Archive for the ‘Oman’ Category

Omani Music and Poetry from

January 31, 2009

Here’s a sample of ‘traditional’ Omani music from Dhofar; peep the drumming patterns!

Also check this link to an Oman poetry site:المجلة الشعر العماني

I’m on YouTube

December 30, 2008

Representing SNK crew and hiphop in the Gulf. Check out their Website.

With lyrics:

Woke up in the morning out the bed and let my feet touch the ground,
I got the Canon in my head you know the beat set to pound.
But first I gotta converse with my man
throw on some Chucks bust this verse for SNK and Sultan,
hit the streets of Muscat,
you know the weather is hot
cool out with this track
watching fedha yetu stack.
Tunajaribu kuwaletea kitu freshi sana,
especially lyrics we specialize in putting hurting on ya.

Well representing style we go miles for the freshest dough.
Staying with a smile through my trials I confess through flow
Playing with the fire so the heat will just ignite my soul.

You’ll never understand, I’m always over your head, cuz I’m the type of MC that multiplying my bread
and then I stay baking
You stay caking
I roll with SNK man, you know they stay breaking.
And I’m thankful y’all just to be in this booth, you see I’m cold like Duluth
I can melt a polar ice cap like a inconvenient truth.

Check my facts, I was born to rock a crowd
you can call my crew the warrants cuz we serve and knock so loud.
Wondering how? We broke it down, flips headspins and pounds now.
Umetuona sasa, tunashinda kikosi chako, na chukua kwako, wewe huna budi isipokuwa jina lako.
Well we’re SNK,.
You gotta pay to play.
Breaking sneakers, breaking posers, breaking knowledge till the break of day,
rivals we slay, so you better come correct.
We got the heaviest artillery we firing from upper deck
and there’s one last thing you know its part of the plan
we be on stage with the planet in the palm of our hand
and the night is late, but you know the crowd wanna stay,
everybody throw their hands in the air and scream SNK!
@2008 Nathaniel ‘Nader’ Mathews

Passing Time by Making Lists in the Airport

December 28, 2008

The Best Things about Oman

1. The attitude of the people. Its so different than in the United States in terms of people’s willingness to be open and helping…for no reason at all. For instance, me and a friend were stranded in a patch of deep sand at night, and two guys pulled over and helped push us out. This was just one instance of many. This cultivation of caring has been almost totally lost in the United States at least.

2. The Adhan. Its easy to measure your life by the calls to prayer, and there is a masjid virtually any place you go, including the mall and the airport! Praying was never so easy.

3. Its not Dubai. There are no tall buildings, and life moves at a more relaxed pace–i.e. it does not seem as if you are living in a giant construction site.

4. Somehow the Omanis cultivate both a healthy sense of piety and the openness to allow other cultures to be themselves and practice their religion.

5. Al-Jazeera International. Not unique to Oman, obviously. But anyone who watches it for a few hours will be absolutely astounded at how little of what is truly news actually gets reported on the major US networks.

The Worst Things About Oman

1. Some people cannot drive. And Omani drivers will tail you and flash their lights repeatedly if you are going slower than them on the freeway (even if you are going more than the speed limit). Seriously. I am lucky to be alive.

2. Taxi drivers will rob you absolutely blind (like one who asked 5 riyals for a 500 baisa fare) if you 1) are obviously from America or Europe or 2) don’t know the usual fare or don’t ask for it ahead of time.

3. Occasional moments of what may be termed ‘cultural exaggeration’–i.e. Those people who claimed Omanis ‘invented’ Swahili to communicate with Africans.

4. The treatment of Bengalis, Pakistanis, Phillipinos and other house and farm labor is really low (though there are exceptions).

5. The heat. Self explanatory.

Hip Hop in Oman

December 22, 2008

The tourist brochures in Oman promise plenty of Orientalist action; their glossy interiors replete with opportunities for camel riding, authentic Arabian dress, ‘experiencing’ the desert, and listen to the sounds of the oud as you relax beneath the stars.

But beyond this marketed image of an essentially static, ancient and unchanging Oman lies a more complex reality which the youth of Oman are giving voice to through a unique medium: hiphop.

