Evening Listening / Weekend Edition: Podcast "The History of Recording in the Gulf Area"

A man from Zubayr in Iraq arrived in Kuwait and opened a café where he played cylinder records on an Edison cylinder recorder/record player he had brought along with him (cylinder records are called “Umm glās” in Kuwait where kūb (glass) is called “glās”).
— Ahmad al-Salhi

Tonight's "Evening Listening" treats are two podcasts from Min Al-Tarikh produced by The Arab Music Archiving and Research foundation (AMAR) in collaboration with Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF)

They consist of an interview with Kuwaiti, musician, ethnomusicologist and musical recording expert Ahmad AlSalhi. The audio is in Arabic but English transcripts accompany the podcasts. It offers a wealth of information on Gulf musical heritage of the early 20th Century, with musical recordings that are absolutely beautiful and hard to find. These are two audio gems you need to hear.

Here are some quotes from the interviews to whet your appetite:

Abd al-Laṭīf al-Kuwaytī recorded with Odeon in Baghdad around 10 or 12 records that were very varied and included some of the tunes he had already recorded with Baidaphon. Moreover, he was accompanied for the first time by a qānūn –an instrument unknown to Kuwaitis until then– played by Iraqi qānūnist Ṣayūn Cohen who had accompanied Muḥammad al-Qubbanjī in his famous Berlin recordings and Ḥabība Masīka in Berlin, added to other great Iraqi muṭrib. Ṣāliḥ al-Kuwaytī accompanied him on the kamān and Dāwūd al-Kuwaytī on the ‘ūd.
— Ahmad AlSalhi
The local national companies first appeared in the late 1940’s after the World War, and the first founder of a local record company was His Master’s Voice’s representative ‘Abd al-Ḥusayn al-Sā‘ātī. He decided to establish a record company in Bahrain and bought a recording machine from London through a newspaper ad. It reached Bahrain and he started recording
— Ahmad AlSalhi
Some of the first muṭrib were scared of recording, thinking the microphone would steal their soul... maybe because an artist had died right after recording… maybe they thought that records had to steal a soul in order to produce a voice. This belief was very strong. Ḥuḍayrī Abū ‘Azīz had refused to record the first time for this same reason, saying: “I was afraid the mic would steal my soul”. The point is Muḥammad Fāris refused… there are different versions to this story.
— Ahmad AlSalhi

Happy Listening:

Episode 50: The History of Recording in the Gulf Area (1)

Episode 51: History of Recording in the Gulf Area (2)

Follow Ahmad AlSalhi on Twitter  @AlSalhi1974   and Instagram @alsalhi1974

Listen to a wealth of music at Zeryab which was co-founded by Mr. AlSalhi.