Mohammad Bin Faris
The Arab culture is one of the richest cultures in the world. Aside from the actual wealth in the Arab world, what makes it so unique and attractive to people worldwide is the rich ingredients it is comprised of. From the variety of food, oils, spices, to the varying traditions and rituals across the Gulf countries, Arab culture is brimming with a number of aspects that will fancy anyone’s interest. One of the main ingredients of this lush Arab culture is its local music and famous musicians that have revolutionised this culture for centuries and continue to be a backbone and inspiration for modern Arab music today.
Bahrain especially played a huge part in contributing to the Arabic music industry by providing a platform for musical artists to develop and enhance their styles and work. After the Second World War, a recording studio was set up in Bahrain to allow the musicians of the time to record and archive their work, making Bahrain the first site of Persian Gulf-based recording.
Bahrain in particular, is known for its Sut music, a bluesy genre of music influenced by Africa, India and Persia. One of the most important and earliest musician of Sut music was Mohammad Bin Faris, who brought Sut music to new heights with his compositions and expertise in the art.
Mohammad Bin Faris Al Khalifa, born in 1855, was the grandson of Sheikh Muhammad Bin Khalifa who ruled from 1843-1868. As a teenager he learnt music from his brother, but then later travelled to Bombay to follow his musical mentor, Abd Al Rahim Al-Asiri, joining the community of expat Arabs who worked as marines or soldiers for the British Administration. With a man of his royal background, it was unusual for him to have followed the path of music, but his stay in Bombay broadened his horizons and not only resulted in Bin Faris developing his own style of Sut music but also to write new compositions and add to the existing body of Sut songs.
Upon his return to Bahrain, Bin Faris was in great demand as a singer and acquired two students who were to join him and the greats of popular Bahraini musicians in the 20th century. His two students were now-famed singers Muhammad Zuwayyid and Dhahi Al-Walid. Both Bin Farin and Al Walid recorded their Sut music in HMV’s studio in Baghdad in 1932. Bin Faris also recorded two albums in Bahrain before his death in about 1946. Amongst the Sut-enthusiasts, whenever there is talk about Bin Faris, Al-Walid is also discussed due to their tumultuous relationship.
Muhammad Bin Faris was such a renowned singer, that his house was reconstructed at the site of the original building by Sheikh Ibrahim Centre. The house that has been turned into a music hall is also somewhat of a museum which documents the life and works of Bin Faris. It also plays host to live music shows by the Mohammad Bin Faris Band every Thursday evening at 7pm with free entrance, providing an opportunity to delve into the Bahraini culture and history by means of one its defining traits: music.
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