The Pearl Divers’ Songs

Their music was so strange and distant
From hymns they sang straight to the sea
Or praises raised to mighty Allah
Those lovely songs, that fidjeri

Above the waves of Bas Ya Bahr*
The Nahhaaam raised his melody
Along with him the clappers played
The jahlah or mirwas, plaintively.

Sometimes they sang of home and hearth
The sea below the sky above
But as is often true of songs
Most times they sang, of course of love.

The times they sang were once upon
A long, long time before, ago
When life was simpler and the sea
Meant only fish or pearls below

And then the world all over changed
And like the divers, they did too
Sink beneath these gentle waves
And vanished quite, into the blue

The Sanginni, the Bahri, Adsani and Haddadi too
Gone indeed, gone from these seas
Hassawi, Zumayya and the Dan
Mkholfi lost upon the breeze

The Nahhaams songs of pearls and divers
Tell me please Bahraini friends
Are they truly lost forever?
And is this their sad, sad end?

Note: Fidjeri is the general term for the Pearl Divers’ songs; the others were particular genres: Sanginni, Bahri, Haddadi, Hasawi, Zumayya, Dan & Mkholfi. The Nahham was the pearl diver charged with leading the singing. Bas Ya Bahr means the Cruel Sea and was the title of a 1972 film produced in Kuwait.

This was one of the four poems presented at the BWC Second Circle’s famous annual event:  The Colours of Life Poetry Festival, held last Thursday June 13th at the Bahrain Fort Museum in Seef.

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