Al-Qomandan: Commander of Lahej Song Revival [Archives:1998/25/Culture]

June 22 1998

The Yemeni lyricist Ahmed Fadhl Bin Ali Al-Qomandan was born in Al-Hawta, Lahaj, more than a hundred years ago. As he was a brother to the then Sultan Abdukareem of Lahaj, Prince Al-Qomandan – as he was known then – was responsible for establishing the Lahaj army. He was known to be a good person who had good relations with all the people, especially farmers and laborers. They reciprocated with great respect and love.
Lahaj in those days was going through an artistic awaking. Artists were experimenting with writing and setting to music songs of their own style. Al-Qomandan had the company of many great singers such as Awadh Salem, Fadhl Mohammed Al-Lahaji, and others. Fadhl Matar, the Yemeni singer and songwriter who composed the first Lahaji song, ” Wa Marhaba Belhashimi” or Welcome Al-Hashimi, was one of Al-Qomandan’s best companions. Al-Qomandan also composed for many well-known Lahaji lyricists such as Saleh Faqeeh, Abdullah Hadi Sobait, and others.
Al-Qomandan was the first one to develop the Yemeni song in southern Yemen. Before him, songs used to have almost one style of tune. One of his most popular songs is “Yabo Zeid.”
Al-Qomandan’s artistic life passed through many stages. He began to imitate the traditional songs, which made him gain great knowledge of folklore and traditional music composition. Then he began to modernize these songs, presenting them in a new distinguished style. In these new songs, he exhibited a great range of creativity and talent.
Al-Qomandan was greatly influenced by the Yemeni ‘mouashaha,’ which was known as the Sana’ani song. With his efforts, he was able to present the new Lahaji ‘mouashaha’ which had become a new direction in the Yemeni singing style. By setting to music the song “Sadat Oyoon Almaha Qalbi” (Oryx eyes conquered my heart), Al-Qomandan was the first lyricist to combine the Sana’ani and Lahaji songs. He made this song with a 4-couplet verse instead of a 2-couplet one to represent it as a mouashaha.
Prince Al-Qomandan’s life was a journey in the field of literature and art.
Al-Qomandan’s distinguished achievements live in the heart of all Yemenis, generation after generation.
About him says Ameen Al-Rayhani: “I spent many days at Prince Al-Qomandan’s house in Lahaj. We talked a great deal about history, literature and art. I found him a highly cultured and a very intelligent man. He is an independent artistic landmark not only in Yemen, but in the whole Arab Peninsula.”
And about him says Omar Al-Jawi: “His lyrics are full of deep emotions and vivid images. They are as spontaneous as a perennial fountain. One who reads them falls in a kind of spiritual joy.”Al-Qomandan was a Lahaji prince who sacrificed his royal position for the sake of creating a new art. He was inspired by Al-Hosaini orchard, the place of natural perfumes and Arab jasmine. From there, Al-Qomandan’s best lyrics and songs came to make a revolution in Yemen’s history of art. He died in Lahaj, aged 59.
Saleh Abdulbaqi,
Yemen Times art editor