Omar Ghabbah & the Satirical Monologue [Archives:1998/37/Culture]

September 14 1998

Satirical monologues usually express criticism to society and authority. Omar Ghabbah, who presented satirical monologues, is considered to be one of the most famous professional singers in south Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. He performed in almost all the old Yemeni singing styles.
However, after Ghabbah had given up his job as a business broker in Aden, he took up music and singing as a profession. But he faced strong competition from his contemporaries, who were master artists of Yemeni classical singing.
Not a fully accomplished singer then, as was shown by his gramophone records, Ghabbah had to adopt a new singing style in order to find a distinguished position amongst the traditional master singers.
Therefore, he tended to employ the popular style prevailing in the south of the Arabian Peninsula at that time, in addition to his famous satirical monologues.
It has to be mentioned that Ghabbah did not know that this types of art was called “monologue.” He presented humorous songs which bore neither deep meaning nor addressed any issue. Some of these songs included “Marhaba Saidi” (welcome sir), “Ta’al Ya Sadiqi” (come on my friend – Indian Bitoros), “Ijlis Ya Akhi” (Somali Fariso Walal), and “Ta’al Ya Azizi” (come on dear). Thus, Omar Ghabbah unwittingly went into this new world of singing for the above-mentioned reasons. But later on, he proved his talent as a humorist since his jokes received an enthusiastic response from ordinary people, particular females in Aden.
Many women used to laugh wholeheartedly and ululate at wedding ceremonies in which Ghabbah performed. Our artist used to inflame women’s emotions by ululating himself and making his violin and its bow tremble. The women who were watching him through narrow openings from the roof in the gallery where he used to sing, thought that the bow trembling made that ululating sound.
As Ghabbah had many female fans and groupies, he was romantically associated with some of them. Women were highly impressed by Ghabbah’s great sense of humor and wit, as he was the first artist to pay attention to the issues that concerned them.
Omar Ghabbah reacted and wrote monologues whenever he heard about a major event, social or political. For example, during his stay in Djibouti, Ghabbah witnessed a quarrel between some Somali and Djibouti people and thus wrote the following poem. “Oh Arabs and Somalis living in Djibouti, you do not have to make trouble. You are all brothers in this country.” He was hinting that they should unite to face up to colonialism.
Also, Omar Ghabbah wrote and composed a monologue about the hire-purchase sale which was introduced for the first time in Aden. He had a high opinion of this kind of sale as well as the artist Al-Qomandan who wrote a poem about it.
Mr. Hussain Al-Safi, the Director of Aden Radio at that time, mentioned that car imports at that time were exclusive to the Bazaraa family in Aden. But when the Indian trader “Qahwaji” introduced hire-purchase sales into Aden, it caused immense damage to the Bazaraa trade. Therefore, Ghabbah was deeply affected and wrote a monologue criticizing the Indian trader in support of Bazaraa.
Omar Ghabbah also performed in the Gulf and some other Arab countries such as Syria where he and the artist Abdulrab Takrir recorded their songs with the help of the Syrian artist, Nouri Al-Mallah. Also Ghabbah made various promotional tours to some African countries and in his last days, he was employed by Hussain Al-Safi in the Aden Radio Band as a violinist.
Ghabbah continued to sing and write monologues up until he died, in 1965, in Aden.
Saleh Abdulbaqi,
Yemen Times Arts Editor