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The Role of Social Media in Promoting Yemeni Musical Heritage

Sawt Al-Amal (Voice of Hope) – Yasmine Abdulhafeez

Social media platforms have become an outlet for many Yemenis who have turned to them after Yemeni media outlets shifted their focus to covering the conflict and battles taking place in various regions of the country. Yemeni citizens have found social media platforms to be suitable arenas for expressing their opinions, finding programs for entertainment, and getting to know a world of creative individuals, including actors, artists, and singers. They enjoy the content provided by these platforms.

Rashad Mansoor, a social media platform follower, believes that traditional media has become boring, as it mainly focuses on covering the conflict and tragedies faced by Yemenis, neglecting many important aspects that allow audiences to learn about their culture and popular heritage.

This led Rashad to constantly browse social media platforms in search of enjoyment, benefit, and entertainment, particularly artistic platforms that focus on content created by Yemeni artists and singers who present Yemeni folk heritage in a different and honorable manner, introducing the world to a variety of musical styles from different Yemeni regions.

These platforms have managed to attract a large audience of Yemeni and foreign followers, especially young singers who are working to revive old popular songs originally performed by veteran Yemeni singers and are now being sung by various Arab artists.

Rashad says, “I no longer watch television or listen to old songs presented by a few programs that host singers. Instead, I have come to know a lot about them through social media accounts of Yemeni artists on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and others.”

He continues, “I have discovered the names of many old and renewed Yemeni folk songs through those pages, and I constantly listen to them. My friends have also started to enjoy these songs, listening to them in the car, at their workplaces, while traveling, and during social occasions.”

This is also confirmed by Saadia Abdallah, a media professional, who says, “Social media has significantly contributed to the dissemination and revival of Yemeni musical heritage. Yemeni songs have gained a wide audience through the sharing of traditional songs and the adoption of many old and new singers who promote their songs through various social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube channels, X, TikTok, Instagram, and others.”

She adds, “Many traditional songs have garnered a large following, especially after being renewed and presented in a new and appealing manner, attracting followers. Social media platforms have played a crucial role in introducing many people in Arab and foreign countries to Yemeni musical heritage.”

The Role of Social Media in Promoting Musical Heritage

Samah Al-Harazi created a page on Facebook to shed light on important artists who have produced numerous traditional artistic works. This includes veteran singers, as well as providing information about many giants of singing and their notable careers and achievements in the Yemeni music scene. She does this as a tribute to them for their contribution to a musical heritage that Yemen takes pride in.

Among the notable figures she featured on her page are the late singer Rajaa Basudan, the poet Iskandar Thabit Salih, the singer AbdulQadir AbdulRahim Bamakhrama, Lahji artist Fadhl Muhammad Al-Lahji, the violinist Nadim Muhammad Awadh, and the musician Muhammad Juma Khan.

In addition to these names, Samah also highlighted the careers of artists such as Karama Mursaal, Abdulrab Idris, Jafar Hasan, singer Ibrahim Tahir, Aseel Abu-Bakr, Saudi Ahmad Salih, AbdulKareem Tawfiq, and many others.

In an interview with Sawt Al-Amal newspaper, Samah says, “Through my publications about many famous Yemeni singers and poets, I have been able to achieve several accomplishments. I have gained a large number of followers on my page, both within Yemen and from abroad. This is a significant achievement in terms of reaching our publications beyond our homeland.”

She adds, “I do not have a goal or a source of support. I spend up to thirty thousand Yemeni riyals per month on purchasing internet data, especially since I do not have a home internet connection. The problem is that the process of researching and gathering information about these figures requires a stronger and larger internet capacity. Despite that, I rely on data to run my page.”

She continues, “Despite the technological and financial challenges I face, I am pleased with the notable achievements I have made. For example, I have managed to enroll female artists in the Arab Music Institute in the Arab Republic of Egypt with free seats. I have also been able to help the children of some financially affected artists to obtain free seats at the University of Sana’a.”

Samah explains in her interview that her efforts to revive the musical heritage by featuring prominent Yemeni singers on her pages, as well as highlighting Yemeni artists in various fields, have been widely welcomed by singers and media professionals from different Arab countries, as well as Yemeni and Arab ambassadors.

