April 26 1999

Many of our artists and people concerned with our Yemeni art affairs, especially Yemeni songs, pointed out repeatedly, on interviews, press and other media, the phenomenon of illegal art stealing of our Yemeni heritage, the new era of effacing the identity and originality of Yemeni songs.
Our famous Yemeni singers who founded and performed our artistic heritage will remain undoubtedly the shining stars that reflect and guide our cultural and artistic civilization.
This is a dangerous phenomenon of stealing Yemeni songs by artists from neighboring countries, artistic production companies, and video clips, an act that affects the identity and uniqueness of Yemeni songs. Those stealing our heritage gain fame and money from something that does not belong to them.
It’s a shame that every now and then we hear or see many of our old songs that have been reproduced and broadcast on radios or televisions stations with adopted names of lyricists and music writers, mostly from the Gulf.
In some Arab and European countries where such acts of taking other singing traditions are legal, artistic companies permit the reproduction of old songs to be performed by modern singers without paying any attention to their real composers or lyricists. Old Yemeni songs became a profitable financial source without any respect to the identity of their real artists, not mentioning their names, nor their extended efforts to produce such art and receiving nothing on return.
A sad situation Yemeni artists and intellectuals suffer is erasing the Yemeni song’s identity and a deformation of its origin. Gulf artists will occasionally point out that the origin of their works was in Yemen.
We have repeatedly clarified to our brothers in these countries that Yemeni songs are part of Arabic songs. Our nations have the right to be influenced by, and sing them; such matter would increase our pride in our Yemeni artistic identity. It is traditionally accepted to relate the song to its people. Anything else would be a deliberate behavior to erase the origin of our songs, ignore the unique artistic styles Yemeni artists enjoy and our isolation from the Arab singing arena.
In brief, our feelings of despair increase. This is a threat to our cultural structure, our heritage and artistic sources. The concerned parties should make a decision to stop. Otherwise, if these acts continue without any accountability, our heritage and art will end soon. It will be associated with new names and gain a new identity.
The Yemeni artistic movement should be activated and work hard to catch up with the cultural and artistic changes according to the requirements of the new age. Being an inspiration and a cradle of Arabic culture as history tells, I would like to suggest the following:
The Ministries of Information and Culture should give their priorities to extend sincere efforts to study the effects of such phenomenon on our culture and heritage, as well as looking into the legitimacy of our country being a member of the International Organization of Composers and Lyricists, like other Arab countries.
The two concerned Ministers should prepare for an enlarged meeting to discuss the current situation of the Yemeni artistic movement, finding logical solutions for these crippling difficulties that keep Yemeni songs away from the development movement, and finding a method of changing the dark situation into a bright one.
Our satellite channel should reconsider the programs session in a reasonable way, a reflection of our arts and culture with various forms and colors should be considered. A matter that we could confirm our rights in the Yemeni singing traditions.
Making a comprehensive study of the artistic programs presented to the audience. Qualified singing groups could be hosted with famous Yemeni artists. Such acts will assist in representing the best to the locals as well as other Arab countries.
The concerned officials of the Ministry of Culture should activate the role of artistic supervision on local production companies that trade in the rights of publishing and benefit from old and modern artistic productions of our artists.
Finding suitable solutions for our singers who perform their works on the TV and Radio Station without receiving their financial rights. A reconsideration on the formation of a special committee for musical classification. This committee will carry out the work of studying and testing the voices and the artistic production that can improve our arts level as used to be in the ancient days.
In conclusion, we do hope that the concerned parts will take the necessary procedures to find logical solutions to stop this phenomenon due to the great effect it causes on our Yemeni identity.
Not all the news is bad, good news is also emerging. An example of that is the latest law approved by the General Management of Artificial Works Department of the Ministry of Culture. The law will prohibit music production and distribution studios from trying to copy or reproduce original Yemeni works without their owner’s permission. In case of violations, expected punishment could reach to closing down the establishment, imprisoning the ones responsible and paying huge amounts of fines. It is worth mentioning that this has been a long-waited step, which if implemented, may prevent Yemen’s music industry from turning into an illegal music hacking market.
The ones who will benefit most from this issued law are all famous Yemeni singers and musicians who have spent decades of their life for their wonderful works, which are still admirable today. Among these singers is Ayoub Tarish Absi who has many excellent works that many companies wanted to reproduce and sell with a minimum amount of money, and get all the profit without getting any permission from him. If these regulations are put into effect, music distribution companies can only reproduce and copy the right of a singer’s songs with his/her personal permission. The company and the singer can then sit together and make any kind of deal which will satisfy both parties.
However, issuing the law in itself is not enough. It needs to be implemented soon before it is too late. If the law covers all musical works, and if it lasts for a long period of time, it will turn out to be the rescuer of Yemeni musical industry. I personally encourage the Ministry to go ahead with this step and put it into effect as soon as possible. I also think that this will be a factor in increasing the competition between music producing and distributing companies in attracting singers and in producing original works instead of reproducing old ones. The law will also give the artists the power and self confidence that would drive him/her to even produce better and in-depth musical works that would benefit him and the music distribution company he works with.
I would like to thank the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for its courageous and important step in issuing this law, and would request that they begin implementing it in order to increase its credibility in the views of Yemeni artists.
By: Saleh Abdulqawi
Cultural Editor
Yemen Times