urban music, along with dance and rituals, of Saudi Arabia and the Upper Arabian Gulf States of Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. The nineteen chapters introduce variegated regions and subcultures and their rich and dynamic musical arts, many of which heretofore have been unknown beyond local communities. The study contains insightful descriptions of genres, instruments, poetry, and performance practices of the desert heartland (Najd), the Arabian/Persian Gulf shores, the great western cities including Makkah and Medinah, the southwestern mountains and sea coast. Musical customs of distinctive groups such as Bedouin, seafarers, and regional women are explored. The book is packaged with a CD of audio examples and contains almost 200 images including dozens of color photographs, numerous music transcriptions, a glossary with over 400 specialized terms, and original Arabic script alongside key words to assist with further research. Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula provides a much-needed introduction and organizational structure for the diverse and complex musical arts of the region.

Urkevich’s position as a researcher in this part of the world is unparalleled.

-Anne Rasmussen, PhD, President of the Society of Ethnomusicology 

the world of music (new series) 5, 2016, pp. 174-17

This is a truly remarkable publication.

-Abdullah Drury, University of Waikato

Muslim World Book Review, 36(3), pp.36-37

Not only is it the most comprehensive book in English on the music of this part of the world, [Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula] is also one of the most comprehensive books on music anywhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

-Neil van der Linden, The National  (UAE )


Not often does such tremendously needed, well-grounded scholarship come to an academic and general readership as Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula by Lisa Urkevich...This is a well-researched, well-rounded investigation that is chock full of examples that will benefit students and scholars of wide-ranging disciplines.

-Kenneth S. Habib, PhD

Music Library Association. Notes, Vol.72(4), pp.748-751

This fine volume by Lisa Urkevich opens more doors to understanding the region than you might expect…[it] is among a handful of the best books on traditional music.

I highly recommend Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula.

- Richard Dorsett, Roots World


[Urkevich's book] is an ambitious, well-researched

and ground-breaking survey. The scope of the work is vast, the result of a rich ethnography which creates an impressive distillation of the results of many years of study. It also constitutes a significant documentation of an area hitherto inadequately researched, providing us with a major scholarly contribution to the field.

- Professor Yasir Suleiman, Nov. 2016

University of Cambridge, Department of Middle Eastern Studies

 Prizes are judged by leading faculty at the University of Cambridge and by members of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, publisher of the distinguished British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies

Urkevich has written an excellent introduction to music and traditions in various regions of the Arabian Peninsula…Useful for those in anthropology as well as musicology, the book serves as a contextual research model for aspiring ethnomusicologists.

-K.W. Mukuna, Choice Reviews, Vol. 53 (3), 2015

[Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula]  is a fine ethnomusical collection and a welcome contribution to the scholarship of the Middle East, in general, and the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf societies, in particular.

-  El-Sayed El-Aswad, PhD (United Arab Emirates University)

Middle East Media and Book Reviews Online


The rich and varied music and folk-dance traditions of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar are little known outside the eastern peninsular region itself. This pioneering and detailed guidebook to those arts is appropriate for both general readers and specialists... Included are several accounts of women’s wedding traditions, as well as a cd with 31 excellent audio examples... For anyone seeking a greater understanding of the traditional folk arts of the Arabian Peninsula, including those performed annually at the Saudi Janadriyah festival, this will also be a useful guide.

- Kay Hardy Campbell, Aramco World Magazine 

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