Reflections on Traditional Music in Kuwait

Post by Mark

Yusuf Al-Jaddah, a sowt singer I encountered during a performance in a private suite at the Jumeirah five-star hotel in Kuwait City in May 2014, pointed out the huge changes that have occurred in the background, even as the tradition of communal performance has persisted:

“Years back I used to sing exactly at this spot with musicians from Bahrain. We were sitting in the sand and this hotel was not even built.”

Kuwait was musically quite a revelation to me. Despite rapid modernizations across the Gulf, which sees traditional performances occurring nowadays in hotels as well as diwānīyahs, traditional music is still performed, at least in private gatherings, on a weekly basis. Although at first the apparent absence of any older buildings in the city centre would imply complete modernisation of the culture, it is clear that musical culture is still very vibrant.

A friend sent me a link to an article from the Qatar Digital Library on traditional music in Kuwait. Honestly, only reason I’m sharing it is because I loved the first song on the playlist called “كاسين ويسكي” or two glasses of whisky in English. The song was written before the alcohol ban in Kuwait and was composed and sang by Kuwaiti musician Abdullah Al-Fadala in Bahrain in the 1950s. You can check out the article [Here] and listen to the whisky song as well as other songs they’ve selected below.

By the way, the Qatar Digital Archive is kinda similar to something I was proposing back in January that we need in Kuwait like urgently. I mean Qatar have digitized and archived Kuwaiti history while we haven’t even done that for ourselves yet alone for our neighboring countries.

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7 comments, add your own...

  1. Buzz says:

    I highly doubt the whisky song was recorded in 1967. For one, Abdulla Fadala died in 1967 probably of old age/bad health. Second, alcohol became illegal in Kuwait in 1963 so I doubt someone would sing about it after that. Finally, the picture has what looks like a 78 rpm gramophone record which would place it sometime in the 50s if not earlier.

    • Mark says:

      It was actually an error from my side while reading the description, he died in 1967 and not composed the track in 1967 and I’ve amended the post to reflect that.

      Item title: Kāsein Whisky, 1
      Contributor: Faḍāla, Abdullah
      Matrix number: 0 1386 (Arabphone ADN 27)
      Performance note: The Kuwaiti male singer, composer and ‘ūd player Abdullah Faḍāla (or Abdullah Al-Fadāla; d.1967 in Bahrain) was a well-known interpreter of traditional Gulf music. His music was recorded in Bombay (India), Cairo (Egypt) and Iraq and the shellac discs sold in the whole Gulf region. Arabphone was Bahrain’s first recording company, which started producing shellac discs from 1948-1949. The label often copied from other labels without crediting them. Music, musical instruments and instrumentalists: The singer and ‘ūd player Abdullah Faḍāla is supported by the instruments ‘ūd (lute), violin, daff or zinjārī (tambourine, a frame drum) and dumbuk (goblet drum). The piece belongs to the Kuwaiti musical genre yamānī and is played in 4/4 beat. The chorus repeats the first verse. The piece was recorded in Bahrain in the 1950s. The piece continues on the second side.

  2. Hamad says:

    Still better than the crap they call music on radios nowadays.

  3. 3azeez says:

    Prior to the invasion, Kuwaiti Ministry of Information attempted to backup its entire library by having other GCC states copy them. This explains why the Qataris have what you shared.

  4. zaydoun says:

    The archives at Ministry of Information are a mess. I’m still struggling trying to get hold of old TV interviews with my late father in the late 70s and early 80s

  5. AR says:

    It’s a shame that Israeli musicians are reviving old Kuwaiti music and Kuwaitis aren’t.

    Everyone needs to check out Dudu Tassa And The Kuwaitis.

    Dudu is an Israeli musician who is reviving the music of one of Kuwait’s first rock stars, Saleh and Daoud Al Kuwaiti who were Iraqi Kuwaiti Jews.

  6. Mahmoud says:

    This Qatar Digital Library is a mess. Kuwait can do better than this. Qatar gave a lot of money to the British Library (BL) to set it up, and all the BL cared about was throwing something together to get their money, so they just hired anyone off the street to work on it. At first, regional scholars saw the name “British Library” and thought this would involve proper scholarship so they helped the people who were making the recordings to get in touch with musicians. But then when the Gulf scholars and musicians saw the poor quality and the total ignorance, they dropped this project immediately. Regional people could see that their knowledge and their music was being exploited and misrepresented and they didn’t want their names associated with it. And too bad for Kuwait–the BL researcher couldn’t find enough music contacts in Qatar so poor Kuwait got exploited the most. Now Kuwait is stuck with this shoddy work backed by the name of the great “British Library”–paid for by Qataris who didn’t know what junk they were getting. (However, they seemed to understand later because they cut the BL funding when they saw this mess). I wouldn’t trust anything as being accurate in this Digital Library.

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