Camellia, A Budding Singer Reviving the lahji Singing Art [Archives:2000/25/Culture]

June 19 2000

Saleh Abdulbaqi
Yemen Times
Yemeni female singers have actually undergone a long course of exerting hard efforts in our society that is still characterized by male supremacy and domination. Aden was actually the starting point for some Yemeni female singers to start their struggle to assert their rights and show their talents at singing.
Camellia was the first Yemeni female singer who started singing in Aden to revive the old tradition of lahji songs. She has actually confirmed women’s rights to work hand in hand with men in all fields of life. She laid the basis for a new literary period in which many latent female talents were polished including Raja’a Ba Sudan, Fathiah Al-Saghir, Sabah Munasar, Amal Qudul, etc. Many of these singers have gained huge publicity in the course of time. Many of them have also quit the art of singing. The only one who is still in this field is Amal Qudul.
In Lahj other promising female singers appeared. Some could stand the difficulties they face while others disappeared. Then, Camellia with her melodious voice was able to revive the past glory of lahji singing.
Camellia was born in Al-Hutah in 1972, Lahj governorate. She is a graduate of the Teachers Training Institute in Saber, 1987. Now she works as a teacher in the Education Bureau office.
Camellia was deeply influenced by the Kumandaniah songs, Mohammed Al-Lahji’s and Hadi Sait’s songs. She was also influenced by the popular songs that she used to listen to from members of the public Tumbrah band. This influence was clear on Camellia to the extent that she started singing in the presence of her friends. However, she was determined not to practice the art of singing until she graduated from the Teachers Institute.
In the same year of Camellia’s graduation and joining the educational field, she joined the chanting team of the Cultural Office in Lahj which at the time coincided with the ceremony of Al-Kumandan. She participated in this ceremony with a song of “Itha Nassnass Al-Nassnoos”. Her exquisite and fascinating performance in the ceremony was highly appreciated by all the audience who gave her a push to continue singing. In fact, she played a key role in reviving the lahji song late in 1987.
Her sonorous voice has bestowed on her such a tremendous popularity that she has participated in numerous parties.
Talking about her singing, she said that the lack of the big audience who support singers has played a role in distinguishing between singers. Some were destined to disappear while other ones continue to gain popularity.
After Al-Kumandan, there were some other great singers including the late Fadl Al-Lahji and Muhssen Bin Ahmad Mahdi who could translate Najib’s and Saleh Mahdi’s poems into melodious tunes. Some of their magnificent songs are “Yali Tarakt Al-Dama’a” or “Yakolo li Nasi Hubak”.
Camellia participated with the musical band of the Cultural Office in Lahj in the Al-Khartoum Festival in 1987. She also participated in the Port Said Festival in 1990. Now she is preparing herself to tape a new album with a production company in Sana’a. She is also planning to copy some other songs at the Yemeni space channel.
Finally, we do hope that this new voice will be given the support and attention needed to enhance the state of the lahji songs.

“If Music Be the Food of Love, Play on, Give me Excess of It”Last Thursday 862000, a colorful music concert display was organized by the French cultural Center. In the ceremony a number of musicians participated and presented a wonderful display of latent and promising talents. Some foreign youths, as well as a young Yemeni, a pianist participated in the function. The veteran Iraqi musician Joseph Faris also presented some of his classical and modern musical compositions. Joseph Faris, Iraqi, is a graduate of Fine Arts from Baghdad. He started his career as an artist in radio and TV in Baghdad. He was also one of the Iraqi orchestra players. He gave instrumental accompaniment to many famous singers including Kadem Al-Saher, Abdullah Al-Ruwaished, Khalid Al-Sheikh, Nabil Shuaib, etc.
Presently, he is a teacher at the Sana’a International School. He teaches instruments such as, violin, lute, drums, keyboard, basic guitar, etc. Other participants were Melanie Weirich, John Joseph, Matthew Marlowe, Laura Wright, Esther Wright, Rachel Ferrand, Mr. Shinji Matsuo, Mrs. Pam Ferrand.
Nassri Al-Saqqaf of the Yemen Times attended the function and conducted the following interview with Joseph Faris. Excerpts:

Q: When did you start playing music?
A: I started at the age of nine. I was trained by foreign teachers including Mr. George from France, Mr. Aram Bab Gkyan from Armenia and Foad Reda Al-Sadan, Iraqi teacher.
I have participated in many music concerts and festivals in many countries. In Yemen, I have participated in many occasions or festivals on TV and radio.

Q: What are your impressions about Yemeni music?
A: Yemeni music has a great and deep-rooted heritage. There is a lot of potential to be explored in Yemeni music. Yemen is a wonderful country where extraordinary beauty has been bestowed by God. It is also a feather in the colored cap of Yemen that we feel that vigor and vitality in Abdulwahab No’man’s poetry.
There are many Yemeni latent talents who could do miracles if they are well taken care of. One such budding talent is the small Yemeni boy Abdulwahab. He is actually a child prodigy in the piano.
I have also discovered many aspects of Yemeni music while trying to collect various specimens of it. I have plans to produce them in a symphony titled Yemen in the near future. It will be the first symphony about Yemen ever produced by an Iraqi producer.

Q: What does the concept of music as an aesthetic experience mean?
A: Music is beauty. It is not owned by anyone. It is something that relieves and pacifies souls. It is true that we use the word ” musician” to refer to the person who plays music. Yet, music is not owned by musicians. Rather it is something sublime and sacred.

Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: I would like to thank Yemen Times for its active and live participation in such activities.

Mr. Shinji Matsuo, Second Secretary at the Embassy of Japan, was among the participants who played the violin. He said “I have studied for ten months with Mr. Faris and this is my first time participating in such a concert.”During the concert the audience were enthralled and deeply impressed by the exquisite performance of the young Yemeni Abdulwahab Ali Ghazi who started performing only one year ago. His father is a teacher of music in the Cultural Health Center who taught him many instruments. He is in the ninth class, preparatory school. All the members of the audience could not help but express their admiration for the child prodigy and expect a promising future for him. YT wishes him the very best in his unfolding career as an artist.