Memories with the late friend Ali al-Anisi (1960-1981) [Archives:2005/844/Culture]

May 23 2005

By Amin Derhim
For the Yemen Times

Yemeni songs have always been of the most exquisite and culturally rich songs of the Arabian folklore reflecting Yemeni people's feelings, daily life, and nature. Ali al-Anisi is one of Yemen's most famous artists who enriched the songs culture with his beautiful heartfelt contributions and he was also a friend of mine and hence, deserves a moment of appreciation with this brief narration of phases in his life

The 1st. Phase:

I met the undying artist (singer) of Yemen, late Ali al Anisi during the later part of 1960 in the town of Taiz, through our common friend Ali Al-Khadher. I was amazed by his personality and performance of Sana'ani traditional songs for the first time. Before this meeting my tendencies used to be towards Adeni, Lahji and Hadhrami songs, due to my personal relations with singers Moh'd Morshed Naji, Ahmed Qassem, Moh'd Sa'ad, Abu Bakr Balfaqih, Ahmed Yousef az Zabidi and many others.

At that time, some friends an I were working with the American Cooperation Authority. We used to gather with the elite of Taiz intellectuals of that time such as Ali Sabrah, Abbass al Muta'a, Abdo Uthman, and many others. Our meetings used to be on the first Thursday of every month. Everyone paid one Rial, as a kind of support for the singer of the month. At that time, the sung poems of Ali Sabrah were such as “Ahlan Biman – Welcome that who came ” and “Ya Layl hal ashkoo? – Oh Night shall I complain to you?” were superceding the market, but Al-Anisi's performance of Sana'ani was superior.

In 1961, I was visited in Taiz by the prominent singers of Lahj, Fadhl Moh'd al Lahji and Ahmed Yosef az Zabidi. The group met for a night of songs in the house of our friend Moh'd Abbass Ishaq. In addition to the Lahji singers, Ali al Khadher, Ali al Anisi and many art-loving friends attended the gathering. That night, Fadhl played the Oud, while Ahmed al-zabidi sung the patriotic song “Bism hatha at turab – In the name of our soil”.

Al-Anisi, who liked the song, directly picked up the poem and rhythm by heart. Later, when the 26th September Revolution erupted, he spontaneously performed the song and recorded it for Sana'a Broadcasting Station. It had a great impact on all Yemenis. And thus was the story behind this famous song.

The 2nd Phase:

Al anisi accompanied me in his first visit to Aden during late 1961, and I introduced him to some famous singers such as Moh'd Murshed Naji, Moh'd Sa'ad, Balfaqih, Hasan Faqih, Moh'd Saleh Hamshari and many others from Aden and Lahj. He shared many music gatherings with them, exchanged views, concerns and experiences. He came out from this visit by Hamshari's Adenese song “Ishhadoo li ala al akhdhar – Be witness about the brunette”, while Balfaqih performed al Anisi's “Ya layl hal ashkoo?” and got it recorded on disks, and it became very famous. The patron of Yemeni singers and artists, the late Abdul Aziz al Aghbari, hosted al Anisi during this visit. During his stay at al Aghbari's house, al Anisi recorded on tapes his most beautiful songs; which are preserved in Taiz by Mohamed, son of the late Aghbari.

Just after the death of Imam Ahmed, a week before the 26th September Revolution we were sure the revolution should erupt. At that time I was renting a flat in a building that belonged to freedom striver Ali Mohamed Saeed, near al Ahmadyah School, Taiz. I gathered some of the most trusted singers and artists such as al Anisi, al Khadher and Abdul karim Taqi and a very small group of elite intellectuals, and all of us began preparing patriotic songs and slogans for the expected revolution, such as 1- “Gayshana ya Gayshana – Oh our Army”, 2- “Alshimal wal Janoub – North and South (Yemen)” and 3- “Bism hatha at turab” and several slogans suitable for the revolution. Brother Ali Moh'd Saeed, used to visit and encourage us. We didn't know he was one of the revolutionaries till we heard from Sana'a Radio his name as a member of the Revolution Command Council.

On Thursday 26th September, the revolution we dreamed about arrived, and we were ready. We dashed through Taiz streets in mass demonstrations, with Anisi at the front, raising our voices with our prepared songs and slogans. Al Anisi moved to Sana'a, where he joined the soldiers and officers defending the revolution and raising their morals. Then he was hit during combat and was sent to Asmara for treatment. During 1964 we met again at the house of late Ahmed Abdo Saeed. Ali al Khadher was trying to bring the artists and singers together. We established a musical group which consisted of Ali al Anisi, Fadhl Moh'd al Lahji, Ali as Simah, Moh'd Qalalah, Abdur Rahman al Anisi and Moh'd al Awwami.

Musical instruments were bought from Asmara at the expense of the Taiz Cooperation Authority, which was headed by Ahmed Abdo Saeed. The musical group had a very short life as al Anisi moved to Sana'a and Fadhl al Lahji moved to Aden and was martyred on the Taiz – Aden road at the hands of the colonizing British military.

The 3rd Phase:

I met Ali al Ansi at Hodeida in the mid sixties, with a group of his lovers such as Moh'd Jubari, Dr. Saeed Shaibani, Omer ba Duwailan and others.

We discussed the idea of documenting al Anisi's songs and agreed to establish a company for that purpose under the name “Ahazeeg wa Aghareed Sana'a”. It was agreed that the company would record al Anisi's songs on disks and market them. I was chosen as Chief Director of the Company and Ali al Anisi himself as Technical Director. He was also granted 8 shares of the company.

Al Anisi was dispatched to Beirut where H.E. Ahmed Jaber Afif, then Yemen's Ambassador to Lebanon, received him. Through cooperation with the famous Rahbani Musical group, al Anisi recorded 10 songs on disks, They were: 1- “Habibi – My Lover”, 2- “Qad Allamooh – My Lover was steered”, 3- “La Tajrahoo Hobbi – Don't Hurt my Love”, 4- “Dan wa Sajia'ah – Sing oh Dove”, 5- “Yallah Ridhak – Oh God, Your Approving We Seek” 6- “Ya Qomri San'a' – Oh Tertledove of Sana'a”, 7- “Ya Qalb Malak? – What happened to You My Heart?” 8- “Fi Dhil Rayat Thawrati – Under the Flag of My Revolution”, 9- “Ta'aeesh Anta wa Tabqa – You Shall Live and Survive” and 10- “Wa Mugharred – Oh Singing Bird”.

A tape containing the ten songs was presented to Sana'a Radio. Song number eight was chosen as the National Anthem for Northern Yemen and remained so till Yemen was gloriously reunited in 1990, where it was replaced. By then the company had ceased to exist, as cassettes displaced records in the markets.

My relations with the giftedartist and singer of Yemen, Ali al Anisi, continued till his saddening death on 17th April, May God's Mercy Be On Him.