The Hadhrami DAN [Archives:1998/46/Culture]

November 16 1998

Discussing the “Dan,” a style of Hadhrami folk song, which is still under study and research will need a lot of time. There are many styles of Dan singing, writing and composing. Here I’m trying to highlight the main artistic parts of it. It is a very important part of Hadhramaut cultural and social activity. It is a cultural bridge connecting generations.
Dan is a unique kind of folklore song, a specialty of the people of Wadi Hadhramaut or what is known as Interior Hadhramaut. It was adopted by people in the coastal and other parts of Hadhramaut as well. This kind of local folklore represents Hadhrami society, expressing people’s emotion, thoughts and feelings in a wonderful way.
Dan has its own poets and composers, who have different styles in presenting. Because of their different artistic talents, their natural ability to write and compose, Dan sounds different from the rest of performed arts in Hadhramaut.
The most famous composers of Dan songs are from the interior parts of Hadhramaut such as Shibam, Al-Hotah, Tarim and Seioun. These areas are known for this type of folk song. Haddad is a very famous Dan poet in Tarim, his real name is Omar Hussain Al-Kaff. Other known composers are Salem Abdul-Qader Al-Aidaroos, Khamis Kindi and others.
Ashour Aman of Tarim is considered to be one of the most distinguished singers. His name was mentioned in one of Haddad Al-Kaff’s poems, which was sung by the late Mohammed Jom’a Khan. Ashour Aman was passionately fond of Dan songs and poetry, always keeping in close contact with composers and poets. His closest companion was Haddad Al-Kaff who tremendously contributed to his success.
Al-Kaff wrote many love poems and folklore songs. On the other hand Ashour is also a very good musician and a proficient Oud (lute) player.
Dan gatherings are a good way for writers and composers to get together. In these gatherings they write and compose at the same time, where a special tea known as “Bahari” is served. A Dan gathering starts with a poet reciting a verse of his own on a particular topic of discussion, thus initiating a poetry contest.
Poetic Contest
Poets select a subject where everybody can express his opinion freely and defend it poetically. When a poet finishes, the contending poet answers in the same manner, scale and rhyme.
The outcome of the gathering is a beautiful musical tune with lovely words to go with it. One more Jewel is added to our folklore. However, some Dan poets like to work alone.
Themes of Dan Poems
Dan poetry has various themes such as love, eulogy, pride, etc. It is an expression of the emotions the poet is undergoing at the time. It also covers political and social topics which deal with tribal conflicts and disputes or with the government and other public issues.
Yemeni Singer Balfaqeh and the Dan
Since Dan is a speciality of Hadhramaut and is different from other Hadhrami songs such as the musical poem.
Abu Bakr Balfaqeh, a well known singer, performed many Dan songs. Coming from Hadhramaut has a great effect on Balfaqeh, making him the star performer of this kind of folk song. He has developed and modernized Dan songs by singing them with modern musical instruments.
Some of his songs became popular not only in Yemen, but also in the rest of the region. These include “Hayee Layaly Jamilah” (welcome beautiful nights) and “Tabb Alsamer qul dan” (recite Dan in this happy evening), both the songs were written by Haddad Bin Hussien Al-Kaff.
So we can say Dan songs are a very important ingredients of our folklore in Hadhramaut in particular and in Yemen in general.
Saleh Abdulbaqi,
Arts Editor, Yemen Times.