Yemeni Music: A Taste of It

Yemeni music is mostly oud-based. This post gives a taste of Yemeni and Arabic oud music. العُوْد ‘the oud’ is a musical instrument used in the Middle East and North Africa. Its name was derived from the Arabic word عُوْد ‘a piece of wood’ as it is made of wood. Although it is an ancient instrument, it is still very popular in many countries. In Yemen, a piece of music without oud is no music. Each region in the country has its distinctive melodic touch. So is the case in all Arab countries. Here is a compilation which you certainly will enjoy. This compilation is by Ahmad Alshaiba, a Yemeni musician.

السَّلامُ عَلَيْكُم .. أَوْدُ أَنْ أُحَدِثَكُم عَنْ رَحْلَتِي فِي اليَمَن، مِنْ أَجْمَلِ الرَّحَلات، مُرُورًا بِصَنْعَاء الأَبِيَّة الَّتِي تَغنَّت بِأَلحَانِهَا عَمْرَان، المَحْوِيت، صَعْدَة، حَجْة وذَمَأر عِنْدَما غَنَّى اِبْنَها المُحِب عَلِي بِنْ عَلِي الآنِسِي.

Peace be upon you. I would like to tell you about my trip in Yemen. It was one of the best trips. I went through Sana’a the melodies of which people of Amran, Al-Mahwit, Sa’dah, Hajjah, and Dhamar enjoyably chanted when its loving son, Ali bin Ali al-Aansi sang. (followed by a melody of Sana’a and surrounding areas).

مَرَرْتُ فِي رِحْلَتِي بِشَبْوَة الَّتِي تَغَنَّتْ الجَوْف والبَيْضَاءُ ومَأْرِب بِأَلْحَانِ أَبْنَاءِ قَبَائِلَها.

During my trip, I went through Shabwah. The people of al-Jawf, al-Baydha’a, and Ma’rib pleasantly emulated the melodies of its tribesmen’s. (followed by a melody of Shabwah and surrounding areas).

أَكْمَلْتُ رِحْلَتِي مُرُوْرًا بِتَعِز البَاسِلَة الَّتِي تَرَنَّمَ عَلَى أَنْغَامِهَا إِبْ، الحُدَيْدَة، وَرَيْمَة عِنْدَمَا تَغَنَّى اِبْنَهَا المُلْهَم أَيُّوْب طَارِش.

I continued my trip passing through Taiz. The people of  Ibb, Hudaidah, and Raymah chanted its melodies when her inspired son, Ayyoub Taarishl, joyfully sang. (followed by a melody of Taiz and surrounding areas).

جَذَبَتْنِي أَلْحَانٌ دَوْعَنِيَّة مِنْ حَضْرَمَوْت الَّتِي أَطْرَبَتْ المَهَرَة بِأَنْغَامِهَا عِنْدَمَا تَغَنَّتْ حُنْجُرَة اِبْنُهَا أَبُوْ بَكْر سَألِم.

The Daw’an melodies in Hadhramout mesmerized me. These melodies calmly soothed the whole of al-Mahrah when its son, Abu Bakr Salim, beautifully sang. (followed by a melody of Hadhramout).

شَدَّنِي صَخَبٌ مِنْ لَحْج الَّتِي تَرَاقَصَتْ عَلَى أَنْغَامِ الضَّالِع عِنْدَمَا رَنَّ الوَتَر – اِبْنُهَا فَيْصَل عَلَوِي.

A charming melodic noise coming from Lahj attracted me. This melody made al-DHali’ dance so merrily when the string of oud resonated, that is its son Faisal Alawi. (followed by melody of Lahj).

وَأَسَرَنِي نَسِيْمُ السَّوَاحِلُ فِي عَدَن الَّتِي سَحَرَتِ العُشَّاق فِي أَبْيَن عِنْدَمَا تَغَزَّلَ فِيْهَا اِبْنُهَا المُرْهَف أَحْمَد قَاسِم.

The coastal breeze of Aden captivated me. This breeze enticed the lovers in Abyan as the sensitive son of Aden Ahmed Qasim alluringly flirted with her. (followed by a melody of Aden and surrounding areas).

وَقَبْل اِنْتِهَاءِ رِحْلَتِي وَبَعْدِ سُكُوْتِ النَّغَم وَحُلُولِ الصَّمْت وَإذَا بِلَحْنٍ يَأْتِي مِنْ كُلِّ الجِهَات، مِنْ شَرْقِ اليَمَنِ وَغَرْبِهَا، مِنْ شَمَالِهَا وَجَنُوْبِهَا، لَحْنٌ وَاحِد رَدَّدَتُهُ اليَمَنُ كُلًّهَا.

Before my trip ended and after the melodies ceased and the arrival of quietness, a sudden melody came from all directions, from the East of Yemen, the West, the North, and the South. It was a single melody that the entire Yemen repeated joyfully. (followed by the melody of Yemen National Anthem).

وَكَمَا تَعَوَّدْتُ فِي صِغَرِي، بَعْدَ سَمَاعِ هَذَا اللَّحْن فِي طَابُوْرِ الصَّبَاح .. أُرَدِّد: الله .. الوَطَن .. الثَّوْرَة … تَحْيَا الجُمْهُوْرِيَّة اليَمَنِيَّة .. تَحْيَا الجُمْهُوْرِيَّة اليَمَنِيَّة … تَحْيَا الجُمْهُوْرِيَّة اليَمَنِيَّة.

And as I was used to during my childhood, once I hear this melody in the morning assembly at school, I repeat: Allah .. the Homeland .. the Revolution … Long live our Yemen!

تَعَدَّدَتِ الأَلْحَانُ والأَلْوَانُ ولَكِنَّ النَّبْضَ وَاحِد.

The melodies and the types music vary, but the pulsation of the heart is one.

أَنْا أَحْمَد الشِّيْبَة، وَكَانَتْ هِذِهِ رِحْلَتِي فِي اليَمَن … السَّلامُ عَلَيْكُم!

I am Ahmed Alshaiba, and this was my trip in Yemen …. Peace be upon you!

As well, Ahmed has so expertly presented melodies from every Arab country.

It takes a great deal of talent and creativity to bring the oud out of the vintage box and its deserted state. Ahmed seems to possess the enthusiasm, creativity, and talent to do just that. He has attempted to present the music of the most popular western songs using oud melodies. Here is an enchanting example:

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