The history of hiphop’s birth and development lies in the Bronx, NY parties Jamaican immigrant DJ Kool Herc used to throw, but today’s hiphop has come a long way from those backyard parties. Its a global, multi-billion dollar enterprise, and every marketer wants a piece of the action. Here in Oman, Red Bull now sponsors an annual festival called Lord of the Streets, a massive exhibition of X-games sports, music, and energy drinks. This year’s festival attracted a record crowd of young people. I went, pen and tape recorder in hand, to find out if this was merely the product of the mind of a marketing genius or an authentic indigenous expression of hiphop culture.

For marketers in general, Oman has a vast potential. With a brand new infrastructure, steady economic growth, and a ballooning youth population, its no wonder that Red Bull chose to stage a festival here. Hiphop is a global culture, and the history of Oman exemplifies this global flavor: in the parking lot two guys perform freestyle battle raps in Swahili. Malikah, an up and coming female MC from Lebanon, delivers spitfire lines in Arabic to the eager crowd of Swahili, Pakistanis, Indians, expatriate Europeans, and myself. “Raise your hand if you love Red Bull,” yelled the host. In the parking lot, Ali Hamed Al-Lawati and his friends explained, “We love hip hop, you know we just try to represent to the fullest extent. Ali heard R&B and started to write lyrics. I joined together with my brother and we formed a group. Big Pun is one of my inspirations as well as Tupac, Notorious BIG.”

Qassim, Ali’s brother, added, “I am originally from Sur, but I work in Muscat. We knew about hip hop now 7 or 8 years. At that time I was in deep shit.I met with my niggas over here all the way from Wadi Kabir. I thought I was the only one who was doing this, but accidentally I found out my neighbor loved hiphop.” Eighteen year-old Kita Rise Up from Bling Boys crew told me, “I love Eminem records on the TV. I used to draw….I didn’t have time to draw so I just wrote something one day and I rhymed it.”

I asked a number of people in the crowd how hiphop and Islam ‘fit’ together; did they see any contradiction. “I think the leaders of Islam are totally against it, and if they could stop it they would. But me I am not an extremist, I have my limits. There is deen and there is dunia,” opined Nawaf, 23, from Muscat. Added Qassim, “Sometimes it doesn’t fit but we try to fit it. We don’t believe rappers have to sell weed or anything. We don’t have tattoos or none of that. Its hiphop its bringing the whole nation together.” Sultan Khalfan, the co-founder of SNK crew, one of the original Omani b-boy crews, agreed, “Hip hop didn’t change who we were, except to make us more athletic and fit. We pray, and we try to show Oman a good image of this artform.”

Kita, who has his own crew known as Rise Up Bling Boys, had his opinion on hiphop in the Middle East in general, “Hiphop is strange for us as an Arabian people, so everyone has their own style. For me, I dream that hiphop can be better than this. In the US its like perfect, here its like less than bad. I know people that spent 18 years on this rap music. We need change and we are Muslims, so the music must be clean.”

And what is the attraction of hiphop? “Its always about giving opportunities for kids to express themselves,” added Malcolm Marquez, who has lived in the Middle East from three years and is originally from Australia. Marquez, a talented and energetic MC who placed second in the Freestyle Rap Battle, also b-boys and paints. He felt hiphop was a ‘cleansing’ force: “Kids need a way to cleanse aggression. They need to be given a chance to say whatever they want from their heart and mind…we gotta see the bad and the ugly.”

The event, which was held in the parking lot of Muscat’s largest mall, was coordinated by Ahmed Deek, a Lebanese businessman living in Dubai. “We are changing the mind of Arab people about hiphop,” he explains. “The event actually started in Dubai in 2006. We started with sports like BMX, inline skating, and then we saw potential for b-boying. We brought it to the b-boys we knew and asked them, what do you need to do hiphop?” According to Deek, although many people were originally hesitant, shy, or scared to support, the vision for the festival kept growing.

Although Deek emphasized that they had no problem with the local authorities, the festival came grinding to an abrupt halt in a “thats-so-hiphop” moment” involving the police inquiring about the permit for our site. Apparently there had been complaints. But the party did not stop. We moved on to the Holiday Inn for the Freestyle battle finals in rap and b-boying.

