Yafee Songs……..Need for Revival [Archives:2001/35/Culture]

August 27 2001

Saleh Abdulbaqi
Cultural Editor
Yemen Times
Whenever I recall the traditional and folk songs that achieved great popularity in the 1930s and are still being enjoyed, I feel that something is missing.
Songs were known by their style or the place they came from. For example, songs from Sana’a were known as Sana’ani songs, those from Lahj were known as Lahji and so on. There were also the Hadhrami songs, from Hadhramaut and the Yafee songs from Yafe. However, the latter is no more heard and that is what I really miss nowadays.
Yafee songs’ popularity can be attributed to the prominent Yafee poet Yahia Omar. Then came the great singers like Mohammed Morshed Naji and Mohammed Sa’ad Abdullah who contributed to the spread of this decent kind of songs in Yemen and in the neighboring countries.
The decline in the Yafee songs can be justified by lack of any kind of renewing like their sister kinds in Yemen and the Gulf. They also have not had their due attention from the media.
There was an encouraging initiative some years ago, when a group of poets and singers established a center in Aden to collect the works of Yahia Omar. The group included well-known poets like Ali Al-Yafee and Ahmad Abu Mahdi. There were also some outstanding singers in the group like Mohammed Morshed Naji. However, the center seems to have slowed down its activities in the preset time.
The Yafee songs have passed through different stages since their emergence. A cluster of poets and singers have helped popularize this kind of songs. Yahia Omar was a school by himself. Ahmad Nasser Bin Harharah, B. Zamel and Saleh Sanad Salem also contributed to the popularity of the Yafee School.
It is believed that tribal conflicts have been one of the main reasons leading to the disappear of this kind of songs from society. Discussions have been organized to look for means to revive this kind of songs. Only those angry poems composed by Yahia Omar during the tribal conflicts were heard. Crushed by the difficult circumstances his city was passing through, Yahia Omar had to search for a new home. He travelled a lot in Yemen before leaving for Gulf and then for India. During his stay in some of the Gulf countries, he published a good number of his poems. That is how his poetry gained popularity in the Gulf, specially after some these poems were sung there. Among the towering Gulf singers who sung his songs were Mohammed Abdu, and Talal Maddah.
It is a pity that the rich history of the Yafee songs is rarely highlighted by media. Part of the responsibility of this falls on the intellectuals of Yafee itself who should bring their heritage and art into focus.
All in all, the Yafee songs form one of the pillars of the Yemeni tradition and most popular culture. It is the responsibility of all Yemeni intellectuals to give this lovely folksongs its due attention. Like other kind of songs, the Yafee songs should be renewed and given a certain kind of a modern touch so as to attract the new generation of audiences.