With considerable changes in Saudi Arabia’s public realm and social landscape, dawns a new accessibility to music culture and the spaces that foster it. With this phenomenon, a dichotomy is growing between the existing sonic landscape of the region’s traditional music and emerging dance music cultures. Despite their differences, what these musical subcultures have in common, whether in the public realm or intimacy of the house, is the dance floor, a place which has always fostered socio-cultural bonding across cultural shifts, technological advances, and generational gaps.
In The Voice of listening (2022), Zahra Bundakji creates a sound portrait of women who have shaped and supported dance floors in Saudi Arabia, regarding this as a key practice of intangible cultural heritage. Interviews allow us to hear first-hand accounts from multiple generations of women, both those who have been front of stage and behind the scenes. But while some will feel represented here, the work’s sonic language speaks to a wider audience.
The contemporary dance floor is brought into being not only around sound, but through crucial components of nightlife such as light and space. All whilst using dance culture’s most recognizable symbol: the disco ball. Location, sound and light connect, bringing the specificity of the site and the stories of women in Saudi together through the energy and semiotics of the dance floor.
A world of appreciation for our collaborator Khaled Alkhaldi.
And gratitude to the women who shared their stories and voices: