Al-Razfa, a traditional performing art

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Inscribed in 2015 (10.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2014, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA)

Al-Razfa is a traditional performing art practised throughout the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman. It is performed by men of all ages and classes during social occasions, such as weddings and national festivals. Male performers form two facing lines with dancers filling the space between. Led by the main singer, the two rows create a dual chorus, singing chants in an antiphonal manner to the accompaniment of drums and other instruments. Many chants are verses of traditional Nabati poetry, carefully selected to match the occasion. The dancers perform choreographed movements to the music while holding wooden replica rifles in their hands and in some cases, young girls swing their hair in time to the music. Originally performed as a communal celebration of victory, Al-Razfa is now widely popular as a form of entertainment. Practitioners have adapted musical instruments and composed melodies to interest younger audiences while maintaining the older expressions and oral traditions of the art. Performers may include heads of State and elders or very young children. Today, Al-Razfa is transmitted directly within the family through participation and observation at social occasions. The roles of individual performers are learnt by practice, while girls receive instruction from their mothers and older sisters.

Al-Razfa performance at the Janadriya Festival in February 2014 attracted a large turnout of citizens of Saudi Arabia
An elder performer teaching young children Al-Razfa in Abu Dhabi Traditional Handicraft Festival
H.H. Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Mohamed Al-Nahyan, the representative of Abu Dhabi ruler in the eastern region, performing Al-Razfa in Al-Ain, UAE
Young girls participating in Al-Razfa, dancing and swinging their long hair in tune to the strong beat of music, UAE
Omani performers of Al-Razfa in an event in March 2014
Omani Juwaila move their sticks from side to side in time with the rhythm of the music
Performing Al-Razfa at the third Oman Folk Festival (2014) in Sohar Province. During the festival they announced the nomination of Al-Razfa as a multinational file with UAE for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
During the 1990’s, drums were introduced and in this century, electronic keyboards were added. This has become popular, especially with the younger generation. The photo shows traditional Razfat Al-Harbiya troupe performing with an electronic keyboard, Al-Ain, UAE.
Omani community members, researchers and heritage bearers participating in a workshop organized by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage in 2014
Signing support letters for Al-Razfa nomination to the Representative List during a workshop organized by TCA Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Culture, Sultanate of Oman