The energy and talent on display was truly impressive, and the conversations continued long after the show ended at 3:00 in the morning. I sat down with three b-boys to get an idea of the history of Omani b-boy culture: Zillahunt Cyphaz,B-Boy Balong, and Sultan Khalfan.

“First of all, explained SNK member Zillahunt Cyphaz, “its called b-boying, its not breakdancing, that was the name Hollywood gave it. You start with rhythm, flavor, and foundation…from there you make up your own style and your own flavor. that’s how you make your name in the scene. Me I b-boy because I love it. Before some of us were doing football, martial arts, streetball and other different athletics.”

Hiphop in Oman according to various SNK members, has enjoyed a fantastic growth. Since 2006 there have been major changes; From three serious crews there is now triple that. Even young kids are doing it. All this from a DVD that one of the crew, Abdu Salaam, brought from Malaysia in 2001. In Malaysia Abdu Salaam had been exposed to the growing b-boy movement; he brought back with him the DVD of Battle of The Year 2000, the World Cup for breaking. Says Sultan, “We watched the video and we saw flips, windmills, head spins, and we said, we HAVE to try this!”

Sultan and Abdu made copies of the DVD for their circle of friends and in no time they and three others were practicing all the time, trying to imitate the moves in the DVD. One of the crew members studied at the French Institute and gave SNK its performance debut at a talent show for the students there. After the show, according to Sultan, they were approached with many other offers to perform. A couple shows later, and some were suggesting the fledgling (and nameless) crew could get paid to perform.

The name SNK stands for Serve and Knock; the moniker originally came from the video game company. “I used to win at every videogame I played,” remembers Sultan, “especially SNK games.” At the end of 2002, Sultan told the crew he wanted to name them SNK. They finally had a name to add to their growing reputation.

After four years of doing shows locally and adding to their reputation, 2005 saw SNK breakers enter their first b-boy competition, in Dubai at a Motor Show. They placed second. The following year they traveled to Bahrain and won 1st place in the “Bring It On,” freestyle battle.
“The Bahrain competition really put us on the map because we represented Oman and people back here were very excited and happy to see us doing so well.” Back in Oman, they started to get publicity from Omani magazines like The Week, Hi, and several major newspapers. At the end of 2006, they even caught the eye of a BBC producer who saw their frontpage spread in The Week. The BBC wanted to interview the crew but were concerned about copyright issues surrounding the SNK logo, and asked Sultan about the origins of the crew’s name.
“I basically came up with Serve and Knock at that point,” he remembers, “because the BBC wanted us to flip our shirts over, and I and to convince them that we were not copying the company logo.”

So what is the future of hiphop in Oman? B-Boy Balong was optimistic, “So far its going the right way, if it keeps going like this, then it can become very known, like having events like every few days.”
Added Zillahunt, “Oman is going the right way. Over in Bahrain, people know about hiphop but they don’t know the real hiphop; its just commercial. In Oman b-boying is the strongest element…if it wasn’t for some underground MCs and the bboys, hiphop would have been dead for real…like Rakim, up to now he is still holding it down.”

Next SNK has their sights on becoming a truly global b-boy crew. After a visit from Howard University Alum Michael Henderson, SNK met with the famous choreographer and dancer Debbie Allen, who subsequently invited them to audition for an Omani cultural showcase at the Kennedy Center in March 2008. They will be the first dancing group traveling to the United States to represent Oman.

SNK had not been without their doubters in some circles. Some people inevitably saw their activities as un-Islamic. Indeed, they were not originally invited to audition for Debbie Allen’s show, but after they finished the other Omanis were shocked to discover that they too were Omani. But the attention has been mostly positive after seeing how SNK conducts themselves—clean living, praying regularly, and encouraging each other in the spirit of brotherhood.
“No offense but the government looks at sports that never bring positive results but never notice the sports that are putting these countries on the map. Nobody knows the dancing team but they are raising Bahrain’s name up. Now in Korea they have meetings with the ministry about doing diff events across the nation. They really take care of hiphop,” said Zillahunt.

