A taste of traditional Arabic music at Souq Waqif

Last weekend, I got to see Souq Waqif, one of the main attractions of Doha. The historic market area has been restored recently which means you will find lots of picturesque alleys and buildings. On the other hand, with its many souvenir shops, restaurants and modern relics such as wood paneled ATMs, the souq also seemed quite touristy and artificial to me. But being aware of the restauration, you can still enjoy the area. Certainly, one big plus is that this is one of the rare places in Doha that lets you take longer walks outside without many cars around.

By far the best part of my visit happened in the evening when I could listen to some live Arabic music. I had only heard some short bits of traditional music on the radio so far, so this was my first time at a live concert. I am still at the very beginning of learning about traditional Arabic music, its tone system, the maqam andparticular music instruments. But even without much background knowledge, it was very interesting for me to listen to the concert and to study the musicians, their instruments and the audience.

Besides the arrangement of the stage and musicians, the most fascinating part for me was the effect of the music on me as an unexperienced listener. I am a frequent concertgoer and have a direct approach to various styles of Western music from classical music to minimal techno. But in this very case, the music had no immediate emotional or physical effect on me. This does not mean I did not appreciate what I heard. I think it rather shows that I was yet unable to deal with the different tone scales and rhythmic patterns which, as a result, didn’t let me get into a certain flow while listening to the music. It will be very interesting to see how this will change over time (I am pretty sure it will!). Thinking about other experiences I have made so far, I am wondering if it will be a similar process as with getting used to free and more complex forms of jazz which also took me some time. I am definitely looking forward to listening to more Arabic music and also to learning more about its theoretical background and tradtion! So maybe, at some future point, I will even start dancing when I listen to it like some of the locals in the audience did on that evening at Souq Waqif.

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