Sharjah24: True to its name as the cultural capital of the UAE, the emirate of Sharjah sees traditional musical arts as a tool for cultural communication with countries around the world, Emirati researcher Ali Al Abdan noted at the Emirati Book Fair (EBF). He added that the emirate has a deep interest in musical anthropology – a study of music from the cultural and social aspects of the people who make it.
Al Abdan, director of the artistic heritage department at the Sharjah Heritage Institute, was one of the speakers at the session titled “Musical Anthropology in Sharjah” held on the sidelines of the book fair.
During the session moderated by Muna Al Raisi, Al Abdan said: “The Sharjah Heritage Institute has a special section for research on musical art, which has become one of Sharjah’s cultural communication tools. The department organizes arts activities when Sharjah represents UAE culture internationally. It also seeks to connect with international arts through heritage organizations to host them locally in visiting countries.”
He pointed out that the arts are part of everyday life in the UAE, which is a coastal country with internal and external sources for its musical arts. Many of them are from the country itself. For example, people in maritime professions used songs such as Al Ayyala and Al Razfa to boost the morale of divers during the pearl. The external musical sources came from immigrants from African countries who performed their songs and music on special occasions.
Al Abdan said that the science of musical anthropology studies the changes in musical arts due to social and political factors. He added that he was looking to answer two big questions: Why do humans create music? And how?
He pointed out that every environment has reasons for creating music. While Emiratis use Al Ayyala to denote pride and glory, they have other music for celebrations and to document identities.
Regarding the influence of modernity on the Emiratis, Al Abdan stressed that it is normal, especially in a culturally rich environment like the UAE today. He noted that the folk arts are unaffected by changes in other musical arts, attributing it to public respect and near unanimity in heritage preservation.