Ayoob Tarish Absi:Legacy of a traditional Yemeni singer [Archives:2003/631/Culture]

April 14 2003
Ayoob Tarish Absi
Ayoob Tarish Absi
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Junaid
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Junaid
Mr. Abdulla Abdulwahhab Noman
Mr. Abdulla Abdulwahhab Noman
Imad Al-Saqqaf
Coming from the country side of Al-Aboos in the governorate of Taiz, he brought to the world a spectacularly wonderful and colorful portrait of traditional Yemeni songs and music.
Nicknamed “Yemen's Bulbul”, Ayoob Tarish Al-Absi is the voice that accompanied us throughout the last three decades. His songs accompanied us during happy and sad days. His patriotism was clearly resembled in the national anthem and other national works he contributed to the country.
Even now as the Arab world is going through critical times, we find the best elements that comfort us and encourage us to go on in Ayoob's national songs. Just like his song “Come back to your land, it's crying for you” was effective in encouraging a lot of Yemenis to decide not to be part of the massive immigration move that took place in the 1990s to Gulf countries, it also reflects the true love to Yemen this singer has.
He is an artist of all types and for all occasions. He was closely linked to the religious sentiments especially that of Shiekh Ahmad Bin Alwan and Sheikh Mohammed Al-Junaid. For example, the song “Jala' Al-Qalb” (Purity of Heart), which he termed as the closest to his heart was derived from his relations to those religious personalities.
Ayoob's performance reached its peak when he joined late poet Mr. Abdulla Abdulwahhab Noman. As a poet and singer, those two created a spectacular team that excelled in producing many beautiful songs that would remain in the Yemeni as well as Arab memory forever.
However this great artist did not receive the recognition or appreciation he deserved. In his humble home, which also belongs to Sheikh Mohammed Al-Junaid, he is left alone with little care or attention by the authorities.

Q: How did it all start for you? And who supported you throughout your career?
A: I was a fan of the late musician Mohammed Abdulwahhab, and used to imitate his actions and by-heart his songs. In school I used to recite Quran in the school broadcast and school events and I used to sing for my friends during my school time and honestly speaking, they used to love it and they all encouraged me to sing even more.
When I finished studying I started working and gradually saved money from my salary and then bought my first traditional Arabic guitar “Ud”.
I started discovering the strings and the tunes then I came to know a few musicians who helped me explore and learn the basics of playing and singing. I used to stay late at night in the house roof practicing while my flat mates slept. When I went home with my musical instrument, my father was furious because he thought it would be a cause for me to stray and mix with bad guys, because during those times musicians were not appreciated much by the community, and if it wasn't for advise from my father's friends he would not let me stay home with my Ud.
I really didn't face any difficulties in my career as such, perhaps it was because I didn't want fame and did not play music to be known. In fact when there is audience I become nervous even today!

Q: How can you describe the influence of your village and the Yemeni environment on your songs?
A: In my village I used to hear the chants of the farmers in their farms and the villagers when they sung on occasions. All those songs reflected in my conscious and through them I understood the passions of my people and how they felt when they were sad or happy, I felt their deepest desires and despairs. It all remained in my memory as I composed my songs and re-voiced their emotions throughout my career. Moreover, since I used to recite Quran in my early life I got the hang of the linguistics of Arabic and it also helped soften my sentiments because of the beautiful effect of Quran on the souls.

Q: Who are the people who left their mark on your art?
A: There are many people I came in acquaintance with and who helped me with music. Some of them are not known at all to the public. Among the people at the beginning of my career were my brother Mohammed, poet Abdu Ali Dhubhani, poet Abdulkareem Fareed, poet Abu Jalal Abdulrahman Subhi, poet Ali saif Ahmd Al-Jaradi and poet Abdulla Abdulwahhab.
I was supported by many others as well. But I must say that my best songs were those produced when I worked with Al-Fadool whose poems I sang even before meeting him. And then it seemed as a twist of fate and as if we were destined to work together. He used to say: where were you all this time? And I used to say to him that he was the poet I was looking for. I remember him all the time and I pray for his soul to rest in peace in heaven.

Q: What about your shift to religious songs and melodies?
A: The two songs “Juriht Walakin” (I was wounded but and “Jala' Al-Qalb” (Clarity of the Heart) came as a balsam for my wound. I feel that religious songs give me peace of heart and mind. My song was in praise for Prophet Mohammed (mpbh) and as I was convinced to publish my other songs in the beginning, now I am more convinced on the types of songs I will publish now, for no matter how mature I become, I will never be able to exceed the prophet's guidance. Yet I also sang for the people songs like “come back to your land”, “You who went far away”, “Even time sang for Sana'a” and others. I admire these songs even more nowadays because I have gone deeper in their meanings and found the true essence of their words. I found solace in poetry of Shiek Ahmed Bin Alwan -mercy be upon his soul- and I am trying to compose my own pieces, although I would consider them modest attempts to create something that would bring me closer to God and his prophet and bring good to the people.

Q: Why have you chosen Al-Junaid as a refuge for your soul and which you visit every Thursday?
A: One is gathered on the day of resurrection with whom he loves, and I wish to be gathered with him. In his home there is a spiritual sense that is not found elsewhere and remembrance of God, which is good especially on Fridays which are said -as told by prophet (mpbh)- to be blessed day. Moreover, we discuss intellectual topics and spiritual issues and we come closer to our prophet whom I love dearly.

Q: So what do you think of the new Islamic trend of singing, namely “Anasheed” that is said to be permitted in Islamic Sharia “Halal” and substitutes for regular songs and music?
A: Our religion says that everything that adds beauty to voice and allows more enjoyment in listeners is good as long as it is decent and within respectable limits.

Q: What do you think about arts of songs and singing in the Arab world today?
A: Because of the increasing pressure of today's life, daily stress is reflected even on songs and performance so you see songs with very fast beat and fast rhythm with no attention paid to lyrics and with no message to be conveyed. Every period has its characteristics and you can not say this singer or artist is a replacement of another or is a legacy carrier. But there are some artists who rise here and there and they still carry values and missions which they want to fulfill through their art. But on many occasions, we don't find such artists receive attention from authorities and concerned people. As an example, I find Abdulrahman Al-Amry a promising talent and one which if encouraged would bloom beautifully.

Q: After so much giving and a life full of dedication to music, what can you say now, and will you retire from singing?
A: Well, to start with, I can't say that all that I have given is enough because there is no limit to what a person could give. Yet, I feel that art with no mission is no art and an artist has to have a case to fight for and present decent ideas to the world through his art and music. Songs are part of any culture and will remain there as an inheritance from one generation to another.
As for retiring, actually I did not announce any of that, but I have reduced my work load and you can say that I am slowly moving towards retirement because I feel I won't be able to give music what it deserves in my age and conditions. I would rather not perform if I can not live up to my standards.