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Oman has a unique mixture of different cultures, heritage and artistic tastes born of interacting with nations around the world. If you want to learn more about who’s who in the world of Omani music, take a look at our pick of the top Omani musicians who will help you enjoy this traditional and global mixture of amazing music.
Also known as ‘the singing sailor’, Salim Rashid Suri is considered to be something of a musical legend in Oman. His is the exceptional story of a traditional young Omani voice that came from roaming the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf. In his twenties, Suri was a sailor working on ships that traveled for trade between Oman and the Gulf countries, India, East Africa, Kuwait and Iraq. On board, he would hear rhythms and accents of people from diverse nations. He was specifically attracted to the voice and style of Abdullatif Al Kuwaiti, who was a famous singer in Baghdad. He used to listen to Al Kuwaiti from gramophone recordings.
Al Suri then settled down in India, and started developing his skills in music by mixing Arabic with Indian styles. The lyrics of his songs also mixed both Urdu and Arabic languages. In the early 1930s, he had around 12 gramophone records, which granted him fame and respect in India and the Arab world. He became a consultant of Sultan Qaboos for cultural affairs when he returned to his country in 1971. He died in 1979, leaving a golden reputation and a majestic trademark in the prominent music genre of Sowt al-Khaleej (‘Voice of the Gulf’).
Asma Mohammed Rafi is a member of an exceptional musical family that enjoyed music from both Arabic and Indian cultures. She is the daughter of Mohammed Rafi, a famous singer, who discovered her talent as he used to take her with him to the recording studio. She was also encouraged and supported by Dr. Sanjay Dalal, who was the man behind a famous talent program called Talent Hunters Oman. She became a sensation in India and impressed the audiences with her confidence and strong presence on stage. When Asma returned to Oman, she performed in different singing gigs on local shows, and worked as a judge in different talent programs.
Haitham Mohammed Rafi is another amazing musical talent from the Rafi family, and the younger brother of Asma Mohammed Rafi. He started in the musical career by singing to his family, who encouraged him to keep practising and to believe in his talent. Then, he met Dr. Sanjay Dalal, who helped him joining Dil Hai Hindustani, one of the top reality talent shows in India. Despite the fact that the competition is mainly Indian language based, Haitham won the top prize of the show, surprising India and Oman.
Salah Al Zadjali is one of the top amazingly talented Omani musicians and singers, and the owner of the Musicology record label. He is known for the unique blend that he creates in his songs, mixing traditional Omani music with the amazing Swahili music of Zanzibar in eastern Africa. His songs are widely known as following the pop style genre, which is newly and increasingly spreading across the Arab world. Salah is admired for his incredible singing and music abilities, and his great efforts to improve Khaleeji music (music of the Gulf region).
Sham Maskari is the stage name of Hisham Maskari, an Omani rapper, singer and songwriter. He is the first Arabic rapper to launch his album and to sign with Tale Music Group, which is a US-based publishing and distribution company. He started writing songs and participating in musical competitions at the age of 15. Then, after college, he appeared on the musical scene in Malaysia before he relocated to Britain, his mother’s country. Sham’s first single, reached number one on Radio One’s top playlist, and his song ‘One and Only’ reached number one on MTV Asia/Arabia in 2008.