Alardah Alnajdiyah, dance, drumming and poetry in Saudi Arabia


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

© Riyadh School, Saudi Arabia, 2015

Alardah is a traditional performance combining dance, drumming and chanting poetry that signifies the start and end of notable occasions, such as religious holidays, weddings, births, graduation ceremonies, or events of national or local significance. It is considered a fundamental component of the cultural expressions of the practicing communities. Alardah performers include drummers, dancers and poets. Males performing Alardah carry light swords and stand shoulder to shoulder in two sets of facing rows, leaving space between them to accommodate drummers. One performer in full costume carries a flag. A poet chants verses specific to the occasion in a loud voice, which are then sung antiphonally by the participants. Large dance drums then strike strokes in quick succession, followed by smaller drums. While singing, all performers rock back and forth, side to side and move their swords up and down in rhythmic movements in harmony with the drumbeats and verses. As the poem ends, the men gather around the flag. Males may participate, regardless of social status, age or professional background. Women also participate as costume-makers. While fostering a sense of mutual respect, the performance consolidates social cohesion. Troupes and local citizens, schools, provinces and neighbourhood communities all engage in teaching, performing, popularizing and transmitting Alardah.