Professor Jargy and the Music of the Arabian Gulf
At the beginning of the 1970s, my friend Dr. Mohammed Jaber Al-Ansari was Chairman of Bahrain’s Information Service. He assigned me to welcome and assist a French oriental ethnomusicologist who was coming to Bahrain from Kuwait to study Bahraini folk lyrical arts. In this issue, you will find a research written by Mr. Yaqub Al-Muharraqi on our special visitor, Professor Simon Jargy (1919-2001).
I had the privilege of travelling with this modest scholar, an expert in several specialties, as he studied the traditions of Bahraini folk music. In his company, and through observing his methods, I built on what I had learned in the 1960s from the late Danish professor Poul Rovsing Olsen, and became familiar with field work, collecting and documenting lyrical material, tracking performance techniques, and the rhythmic and stringed instruments used, as well as means of collecting and explaining the lyrics.
Professor Jargy was born to a French father and an Arab mother, which led to his extensive command of the Arabic language. Therefore, he was able to answer many specific questions that I had regarding interacting with narrators and collecting data for folk research. In the time we spent together in the field over the course of his many trips to Bahrain, a close bond was forged between us, and it lasted until the final years of his life. Moreover, it was only through the esteemed Professor Jargy, who advocated for the continuation of the original approach to Arab music without interference of new technologies, that I was introduced to one of the most prominent personages in Gulf music. Professor Ali Zakaria Al-Ansari (1929-2011) was a prominent Kuwaiti who had a number of important positions and multiple musical talents and was associated with international symphonies.
Professor Jargy visited Bahrain frequently, and I accompanied him on his field trips to learn more about the topics he was interested in studying for his research on the music of the Arabian Gulf. On one of his trips, Professor Jargy was accompanied by the Dean of the University of Geneva's Faculty of Arts. And, after Jargy finished travelling around the Arab Gulf countries, he collaborated with the Geneva Museum in Switzerland to release the first edition of audio cassette recordings of Gulf folk songs and chants with a publication that provided detailed information about each art form. In addition, the publication included Professor Jargy's expressions of gratitude to the cooperative efforts of local researchers and guides who helped him through his journey.
I stayed in contact with Professor Jargy for many years, and we worked together on preparations for scientific conferences organised by the Arab Gulf States Folklore Centre, which I presided over from 1982 to 1986. He was extremely helpful and cooperative, especially in terms of attracting prominent international researchers in the field of ethnomusicology, which was a relatively unknown discipline in the Arab world at the time.
Folk Culture Journal has been trying, over the course of more than five years, to obtain the rights necessary to publish Professor Jargy’s work on the Arab Gulf countries. Folk Culture attempted to negotiate with the Geneva Museum, the cassette production company who bought the copyrights from Professor Jargy’s heirs, and even one of Professor Jagy's relatives. We were able to obtain, through the efforts of Dr. Meisuma Al-Motewa, the last version of his last recordings, personally edited by Professor Jargy. These recordings were given to the esteemed researcher, poet, and fluent speaker of French Mr. Al-Muharraqi to continue negotiations. However, all of our efforts in attempting to republish Professor Jargy’s work on our part of the world were unsuccessful.
The late Professor Simon Jargy, may God have compassion for him and reward his diligent efforts to serve musical culture in the Gulf, is the subject of comprehensive research by Mr. Al-Muharraqi in this issue. I hope our devoted readers will find it both interesting and informative.
Ali Abdullah Khalifa