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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Music with Scales

The podcast, Voices, will be aired on Thursday, January 20, 2022, at 6 pm.
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Meet Scales - The six-member band that connects western classical notes with Arabic musical instruments. On Voices this week, we met two of the band members Younis al Siyabi, who came up with the idea and Yousuf al Foori, the western classical flautist.


It was a conversation between Younis and his brother Talal al Siyabi who plays the Arabic drum, Rak, that gave the final push for Younis to take the step forward to gather band members. Today, they are a six-member band playing instruments that include Kanoon, Rak, Flute, Viola, Violin and Cello.


According to the musicians, the person who made it all possible and has been a guiding force has been Brigadier Ramis bin Jaman al Awara.


“Our journey has been special and we will always be grateful to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for founding Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra and giving us the opportunity,” noted Younis and Yousuf.


“We are breaking the rules of music by combining classical and totally traditional Arabic musical instruments. We play western classical music with Arabic instruments,” said Yousuf who has been performing western classical music for decades and now has his flute churning out Arabic musical notes.


“This is totally different but is a fantastic experience,” he said adding, “The good thing is I have been listening to Arabic music all my life so it is in my ears.”


Traditionally, the wind instrument that is used in Arabic music is Nai.


The band members are Yousuf Said al Foori on flute, Tahra Jamal al Balushi on Violin, Zayana Salim al Rajhi on Cello, Younis Nasser al Siyabi on Viola, Farah Jamal al Balushi on Qanon and Talal Nasser al Siyabi on Percussion.


All of these musicians have been touring the world as members of the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. They started their musical training as young as nine to 10 years of age and now have more than 25 years of experience performing on world stages for an international audience.


“It is the quarter-tone of Arabic instruments that is fascinating explained Younis.


“In classical music, we have the two scales minor, which is close to Arabic music and major scale that is the typical classical scale. But with Arabic, there are 30 to 50 scales - so many that we have not learned in classical music so it is difficult. The Qanon and violin are also tuned differently. But the Arabic instrumentalists are able to easily follow us and are able to combine it beautifully and they have already adapted to minor and major scales,” explained Younis.


Note: A quarter tone is a pitch halfway between the usual notes of a chromatic scale or an interval about half as wide (aurally, or logarithmically) as a semitone, which itself is half a whole tone.


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