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Kuwait: Sea Songs of the

Arabian Gulf


Hamid Bin Hussein Sea Band


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Above all, Lisa Urkevich’s [Booklet/CD] fills in a large gap in our knowledge about current Kuwaiti performances of this art...the valuable aspects of this CD...and accompanying text are welcome reminders

that the venerated sea song traditions of the pearl fishers are still alive in the upper Gulf region.

-Scheherezade Hassan

Yearbook of Traditional Music (2017), pgs. 187-88

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My perspective [of this Arabian Gulf music] has been more fully contextualized and better anchored in my understanding by Urkevich’s rigorous work and valuable contribution to music scholarship

-D. A. Sonneborn, 

Associate Director Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Asian Music, 49/1, Winter/Spring 2018, pgs. 140-144

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CD Cover, Sea Songs of the Arabian Gulf

The Arabian Gulf is one of the most musically vibrant areas of the entire peninsula. Over the centuries, many categories of arts have flourished, but it is the songs of the sea that have a special place in the hearts of nationals. The musical color and texture of Upper Gulf music is unique in the Arab world, as large choirs of men join voices to sing heartfelt, haunting melodies over vibrant, percussive timbres. Until the early 20th century, sea songs were heard constantly, sung for both work and recreation, on ship and shore, and during weddings and standard late-night gatherings. When sea livelihood diminished, "bands" began to form to keep the musical traditions alive.

Today, less than a dozen groups perform sea music. Among the most lauded is the Hamid Bin Hussein Sea Band of Kuwait, who are featured on these recordings. These men, largely descendants of pearlers and seamen, are cherished in the community, as their performances are both historical representations and impassioned art.  The recordings and detailed booket, with over 30 images and music examples, provide a significant glimpse into a precious music of this ancient culture.




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