Immigrant Musicians and Their Influence on Neighboring Countries [Archives:2001/39/Culture]

September 24 2001

Saleh Abdulbaqi
Cultural Editor
Yemen Times
A lot of Yemeni immigrant singers have contributed to the spread and popularity of Yemeni songs outside the country.
While under the yoke of colonization and the tyrannical regime of Imamates, Yemenis sailed in pursuit of a better life. They reached the Gulf, Africa and India. It was no wonder that Yemenis flocked to India, as it was the country of beauty, arts, music, etc. A good number of poets, singers and musicians came here seeking more knowledge and fame.
Yahia Omar, a poet who lived in the 19th century, was among those who settled and married in India. Robert S., a British orientalist, wrote about Yahia Omar that he lived in Hiderabad and he could speak Urdu. This may be clear in his use of Urdu words in some of his poems. A great number of his songs were recorded by different local and foreign records companies. Others were published by some orientalists and scholars.
The names of cities, seaports and traditions that occur in his poems indicate that the poet spent part of his life in the Gulf countries. However, most of his poetry was written while he was in India. Mohammed b. Fares (1895 – 1947), a Bahraini singer who was known as the father of the Gulf voices, helped popularize his songs in the Gulf, in general, and Bahrain in particular.
Bamatraf, a renowned Yemeni historian, mentioned another towering example of Yemeni musician immigrants, Abdullah Mohammed Al-Faraj, who was born and died in Kuwait (1251-1319 Hijirah). He was brought up in India where he loved music and mastered it. He composed for many Kuwaiti and Bahraini singers. After he returned to Kuwait, he studied some of the song patterns there and in the Gulf which led to new developments in Gulf music. Most of the new tunes he composed were somewhat influenced by the Indian music. This can be clearly shown in ‘Malik Al-Gharam’ and some other songs that are still popular in the Gulf.
The Bahraini researcher Mubarek Al-Amari wrote that Al-Faraj combined the Gulf tunes with the Indian and Adani ones to produce unique melodies that he called Kuwaiti style. He also created new scales and tunes that he borrowed from Indian music.
The musical heritage depends greatly on how musicians and singers can protect it, otherwise, none of the nations will have artistic heritage. It is the connections among singers and poets, and their travels, that helped Yemeni music and poetry have its influence on many artistic aspects of the Gulf countries.