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Popular Culture and the Performing Arts

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Ensemble Al-Umayri-Make the Most of Your Life

From: Harmonia Mundi Records

© Institut du Monde Arabe

This clip is 3.55 megabytes in size

Running time is 3 minutes and 46 seconds

The Al-Umayri Ensemble is a group from Kuwait known for their performances of Kuwaiti Al-Sawt. While the word literally means "voice" in Arabic, in Kuwait and Bahrain it is used to denote a specific type of urban art music that is known elsewhere at tarab. In these countries, Al-Sawt is more than just a simple song. It is, at least traditionally, a complete performance carried out in specific social settings such as private literary and music salons or at weddings. They are also generally performed in cycles where a piece of one genre follows another in sequence. The sawt begins with a singer accompanying himself on the 'Ud, then percussion is added. The rhythmical accompaniment generally involves small, double-headed drums known as mirwas and hand-clappers called kaffafa. There is also a dance the accompanies the performance zafn. This piece comes at the conclusion of a performance, and it is a song of rejoicing celebrating youth. The opening lyrics can be translated as, " Make the most of your life and your grace, my beloved, make the most of them. Whilst you're still young and carefree. I fear that once your reach sixteen you'll regret your youth and forget it, together with your former loves and myself..." (From the booklet accompanying the CD by Habib Yammine, ethnomusicologist.)

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