Pop Favorites in Yemen [Archives:1998/42/Culture]
By Ms. Ahlam Al-Khawlani
Modern Arabic songs, with their new style and rhythm, are much admired by young people here. Otherwise, Yemeni songs preserve their traditional features. Yemeni poetry is quite expressive and has a unique kind of rhythmic style. Unfortunately, many Arab singers took this poetry and set it to music without acknowledging its Yemeni origin.
I’ve talked to some Yemeni people of different ages about Arab and Yemeni songs:
1. A 25-year-old single man who works as a sales representative:
Yemeni songs are nice but I prefer other Arab songs. I like listening to Majeda Al-Roomi (Lebanese) and Kadhem Al-Sahir (Iraqi). The special thing about Al-Sahir is that he chooses good poetry and wonderfully sets it to music. Majida Al-Roomi is beautiful and has a very nice voice and that is why I admire her.
I know these two from watching TV. Sometimes I don’t understand the words of a song, but the good musical composition and the nice voice are enough, in my opinion.
I don’t buy art publications. Actually, I don’t like reading them at all. I know about singers’ news and gossip only through television. I do not, also, buy any of their photographs.
Concerning Yemeni singers, I do not listen to any of them except Abu Bakr Salim Balfaqih. Yemeni singers keep singing the same boring traditional tunes, though the poetry is wonderful and has to be musically composed in a more moodier way.
I feel very bad when I hear other Arab singers acquiring our poetry and singing it as their own.
I buy the tapes of my favorite singers. I don’t chew qat and I don’t think it is necessary to chew qat while listening to music or vice versa.
If the song is of a quick rhythm, I dance when I hear it. If it is of a slow rhythm, I feel relaxed and comfortable.
2. A 25-year-old single woman with a university degree who works as a secretary for a private company:
I very much like listening to songs, especially the traditional Yemeni songs. My favorite singers are Kadhem Al-Sahir and Asalah Nasri (Syrian). I know them both from the TV.
I understand all the words mentioned in the songs I hear. I’ve been to many Arab countries and so I have a background about all Arab dialects. I know the latest gossip about singers from TV. I don’t need to buy mags for this purpose.
The Yemeni singers I like are Ali Al-Anesi, Al-Semah, Al-Harethi, and Al-Akhfash. Unfortunately, the Yemeni song remains the same through years and centuries. It lacks the touch of modern music and new rhythm of the Arab song. Also, the Yemeni song has not adapted to the new technique called the video clip.
Of course, I buy the albums and photographs of my favorite singers. I also, sometimes, record their songs on video cassettes. When I listen to these songs, I feel my heart leaps up and I fall into nice daydreams. Regarding qat, I don’t think that qat has anything to do with songs. I listen to songs any time I feel I want to, whether I chew qat or not.
3. A 35-year-old uneducated, married watchmen:
My favorite Yemeni singers are Ali Al-Anesi and Al-Sonaidar. From among Arab singers, I like Wardah Al-Jaza’eriah. I first heard them on radio. Because I am Yemeni I understand all their songs. I buy the lastest albums of my favorite singers.
I don’t listen to non-Yemeni songs because I don’t find them nice. In my opinion, there is a big difference between Yemeni and other Arab songs. The Yemeni song is much traditional and soul-touching where good poetry joins the original sound of the lute.
It is enough, I believe, to listen to a nice musical composition and beautiful, easy to understand lyrics. I like listening to songs while chewing qat. It makes me feel very relaxed.
4. A 15-year-old boy, single and has a primary education:
My favorite singers are Kadhem Al-Sahir and Diana Haddad (Lebanese). I heard Kadhem first on the radio. When I saw Diana Haddad first on a satellite channel, I liked her face and voice. I really don’t understand the lyrics very well. I buy art journals to know the latest about my favorite singers.
Regarding Yemeni songs, I don’t like it them at all and I don’t understand them. I prefer the quick rhythm of Arab songs rather than the boring rhythm of Yemeni songs. I buy the albums and photographs of my favorite singers but if I am broke, I just record them from my friends. When I listen to songs I feel relaxed and I dream of very nice things. I don’t chew qat at all, whether there is an occasion or not.
5. A 28-year-old female guard in a school, married and uneducated:
My favorite singers are Al-Harethi, Amal Ko’dol, Taqyyah Al-Taweiliah, and Nabatah – all of them are Yemenis. I know them all from the radio and the TV. I nearly understand all the lyrics. I buy the albums of my favorite singers, but sometimes I find listening to them on the radio or the TV is enough. In my opinion, listening to songs should be at suitable times like chewing qat. On the other hand, I don’t like non-Yemeni songs at all. I really find them meaningless.
6. A 19-year-old housewife with secondary-school education:
My favorite singers are Khalid Abdulrahman (Saudi) and Asalah Nasri. I heard them first on records with my friends. I like Arabic songs because they are nice and expressive.
Yemeni songs are original and different and I love them. But they lack the musical arrangement and nice compositions found in other Arabic songs. I buy the albums of my favorite singers but I don’t buy their photographs.
I buy art journals to know the latest gossip about my favorite singers. When I listen to them I feel that a special romantic atmosphere is created for me and I feel in very comfortable mood. I listen to songs, whether or not I’m chewing qat.
7. A 20-Year-old single, unemployed man with secondary-school education:
My favorite singers are Abu Bakr Salem (Yemeni with a Saudi citizenship) and Majedah Al-Roomi (Lebanese). I know them from the radio, the television and their records. Sometimes I don’t understand the lyrics, but the nice musical composition is enough to make me enjoy them.
I also like Yemeni songs because they maintain their originality and contact with Yemeni heritage. I buy the tapes of my favorite singers and, sometimes, I record them on video cassette. But I never buy their photographs. I buy art journals not only to read about them, but because these journals contain many things to read about. When I hear songs, no matter while chewing qat or not, I remember many nice things and I feel comfortable.
8. A 38-year-old doctor with a degree from Britain:
I don’t listen much to songs but I like Majedah Al-Roomi and Oum Kolthoom because, I think, these two represent the true feelings and originality of the Arabic song. I don’t care about the music arrangement. I deeply listen to the songs and try to understand them. I don’t know what some songs of the day mean. They are merely quick rhythms and noisy music of no meaning and performance. Of course, not all of them are like that for there are many Arabic songs which took a confident direction in modernization.
Yemeni songs maintain their simplicity. I don’t think that I need to read art journals or buy singers’ photograph. Personally, I like listening to songs during the afternoon time while staying at home for I don’t chew qat.
9. A 14-year-old girl, single and has a primary-school education:
My favorite singer is Mostafa Qamar (Egyptian) and Diana Haddad (Lebanese). I know them from TV and records. I don’t understand their songs totally, but I like the music and the rhythm. I don’t buy any art journals because I don’t care about knowing singers’ gossip. I buy the albums of my favorite singers but I don’t buy their photographs. When I hear a song I like, of course not while chewing qat because I don’t chew qat, I feel nice.
10. A 9-year-old girl, completed her elementary education:
I listen to Mostafa Qamar and Nawal Al-Zoghbi (Lebanese). I knpw them from TV. I don’t understand their songs really but I enjoy the music. I neither read art journals nor buy singers’ photographs.
Concerning Yemeni songs, I don’t like them all for they don’t have the interesting music I find in other Arabic songs.