Al-Bar’ah, music and dance of Oman Dhofari valleys
Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Al-Bar’ah is a Bedouin musical tradition from the Dhofar mountains in southern Oman. It takes the form of a warlike dance performed to drums and the chanting of poetry in a local tribal dialect. Al-Bar’ah is performed in a half circle formed by ten to thirty men and women. As they chant and clap, two male dancers holding khanjars (daggers) perform codified dance movements, brandishing their daggers above shoulder level. The dancers’ steps are uncomplicated, but coordination with other performers and the music requires considerable skill. Each tribe has its own characteristic form of al-Bar’ah, possessing different drum rhythms and dance movements. The musical accompaniment is provided by the al-kasir, al-rahmâni and ad-daff drums and al-qassaba flute. The dance is performed outdoors, on occasions such as weddings, circumcisions and religious feasts. As for other Omani Bedouin dances, class and other distinctions are erased, as tribal leaders perform alongside the most humble of the population. The tradition represents the chivalric spirit, strength, courage, generosity and hospitality associated with Bedouins. The dance also emphasizes poetic themes of love and flirtation. Al-Bar’ah has many practitioners from Dhofar, who contribute to maintaining and transmitting its poetic variety and practice.