He added, “We are not going to go in a negative way but we will just be positive because hiphop doesn’t bring enemies. Hiphop is peaceful, like religion it brings us like brothers. Hiphop is in the blood. Through bboying respect comes between nations. Its not peaceful its superpeaceful. We are always brothers.”

Last Days of Eid

December 14, 2008

One of the highlights of Eid: swimming in a freshwater pool at my friend Yahya’s father’s farm. Sorry for the ol’ thuggish ‘made man’ pose but I couldn’t resist.

Thursday Night Out in Oman

December 14, 2008

Went out with a new friend–Sultan Khalfan of SNK Breakers. Check their website and give them support; they are serious about b-boying in Oman.

This is the other side of Oman…teens and young adults at bowling alleys wearing Western fashions, eyeing each other in the mall, hanging out on a Thursday night.

Allahu Akbar (The Method of Animal Sacrifice)

December 14, 2008


The method of killing a goat for the Eid is as follows:

The method of slaughtering an animal is that the four main arteries of its neck should be completely cut (jugular artery, foodpipe, jugular vein and windpipe). It is not sufficient to split open these arteries or to cut off the neck. And the cutting of these four main arteries becomes practical when the cutting takes place from below the knot of the throat.

If a person cuts some of the four arteries and waits till the animal dies and then cuts the remaining arteries, it will be of no use. If the four arteries are cut before the animal dies, but the cutting was not continuous as is usually done, the animal is Pak and halal to eat. However, the recommended precaution is that they should be cut in continuous succession.

A person, a man or a woman, who slaughters an animal must be a Muslim. An animal can also be slaughtered by a Muslim child who is mature enough to distinguish between good and bad.

The animal should be slaughtered with a weapon made of iron. However, if an implement made of iron is not available, it should be slaughtered with a sharp object like glass or stone, so that the four veins are severed, even if the slaughtering may not be necessary, like when the animal is on the verge of death.

When an animal is slaughtered, it should be facing Qibla. If the animal is sitting or standing, then facing Qibla would be like a man standing towards Qibla while praying. And if it is lying on its right or left side, then its neck and stomach should be facing Qibla. It is not necessary that its legs, hands and face be towards Qibla. If a person who knows the rule, purposely ignores placing the animal towards Qibla, the animal would become haraam; but if he forgets or does not know the rule, or makes a mistake in ascertaining the Qibla, or does not know the direction of Qibla, or is unable to turn the animal towards Qibla, there is no objection. As a recommended precaution, the person slaughtering should also face Qibla.

When a person wants to slaughter an animal, just as he makes the Niyyat to slaughter, he should utter the name of Allah, and it suffices if he says ‘Bismillah’ only, or if he utters ‘Allah’. But if he utters the name of Allah without the intention of slaughtering the animal, the slaughtered animal does not become Pak and it is also haraam to eat its meat. And if he did not utter the name of Allah forgetfully, there is no objection.

It is necessary that the blood should flow in normal quantity from the slaughtered animal. If someone blocks the vein, not allowing blood to flow out, or if the bleeding is less than normal, that animal will not be halal. But if the blood which flows is less because the animal bled profusely before the slaughter, there is no objection.

The animal should be slaughtered from its proper place of slaughtering; on the basis of recommended precaution, the neck should be cut from its front, and the knife should be used from the back of the neck.

As a precaution, it is not permissible to sever the head of the animal from its body before it has died, though this would not make the animal haraam. But if the head gets severed because of sharpness of the knife, or not being attentive, there is no objection. Similarly, it is not permissible to slit open the neck and cut the spinal cord before the animal has died.

Eid al-Adha Part 1

December 14, 2008

Had a nice Eid around Oman the first few days. No Gulf country would be complete without their own skating rink, so me and a couple friends took advantage of the day before the Eid to get our skate on. I really suck at skating.

The Persian Steps

December 5, 2008

Took a hike with a group from Sultan Qaboos University up the Persian Steps, an ancient trail literally cut, hewn, and laid into the mountainside. Climbing it is a bit like being on a Stairmaster for 6 hours straight. At the top I prayed the Dhohr prayer in a little mosque with a tiny mihrab (see picture).

The Road to Sur

December 5, 2008