Hadrami Dan a musical art precedent to all forms of songs [Archives:2003/648/Culture]

July 7 2003

Mahyoob Al-Kamaly
Yemen Times Staff

Yemen is a country with rich cultural heritage of all forms. The culture flows smoothly with the various landscapes, various social environments and different cultural habits and traditions. And this versatility reflects beautifully on all forms of musical art; songs, poetry, and music.
Of the most important musical arts in Yemen is a particular type of traditional singing called the “Dan”, or rather the Hadrami Dan relating to its origin in Hadramout. This is a type of signing rather solo in which the singer without music continuously uses the word “Dan” as a long rather sad rhythmic tune before and inside the main song. The Hadrami Dan is one of the famous types of singing in Hadramout particularly and is heard in social gatherings and musical evenings giving an authentic touch to the song and delighting the audience especially when the accompanying traditions are carried out.

Al-Summar( companions in nightly entertainment) :
The Dan Summar gatherings invariably include a samovar surrounded with teapots and teacups serving tea to the audiennce. Poets and singers get in the mood and start displaying artistic talents listening to the Dan and driving them to put in their own productions which make the session a rich artistic one that usually lasts till the early morning hours.

Hadrami Dan is an ancient singing art genre and not a recent one. Historian Abdulqadir Al-Sabban says that the actual time was not decided yet and is not influenced by musical instruments because it is performed without, just like the old raw Bedouin singing that is not shaped or polished. “In fact it probably preceded the Andalusian and Yemeni mowashahat as the poets described it and composed emotional poems. What I can recall now are examples in the works of the late poet Mohammed Abdullah Ba Makhrama who died in 902 A.H. and Abdulhamid Ba Kahtheer Poet of Hadramout who died in 1025 A.H.. It is also possible that the tunes used then are different from them of today but in all events they are melodious tunes that take their listeners to spiritual heights and give them happiness and special joy” Al-Saban said.

“Dan” in Folklore
Late sheikh Saeed Awadh Ba Wazeer spoke about arts in the Valley of Hadramout in his book “Al-Fikr wa Al-Thaqafa” (Intellect and culture in the first half of the fourth century A.H.) where he said: “In the Valley of Hadramout there exists a type of singing in folklore called Dan and this is a pure local art of the Hadrami environment. The Dan expresses and reveals the feelings and experiences of the Hadrami people in a very beautiful and true style. It also records the daily life in an accurate realistic way.”
Dan poets differ according to their abilities and innate talents regarding poetry, tuning and singing. And it often is the case that the poets have famous composers and singers who perform their songs in special sessions that are designed for this very purpose. And in those sessions special Hadrami style tea made on samovar is served to the gathering at the same session.
For this kind of art in order not to disappear the ministry of culture and concerned authorities with the folklore must revive this art and encourage it. For preserving it means preserving a part of our history and maintaining a cultural heritage to be continued by the coming generations.