Mohammed Abdo Zaidi: Revivalist of Yemeni Music [Archives:1998/33/Culture]

August 17 1998

Mohammed Abdo Zaidi was an outstanding artist and one of the first pioneers of the revivalist school of Yemeni music in the early 1960s in Aden. His work encompassed various new musical concepts in lyrics, tunes, structure, arrangement and scale. Although his actual artistic work was rather limited in volume, he made a name for himself given his originality and musical talents.
Al-Zaidi was born in 1944. An orphan because of the early death of his father, his mother had to work to support the family. She worked as a maid in the household of Sheikh Abdulrahman Bazara’a, who helped Al-Zaidi join the Bazara’a School in Aden in 1955. Our great artist studied at the music department of this school, which at that time was run by the well-known musician, Yahya Makki.
Soon, the lad’s love for art made him gain mastery in the wind instruments, both in minor and major scales. Early in his childhood, he proved his talent as a musician, and rose to become the leader of the Bazara’a school musical band. Also in the same band was another young boy destined to become a famous singer, Ahmed Qassem.
No wonder, the songs of Mohammed Abdo Zaidi and Ahmed Qassem enjoy an important common characteristic – the use of the Arab “maqamat” or keys in the eastern musical scale.
With much practice, Zaidi rose to fame – within the country and the region. His musical work reached many corners. His association with the hugely gifted Ahmed Qassem, allowed his songs and music to grow and mature. When Qassem established his band, he assigned Al-Zaidi as the maestro due to his proven mastery. Thus, Al-Zaidi took large strides during his artistic journey with Ahmed Qassem.
Al-Zaidi had wanted to travel to Egypt to study at the High Institute for Music. But, financial fortunes were to stand in the way. He was forced to enroll in the Telecommunications Institute, from which he graduated with a diploma. He needed to study something practical to earn a living.
However, Al-Zaidi did not forget his music. One of his great performances was to sing a famous song for Abdul-Haleem Hafez called “Qulli Hagah” (Tell me something). His performance received a tumultuous and enthusiastic response from the public.
Late in his career, Mohammed did manage to go to Egypt for refining his talents. In Cairo, he acquired more artistic skill and experience, because Egypt was and still is a very important artistic center from which many Arab artists launched their careers.
Al-Zaidi’s songs were also were an embodiment of the patriotism of the era. He sang many songs for freedom, for revolution, and for change.
During his last days, Al-Zaidi was afflicted with a chronic disease. He finally died in 1993. With his death, the curtain came down on a rich era in Yemen art.
Many of his colleagues and compatriots remember a very shy and self-contained person. He preferred to steer away from the squabbles between artists at that time.
By Saleh Abdulbaqi,
Art Editor, Yemen Times.