An Interview With An Iraqi Singer Working In Yemen: ” I have sung for the great Yemeni singer Abu-Bakr Salim Balfaqih…” “The public in Yemen have an original taste for original music” [Archives:1999/30/Culture]

July 26 1999

Mohammed Al-Saher, a young singer from Iraq, has been living in Yemen for several years. Born in Baghdad in 1966, Mohammed Al-Saher graduated from the Institute of Music and Singing, Baghdad, in 1984. A father a two kids, he first came to Yemen when he was hired by Aden’s “Nashwan Al-Qods” Nightclub, for his strong musical voice and special singing gifts. He has been remarkably known for the mix he effected between the new song and the traditional one. Recently he has been hired by Ramada Hotel Nightclub where he has been conducting the club’s night musical parties within Ramada’s entertainment night programs.
Yemen Times met Mohammed Al-Saher and filed the following interview:
Q: We would like to know the beginning of your career in music and singing. In other words what brought you into this world?
A: First let me extend my thanks and best wishes for the Yemen Times for this opportunity to introduce me to the readers of this respectable newspaper. In fact, my early initiation into this career was back in 1982 when I had the chance to take part in Baghdad Festival for the Songs of the Youth which was organized primarily to discover and encourage new voices in the world of Iraqi music. Before that I worked as a member in the musical band of the Military Theater in the Ministry of Defense.
I was driven to the world of music by a strong desire and fascination to the idea of singing and music. Therefore I did all I could to turn this desire into artistic reality. I took on myself hard practice and ceaseless labor so as to utilize and promote my singing potentials. I am also indebted to a number of individuals who stood by me, appreciated and encouraged me to do my best. Among these people I recall the names of Professor Sa’ad Abdulrazaq, Mr. Farouk Hilal, an Iraqi composer and other Iraqi musicians. On the family level, my wife’s unlimited faith in me and her continuos encouragement provided me with endless energy to keep on the track of music.
Like many singers and musicians, I started with imitation. I sang songs for the fabulous Iraqi folk singers like Nadhem Al-Ghazali and Mohammed Al-Cabanji.
The real opening came when I produced a song of my own. The title of this song was ” Afraid; You liar?” It was a love song and was received favorably by the public in Iraq after I recorded it in an album which also included five other folk and patriotic songs.
Q: Among Iraqi singers and musicians, who are the most influential that have shaped the course of your career?
A: At the beginning I was extremely attracted to and influenced by the songs of the legendary singer Nadhem Al-Ghazali, who stands on top of the Iraqi musical pyramid. Arab Music in general has a strong spell on me and on a number of occasions I have sung for Arab and Yemeni singers particularly the great Yemeni singer Abu-Bakr Salim Balfaqih.
Q: What about your recent musical and singing activities now that you are in Yemen?
A: Let me first express my pleasure of being in this lovely country. I first came here from Jordan where I worked for a famous night club called ” Blue Up” in Ramada Hotel in Amman. I was invited to Yemen to take part in the musical show held on the occasion of New Year Eve in 1996 in the Gold More Hotel in Aden. I was in a singing team that also included two other Iraqi singers: Mr. Ra’ad Barakat and Ms. Elham Hussain. Following the new year eve, we were engaged in a number of musical nights in a number of entertainment resorts in Aden.
Q: How about the songs you present? What kind of class do they belong to?
A: In the night musical shows that we present in the different nightclubs, we used to present Iraqi folk and modern songs. We also reproduced songs from the different Arab countries. Let me add that I find that the public visiting those clubs have their own exquisite taste for the folk Iraqi songs. I am so happy about this and it makes me feel at home when the Yemeni people can enjoy and appreciate Iraqi folk songs. Most of the time I kept receiving calls and cheers to sing for Nadhem Al-Ghazali. This can only point out to one fact: The public in Yemen have an original taste for original music.
Q: Do You have your own artistic and musical vision through which you can communicate creatively with the public?
A: Art, of which music is an integral part, should have a message. The true artist is the one who can convince his audience of the message he is carrying. My feeling is that my massage is to establish bridges of musical communication between the two peoples of Yemen and Iraq. These bridges must necessarily remind the people here of their brothers’ unjust suffering as a result of the endless unfair embargo imposed on Iraq.
I can say that my musical mission can come through my careful study of the rhythms, pathos, tones and modulation of the original Iraqi song which is, I believe, capable of transmitting and mixing the individual’s cares and problems with those of his community.