Promoting & Appreciating Musical Heritage

Muhammad Sultan Al-Yusufi, a researcher and enthusiast of Yemeni singing, says, “Social media has played a significant role in promoting Yemeni heritage, including customs, traditions, and daily practices. Now, anyone with a mobile device can document what is happening around them and share it on a wider scale.”

He believes that these platforms have created vast spaces and new windows for communication among those interested in traditional arts, including singing. The importance of these platforms has grown as satellite channels have largely failed to adopt cultural and artistic programs that fully showcase Yemen’s musical and cultural heritage, highlighting its beauty and relevance.

He explains that social media has opened up broad horizons for promoting Yemeni heritage. However, it is often observed that these widely accessible platforms also create a state of chaos and irresponsibility. Many people engage with Yemeni artistic issues and musical heritage superficially and without awareness. This often leads to the misattribution of musical works and reinforces regionalism, racism, and bias towards specific areas, diverting attention from important aspects of the musical works that could be addressed instead.

He states, “Despite these criticisms and others, social media remains an important window for conscious creators who understand the value and richness that songs hold in society, especially Yemen’s musical heritage. We notice that many young talents have emerged through these platforms, establishing a distinguished presence. At the same time, these names have contributed to drawing attention to our rich musical heritage with its vibrant aspects.”

Muhammad Al-Mikhlafi, a media professional and social media activist, points out that social media has played a significant role in showcasing the talents of many artists who did not receive enough exposure through traditional media channels such as television, newspapers, magazines, and news websites.

Al-Mikhalfi explains that the focus on only a few artists through traditional means is due to the scarcity of truly independent media outlets that shed light on musical heritage, dedicate spaces to singers and artists in this field, and address artistic and cultural issues in Yemen while promoting heritage and producing artistic works. These outlets should also conduct interviews and discussions to revitalize the art and enhance its values.

As one of the founders of “Risha” platform, which focuses on musical heritage on social media, Al-Mikhalfi adds, “Social media has become a ray of hope for many artists and talented individuals to share their works. It has formed a cultural alliance of writers, artists, and poets, playing an important role in raising awareness and developing artistic sensibilities in society. This is especially significant since most media outlets now concentrate their programs on events and issues related to conflict and political news, moving away from promoting artistic productions, documenting them, and preserving them from fading away.”

The Role of Social Media in Supporting Folk Singers

Ahmad Nabil Al-Adib, an artist, says, “Social media has played a significant role in promoting Yemeni musical heritage through Yemeni artists who have sung Yemeni heritage songs, whether within Yemen or abroad. These platforms have managed to reach distant places we never expected to reach, which has helped in developing our singing careers as artists. They have formed a diverse fan base at the local, Arab, and global levels.”

Ahmed believes that many singers rely on social media platforms to promote their musical works, as it allows them to appear in various media outlets due to the fame they have gained through these platforms.

He continues, “At the beginning of my artistic career, I did not pay much attention to social media and its importance in introducing us to the audience. The number of people who knew me as an artist was limited and small. However, after entering the world of social media, especially platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, I noticed a significant difference in attracting audiences from various Yemeni provinces, spreading our works rapidly, and gaining numerous followers and admirers for our works in many Arab and foreign countries, especially in the Middle East, Europe, and America.”

Activities on Social Media Contribute to Reviving Heritage

On the first of July every year, Yemenis celebrate Yemeni Song Day. Social media platforms witness an electronic campaign carried out by activists in the field of art and heritage, through the dissemination of hashtags that express the occasion across all social media platforms. The goal is to revive Yemeni musical heritage, promote it, emphasize the importance of documenting it, and preserve it from disappearing. Additionally, they share numerous traditional songs from various Yemeni provinces that possess diverse musical styles. They also share photos of well-known singers, artists, poets, composers, and Yemeni writers.

Activists in the field of musical heritage affirm that awareness campaigns on social media about Yemeni Song Day have helped in spreading Yemen’s diverse musical heritage to different parts of the world and introducing the younger generations to the beauty, splendor, and importance of preserving Yemeni traditional songs.

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