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Ghazi Al-Mulaifi ’08

Preserving the music and tradition of Kuwaiti pearl-diving.

Ghazi Al-Mulaifi ’08 (philosophy major, studio composition minor) was born in Kuwait. His grandfather was captain of a Kuwaiti pearl-diving ship and a master pearl diver.

For his senior project, he explored the subject of Kuwaiti pearl diving from a philosophical and aesthetic perspective.

“I became interested in the musical traditions that surround pearl diving, and view my work as a tribute to him and all Kuwaiti pearl divers of the past. Since pearl diving ceased to be a viable livelihood starting in the 1950s, my aim is to preserve Kuwaiti pearldiving music and tradition,” he explains.

He credits his advisors Casey Haskins and Jennifer Uleman, associate professors of philosophy, for pushing him to write in ways he didn’t know he was capable of, and also thanks professors Marjorie Miller, Morris Kaplan, and Frank Farrell for their support.

He used his senior project as a writing sample in his application to New York University, where he completed his PhD in Musicology and Ethnomusicology in May 2016. His dissertation was a continuation of the work he started at Purchase. “If it were not for my senior project, I do not believe I would have been accepted to NYU,” he says.

He continues his work composing music for films, performing contemporary interpretations of Kuwaiti pearldiving music, and mentoring young musicians in Kuwait.


Al-Mulaifi is also a Venice Biennale artist (June 2014), composer, global jazz musician, and ensemble leader. Hear his music at, the “collaborative global jazz ensemble that is inspired by the cosmopolitan Kuwaiti pearl diving music of the Indian Ocean trade” he founded.

He’s currently adjunct instructor of music at NYU Abu Dhabi

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of PURCHASE magazine and has been edited for the website. Updated Spring 2021.