Business for Peace Award

Music bands in Yemen – a remarkable stride

Published on 12 April 2012 in Culture
Khalid Al-Karimi (author)

Khalid Al-Karimi


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Band members come from diverse provinces to perform in weddings celebrations and other festivals.

Band members come from diverse provinces to perform in weddings celebrations and other festivals.

In the recent years, the number of Yemeni music bands steadily increased despite the problems they experience in Yemen’s conservative society. However, tremendous passion and talent have goaded young singers into persisting hope, for those believing that life without their music instruments is dull and mundane. Moreover, music bands are an inviting shelter for nascent melodious voices in Yemen.

The start
Conventional eminent singers such as Abu Bakr Salem Balfakeeh and Ayoob Taresh are the leading voices of Yemen and their recorded tapes are turned to spice up people's festivities for those favoring sung poetry. However, modern life has changed and traditional recorded songs are put aside in favor of young bands playing music.

Spiritual father of music bands
The 37 years old Adel Al-Shabami, who is respectfully called the ‘Spiritual Father’ by his young fans, remembers that the year 1992 marked a turning point in Yemen’s history of music: “The beginning of my musical journey was in 1992. My beloved father, who deceased, inspired me to continue developing my music flair. I started playing the piano in the twenties. I used to perform at schools and summer camps. Later, I learned to riff on the guitar that was challenging at the start. Praise to God, I realized profound musical improvements. As a consequence, I decided to form the first music band, Nagham. Now my sons, Mohammed and Ali, are outstanding pianists and guitarists.”

Modern Yemen
"I think modernization causes to change many things in our world. Music is not an exception. The Yemeni music has moved with the times. For sure, the Western culture has its undeniable stamps. This is an obvious reason behind the appearance and evolution of the music bands in Yemen," explained Bassam Al-Bassi, manager of the band.

Band members come from diverse provinces to perform in weddings celebrations and other festivals, which pave their way. Eventually promising musicians to band together to gain musical ground according to the proverb, “birds of a feather flock together”.

Customers trust
All bands agree that a brilliant performance is the decisive factor behind winning the customers' trust. "People pride in making their marriage ceremonies remarkable. So, they intend to look for the best bands. The striking performance is our objective", concludes Ali Al-Shabami.

In addition, band manager distribute small cardboard flyers on which the name of the band and mobile numbers are decoratively printed, illustrating them as famous and celebrated bands, in order to boost funding and confidence.

Handsome profits
The steady increase of music bands is a satisfactory indicator of the good profits reaped from this profession. Of course, some bands express financial hardships at the outset of their career, but eventually solve the troubles. Bassam Al-Bassi remembers his early years: "In reality, the start was financially unstable. Nowadays our financial stability is guaranteed.” However, not all bands share the same experience. Kareem Ali, member of the Wama band tells that, “the commencement was rewarding, and now is carrying on even better", from the very beginning of his career.

The price for a performance varies between YR30.000 and YR60.000 depending on the financial background of the clients and the hall in which the ceremony is to be held - the bigger the hall, the more music instruments are required and thus the higher is the price.

However, the profession of a singer is not constantly profitable. "At times, bands hardly cover their daily expenses. Even the most famous bands witness a decline of income. Anyway, it is a seasonal work,'' says Amar Al-Jadabi, member of the band Dala'a.

A few months ago, Yemeni music bands experienced hard times due to the political turmoil and economic imbalances.  "The last eight months were the most complicated because of the rife rifts among people. Now is better. Our income has dramatically improved," points Bassam Al-Abssi out. However, he is expecting that the coming months will be more advantageous, God willing.

Cultural challenges
Being a conservative community can be a big hassle for young musicians, because religious traditions disgrace loose music which, as clerics believe, instigates evil and immorality. However, this is not an unsolvable issue tells Kareem Ali, "of course, extremely religious zealots look down upon our profession, but we can appease them by reciting theological songs accompanied with music." However, he continued, ''my family sharply objected to my choice of this profession. Finally, they gave up to my resolute artistic determination. The family regarded being a singer is a disgrace.'' However, not all experience the same dismissive attitude toward their passion, Bassam Al-Abssi’s family raised no negative stance regarding being a musician. His parents gave him the freedom to become the personality that he desired to be. ''The society should deem us as artists. Being endowed with golden vocal cords is God's gift. We shall make use of it,'' concluded Bassam Al-Abssi.


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