Ahmed Fathi: I’ve received great honor in Yemen [Archives:2006/974/Culture]

August 21 2006

Nahlah Al-Qadasi
Ahmed Fathi is one of the sweetest Yemeni voices that stands out in Yemen and abroad. Having liked the arts since he was a small child, great artist Ahmed Qasim called him “the marvel child.”

Traveling to Egypt to satisfy his artistic lust, Fathi excelled there, thus deserving to be called “the lute king.” He composed a number of lute pieces, further mixing lute and piano. Additionally, he composed a piece entitled, “To the good souls of Mother Theresa and Princess Diana” and presented it at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1997.

Despite his long absence, Fathi remains attached to his country. He has a number of national musical pieces reflecting his strong connection to his country. He has contributed markedly to the development and enrichment of Yemeni song. He also aids Yemeni legacy and song to spread at the international level.

How did you get started?

I started playing the lute while studying at preparatory school and became the school's singer. When I was 10, I was recognized as the zone's artist. At age 14, I released the first album of my own entitled, “In Modest Hodeidah” (Fi Al-Hodeidah Alwadee'a), including a number of songs celebrating Hodeidah city. Following that first CD's success, I released a number of successful CDs, with some songs achieving vast success, particularly “Lilateen” (Two Nights).

I later moved to Aden, where I enjoyed a remarkable companionship with the great singer, Ahmed Qasim, who greatly supported me and helped with the lyrics of a wonderful song, “Dakhaltu Gant Redhak” (I Entered the Paradise of Your Satisfaction). I presented this song at a large celebration attended by Yemeni song figures like Mohammed Sa'ad Abdullah and Mohammed Murshed Naji.

In 1976, I received a Secondary Diploma of Music and later was granted a scholarship to do my Bachelor of Arts program in Cairo. I received my Master of Arts with distinction from Paris's High Institute for Arabic Music in 1988. Since then, I've exerted my efforts both in and for music.

Your love for your hometown is evident in some of your songs. What does this mean?

Although I live abroad, I visit Hodeidah every year, especially toward the end of Ramadan and the advent of Eid to be with my father. Hodeidah means a lot for me because I have nice memories of it. Further, I have many friends there. It represents many things that can't lapse from my mind.

You were expected to participate in Yemen's Arab (Yemen Al-Arab) operetta celebrating Yemeni reunification's 16th anniversary but you didn't. What was the reason?

At the very beginning, I was contacted to be in charge of it and do all of the required things like setting song lyrics and selecting singers. A week before the celebration, I was surprised by a call from artist Abdullah Rashad Saudi telling me that everything was ready. He requested I join the other singers for the occasion, but I refused, telling him that the one who starts something should remain with it until the end. I didn't want to be a guest of honor, so I decided not to participate.

Yemen's artistic legacy is rich. In your opinion, what's the artist's duty to his legacy?

First, the artist should become conscious of his homeland's legacy and he should study and understand it well. Further, when he deals with it, he should address it from both a scientific and cultural view in order not to harm it. He can add to it, treating its musical language, if needed. He also can use modern techniques to capture and register it, thus serving his own national legacy.

Who are Yemeni poets with whom you've collaborated?

The first poet I collaborated with was the late Ibrahim Sadek, who wrote the songs, “Lilateen” (Two Nights), “Mish Mushkila” (No Problem) and “Awdat Bilqis” (Bilqis's Return).

Further, I collaborated with poet Abdulgani Shawkat on one song and poet Abdullah Ghedwah on several Tihama songs. I also collaborated with poet Mahmoud Al-Haj on more than 30 songs, in addition to Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh, Mutahar Al-Eryani, Sultan Al-Surimi and lastly, with poetess Fatma Al-Aushbi on a first collaboration with her.

What about your national songs?

There are too many, including “Awdat Bilqis” (Bilqis's Return) and “Al-Fa'ar fi Qafs Al-Etiham” (Mouse in Jail), as well as Al-Maqaleh's song, “Talagi, Talagi” (Shine, Shine). However, according to critics, my most important work was Al-Watan's “Shumoukh” (The Home's Glory), which was chosen to accompany Yemen's TV news for three years.

What do you think of singing in different dialects, particularly as you sang a song in Egyptian dialect on your last album?

In my opinion, a singer can sing anything, but he must excel. Singing in other dialects adds to the artist's balance.

What certificates and awards have you achieved during your artistic career?

I received numerous Arab and international awards from the Egyptian Opera House, London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Arab World Institute and the High Institute for Arabic Music, both in Paris.

However, the 2004 Ministry of Culture honor within Sana'a activities as the Arab Cultural Capital was the most important honor for me, as well as the honor I receive in my hometown and from its university, which granted me an honorary decorate.

You describe your daughter as a talented singer. What's her latest news?

Though she sang three songs with me on my last album and despite her creative talent, Bilqis was hesitant about singing. She finally decided to withdraw from the arts and remove her photos from the market, saying she won't return to singing. She wants to concentrate on her studies, as she's a faculty of medicine student and this is her choice.

What's your latest artistic news?

A new album with 10 songs composed by poets like Al-Maqaleh, Al-Surimi, Al-Haj, Al-Aushbi, Abdulhadi Al-Khadhir and the late Abdullah Al-Baradoni, as well as a group of Gulf poets. I hope the album will earn people's acclaim.

Artist's bio

Though born in Hodeidah city as Ahmed Fatah, his stage name is Ahmed Fathi. Married with four children – two boys and two girls – he resides in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Having been engaged in the arts since he was 8 years old, the singer, composer and lute player has more than 15 albums on the market so far.