x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Beyond books: regional music rounds out ADIBF

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair: Ensembles from around the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia's Rijal Alma'a, will perform at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Back-to-back conversations with authors won't be the only entertainment on offer at the book fair.

The continuing cultural exchange includes a series of musical performances from selected groups from around the Arabian Gulf.

Representing Saudi Arabia is Rijal Alma'a. Hailing from the country's south-west, the troupe regularly performs at Saudi weddings, exhibitions and festivals.

The band leader Ali Maghawi says the book fair will host their first performance outside the Kingdom.

"When the opportunity came up we naturally agreed," he says.

"This is really a great opportunity to perform and showcase a different aspect of our culture."

Group performances can involve up to 100 members but Maghawi says a smaller collective of just 18 members will make the journey to Abu Dhabi.

The band's make-up, he explains, reflects Saudi Arabian society.

"We have doctors, engineers and youth involved, all of whom have different lives but share the desire to promote and explain our culture."

It will be a performance mixing music with theatre.

Maghawi says each piece harks back to traditional dances performed more than 50 years ago.

"Our group is known for jealously guarding the traditional way these pieces are presented," he explains.

"A lot of them have been taught by our fathers and grandfathers. While there is some room to make changes to develop the pieces for the sake of performance, the essence is essentially the same."

More than the graceful leaps and nifty footwork, however, Maghawi says each piece - from the movement to the percussion - is intended to tell a story.

"Some pieces are linked to marriages while others tell the plight of the farmers," he says.

"It is definitely a window into Saudi Arabian culture that some people may not know about."

The repertoire will include rhythmic dance pieces including Al Damma and Al Khatwa as well as the popular Bedouin style of Al Rahba.

Each will be preceded by either an official introduction or a short theatrical vignette evoking the time and place.

"There will be a lot of things to enjoy," he promises. "Also, a lot of the members are fans of literature and culture, so we are excited about coming to Abu Dhabi."

Groups from the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait complete the programme. All of them are likely to offer interesting insights into their respective cultures.

Rijal Alma'a music ensemble will perform on the book fair's GCC stage from 8.30pm on April 26.

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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