I first sat with pearl divers in a hut in Murraq, Bahrain, listening to their songs, chants and stories in 1999. There is something extremely primitive and poignant about their music. Just after this, the Arabian Gulf saw development at a pace previously deemed impossible. These primitive cultures transformed almost overnight from, pearl traders and bedouin dwellers, to property tycoons and global traders. When I first arrived in the Arabian Gulf in 1993, not many people had heard of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, yet now, the cities of the Gulf are known for their towering buildings and 5 star hotels.
But before all of this, there was pearl diving. My film ‘Grain of Sand’ mirrors the fascinating dichotomy of cultural identity in the Arabian Gulf, from a heritage, rich in the art of survival, to the dizzying heights of the 21st century where nothing is impossible. A pearl begins its life as a grain of sand, the very sand which has been used in every tower block and piece of glass in every building in the Gulf. Beneath the rapid growth of commercialism, lies a strong musical heritage, which is vocalised through the stories and music of the Pearl Divers, which we would like to repatriate and harmonise with contemporary culture. Pearl Diving was a simplistic but precarious way of life as many of the divers did not return home from the seas. Each diver had his own song, sang for him as he dived, the song lasting for as long as the Diver could hold his breath. Divers did not carry watches and some of them could hold their breath for up to 4 minutes. If the diver had not surfaced by the time the song had finished, he would be rescued. The songs were linked closely with survival and every given moment in time. Songs about preparing the boats, about leaving loved ones behind and the vulnerability of life at sea. The juxtaposition of the music of the pearl divers in contrast with the development of the Gulf and its current day culture is a story that needs to be told.
‘Grain Of Sand’ will endeavour to bring good news from the Middle East. This first film is about the Bahrain pearl divers and I hope this will be a springboard in telling other untold stories from this amazing region. Please take moment to share ‘Grain Of Sand’ with your friends and help contribute to a beautiful untold story, of the music and heritage of the pearl divers of the Arabian Gulf.
Thank you for your support.