Sound of the ’60s: Saudi composer looks back on Kingdom’s musical rebirth
A Saudi composer has recalled the Kingdom’s musical rebirth in the 1960s, when a public performance was staged to mark the return of King Saud from a trip abroad for medical treatment.
Music was not allowed to be played publicly in the Kingdom before 1962, so people would play in secret, Saudi composer, author and researcher Mohammed Al-Senan recalled.
“In public events, weddings, or even private occasions, it wasn’t allowed. Anyone carrying an instrument or even a gramophone was caught by the religious police at that time. Carrying or renting a musical instrument, even in the markets, was considered a major sin,” he said.
However, when King Saud returned to the Kingdom from a medical trip in 1962, a party was held on the order of Faisal, who was crown prince at the time and later became king.
“The surprise was that the ceremony included songs accompanied by musical instruments from well-known singers at that time,” Al-Senan recalled.
It was a turning point, and from that moment on music was played and concerts were aired on the Saudi TV channel.
“After the ’60s, media became active in this field, especially after Talal Maddah rose to fame,” Al-Senan said.
Maddah, a Saudi musician and composer, became famous for his songs “Sowai’at Al-Aseel” and “Wardak Ya Zare’a Al-Ward. He held concerts and was featured in “Al-Maw’ed,” a popular Lebanese magazine.
Later in the same decade, other Saudi musicians, such as Mohammed Abdo and composer Ghazi Ali, became well-known music figures.
Soon after, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Media began to broadcast their music on radio and TV, and hosted concerts at the Radio and Television Theatre.
“Many famous singers performed on this stage, such as Abdulmajeed Abdullah Rashid Al-Majid, Hussien Qurayesh and others,” he said.
“The Ministry of Media played a huge role in inciting the music craze at the time and supported these artists.”
Al-Senan has had a long and illustrious musical career in the Kingdom.
He studied with the late Jordanian maestro Tawfiq Jad, who opened the Al-Ahly Club in Alkhobar to teach oriental music.
In 1962, Jad founded the Alkhobar Orchestra, which later became the Silver Band, with Al-Senan featured as a violinist.
Some of the band’s performances were shown on Aramco TV in 1962 and 1963.
Silver Band concerts were popular events in the entertainment clubs of Aramco, as well as the Air Force clubs at Dhahran air base in 1965 and 1966.