ṢAUT IN BAHRAIN AND KUWAIT: History and Creativity in Concept and Practice

Ahmad Alsalhi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This dissertation is an academic study of the practice of the ṣaut music genre in Bahrain and Kuwait. Most of the questions and resources discussed in this work have not been examined previously in an academic study. By comparing the style of performance that is currently prevalent with that of early recordings, the dissertation offers a diachronic study of the development and practice of the ṣaut genre over different historical stages. It traces the structural development of the genre as it relates to the elements that have disappeared or emerged and the influence of key figures in ṣaut. In addition, the study offers a close analysis of the practices of variation and improvisation to understand how ṣaut performers developed the genre from within a shared community practice.

The introduction of the dissertation brings to light the researcher’s position and experience in the ṣaut community, as both practitioner and researcher. Chapter I aims to understand the ṣaut genre by studying different types of recording, especially 78rpm records, which are the only really tangible trace of ṣaut before the Second World War. Chapter II is concerned with the history of ṣaut and approaches this in two ways. Firstly, it traces the history of the term ṣaut, in its literal, metaphorical, and musical manifestations. Secondly, the Chapter highlights the history of ṣaut as it relates to questions of origins and influence. Chapter III examines the development of the key structural elements (rhythms, forms, and maqām system) that are particular to ṣaut as a genre. Chapter IV discusses the music and percussion instruments that used in ṣaut.

Chapter V presents a definition and description of improvisation in ṣaut. It considers a number of aspects that surround the practice of improvisation and variation, such as why, how and when the performer learns to improvise in ṣaut. Chapter VI continues on from the previous Chapter by examining the tools and technique of creativity in ṣaut. In sum, by offering ethnographic, historical and analytical approaches to the ṣaut genre, this thesis is intended to invigorate debates about music of the Gulf and Arab traditions more broadly in several related, but often disconnected fields. On a theoretical level, its contribution is to renegotiate the borders between concepts of repertoire, composition, and improvisation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Beckles Willson, Rachel, Supervisor
Award date1 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Ahmad alSalhi
  • Music in Gulf
  • Kuwait
  • Bahrain
  • saut music
  • sowt
  • aswat
  • mirwas
  • sout
  • music in Kuwait
  • Kuwaiti music
  • Bahraini Music
  • 78 rpm
  • records history

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