Alardah Alnajdiyah, dance, drumming and poetry in Saudi Arabia

Alardah Alnajdiyah (afterwards: Alardah) is widely practiced in Najd region in central Saudi Arabia by the tribal communities living in it, e.g. Al-Buraik, Al Salih, Al-Faraj, Al-Huwaiti, Al-Ghuwainim, Al-Buraidi, and Al-Naser. It is known and practiced by other communities in the country outside Najd region; in Ha’il and AlJouf areas in the North and in Alahsa in the North-East. These communities and groups are involved with transmission of this folk art, which has been handed down to new generations. Organized troupes of Alardah among the mentioned communities, including drummers, dancers, poets, organizers, embroidery and costume makers (made by women), and private collectors of written and audio-visual archives, spectators, and scholars are engaged in its safeguarding, transmission and promotion.

The element is widely known and concentrated in Najd region in central Saudi. Moreover, it is recognised and practised by communities in other parts of the country, like Ha’il and AlJouf in the North, and in Al-Ahsa in the North-East. This is due to the constant penetration of tribes from Najd, the original home of Alardah, into other parts of the country (see consents attached). However, the element is generally referred to as the Alardah Alnajdiyah “The Alardah of Najd”. The knowledge about the element is widespread throughout the state in local, regional and national folk festivals, e.g. the annual Al-Janadria Festival of Riyadh, during which bands perform Alardah in addition to other arts.

A similar art under the name Alardah is performed in different style in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The Alardah is a song-dance performance and is considered a fundamental component of the cultural expressions and practices of the community. The participating males performing Alardah carry light swords and stand shoulder to shoulder in two sets of rows facing each other, leaving enough space in between to accommodate drummers. One performer in full costume carries a flag. The participants sing lyrics antiphonally voiced to them by a poet, a “Mulaqqin”, who stands by each row and periodically recites the verse in a loud chanting voice. These poems, called Horab, comprise of three v erses suited in theme to the event. Once the performance starts, the first row of men repeat the first hemistich, which is then echoed by the second row. Following the chorus of the second hemistich, the bearers of the Takhmir drums (large dance drums) strike three double-strokes in quick succession, followed by a fourth stroke, on the strike of which, the carriers of the Tathlith drums (smaller than Takhmir drums) deliver a pattern of one stroke followed by two quick strokes. While singing, all performers rock back and forth, side to side, and move their swords up and down in rhythmic movements in harmony with the drum beats and verses. The words in the final stretch of the poem would celebrate the ending of the performance, during which time the men would gather around the flag, chanting verses in an act known as Al-Zammiyah. Women may be among the spectators in some occasions.