Arab Music Ensemble [Archives:1998/07/Last Page]

February 16 1998

By: Saleh Abdulbaqi
Aden was always, and still is, a center of development and modernizing in the field of art in general and in music in particular. From Aden, Yemeni music was presented to the rest of the Arabian Peninsula where it flourished. Not only that, but Yemeni music became well-known and appreciated all over the Arab world. Aden witnessed a kind of competition among its great musicians. We remember, for example, Ahmed Qassem, Mohammed Murshed Naji, Mohammed Saeed Jaradah, the famous Yemeni poets Lutfi Jaafer Aman and Ahmed Al-Jaberi. Those were the pioneers who contributed a lot to develop the Yemeni lyrics and poems throughout the century.
Since the lute instrument was not enough to present the Yemeni music in its modernized form, a new music ensemble had to be formed. It was only natural to get over all the traditional forms of music in order to establish a modern artistic identity. Therefor, the first music ensemble was established in Aden to present a new era in the history of music.
In the fair competition between the two great Yemeni musicians, Ahmed Qassem and Mohammed Murshed Naji, the Yemeni people were divided into two groups. That made Naji establish the Arab Music Ensemble (AME) in 1965. It was lead by Ahmed Takreer, the violin player of the ensemble. Other members of the team were: Fadhl Abdulkareem (violin), Faysal Ba-Wazeer (accordion), Saeed Hassan (violin), Mohammed Al-Najar (zither), Salem Abdullah Salem (violin) and Abdullah Ali (guitar). It was the first time in which western musical instruments were used in Yemen. Despite that, the ensemble had Anwar Rajeh as a rhythm player and Mohammed Abdulkareeem  on tambourine. In 1966, Saleh Abdulbaqi joined the team. They presented their first show, with Mohammed Murshed Naji, at Al-Badri theater. During that occasion, Naji sang his famous song, ‘Mosh Mosadeq’ (I don’t believe) which was written by Lutfi Jaafar Aman. That concert was a great leap in Yemen’s history of music. It included other songs which embodied the new direction of the Yemeni lyrics. Jaradah’s lyrics, which were traditional Homaini and standard in style, were subjected to traditional composing. Mohammed M. Naji was able to present his lyrics in an instructing style and that made him the greatest musician of the day.
Back to the Arab Music Ensemble, we see that the song ‘That Al-Khal’ ( a woman with a mole) was presented with a new musical arrangement and a variety of musical keys by the Arab Music Ensemble. In that song, we find that Naji combined  the Yemeni traditional song with  oriental song. That gave the AME a new push in musical achievement. It started to produce works for great Yemeni musicians such as Mohammed Sa’ad Abdullah, Mohammed Abdu Zaidi, Mohammed Saleh Azzani and others.
Later, the team received several proposals from the radio station to direct some songs for famous Yemeni singers, songs like Qassem’s ‘Ahlef Be-aish’ or ‘Swear by What?’ and Abdullah’s ‘Fat Al-Awan’ or ‘It is Too Late’. During its great success, the team  brought many singers (Taha Fara’e, Raja Ba-Sudan and others) to organize concerts in Taiz where they received a wide appreciation from the audience there. Invited by officials, some of the team members went to Sana’a and the others returned to Aden. They participated in the Yemeni celebrations of the 26th of September revolution. For its distinguished activities at that time, President Abdullah Al-Sallal directed to employ the team, headed by Mohammed Saad Abdullah, at Sana’a Radio Station. The former Dar Al-Bashair was allocated for the AME to conduct its activities. After that, the AME organized a series of concerts all over Yemen.
By luck, they met in Al-Raheda, Ayoob Tarish, the great Yemeni singer, who sang for the first time his famous song, ‘Erga’a Lehaoulak’ (Back To Your Land). After the 70-day siege of Sana’a in 1968, the team went back to Aden where it continued its activities. Some of its contributions were organizing charity gatherings for the seriously ill people in the country. And another good   job was the team’s calling on some singers from northern Yemen to sing in Aden. That was a great step towards developing good relations between the northern and southern parts of the country . After a long journey of creativity and prosperity, the AME, unfortunately, stopped its activities in 1975.