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Yemeni Social and Religious Occasions: Reviving the Musical Heritage and Ensuring Its Continuity

Sawt Al-Amal (Voice of Hope) – Alia Mohammed

Yemeni singing is one of the most important elements of Yemeni cultural heritage and is very popular among the Yemeni people. It varies between folk, religious, and urban songs and is an integral part of Yemenis’ lives and social events.

Social occasions are one of the most prominent means of reviving the singing heritage and constitute an important turning point in the lives of Yemenis, and an opportunity to preserve their traditions and customs; as they look forward to holding events to celebrate and express their culture and heritage. Thanks to these occasions, Yemenis have been able to preserve their heritage and pass it on to future generations, which has contributed to the communication between previous and current generations and ensured its continuity.

In this report, we shed light on the most important social occasions that work to revive the Yemeni folk heritage and the most prominent social customs and traditions that have affected the circulation of the traditional song.

Cultural and Social Occasions

Yahya Muhammad Yahya, an enthusiast of traditional songs, believes that social, cultural, and heritage events are among the most important means that have contributed to the revival of the Yemeni singing heritage. This is achieved through organizing many festivals and cultural events in various regions of Yemen that contribute to the promotion of traditional arts, such as music, dance and folk poetry.

He says: “Various social occasions of all kinds provide an opportunity for young people to learn about their history and singing heritage and enhance their cultural values. Social rituals and ceremonies, such as weddings, celebrations, and religious occasions, also play a major and vital role in promoting traditional songs. These songs are circulated and shared during these events to become part of the social and cultural experience of the community.”

Adding: “The social occasions in which Yemeni songs are performed vary, the most prominent of which are weddings, holidays, and religious occasions, and singing in them is an important part of expressing feelings and emotions and contributes to creating an atmosphere of happiness and joy; due to the diversity of melodies and lyrics that characterize Yemeni songs.”

In a related context, Omar Muhammad, a writer and music distributor, confirms that social customs and traditions have greatly affected the circulation of traditional songs, on the basis that these songs are an integral part of the cultural and social heritage of Yemeni society in various governorates. Due to the diversity of melodies and lyrics that reflect the heritage and culture of the Yemeni people, they deal with social and cultural issues that express the lives of Yemenis.

He pointed out that Yemeni wedding parties are among the most social occasions in which Yemeni artists excel and innovate in presenting the traditional Yemeni singing art in an influential way; as the styles of songs sung at weddings differ from one place to another, and the songs of weddings in Yemen are distinguished by their popular and deeply traditional character. They vary between traditional, popular and contemporary songs, as well as the musical instruments used in their performance, ranging from drums to lutes and other modern instruments.

“Hudayni Wa Hudani Wa Doon…Sawt Al-Idan Shagani Ya Hadun

Haddinu Qalat Ummahu Ya Hadun Urus Wa Rabbi Yitimmahu Ya Hadun

Haddant Lak Ya Muhalla Ya Hadun Wa Mushtara Wa Mumanna Wa Hadun

Umm Al-Aroos Gabirooha Ya Hadun…Tiba Fuloos Sallifooha Ya Hadun

“Hudayni” is a prominent Yemeni folk song that is sung at weddings and celebrations in Lahj Governorate. It is characterized by its sweet and moving performance, making listeners feel connected to its lyrics and melodies. Despite its age, the song remains popular at weddings in many governorates in southern Yemen.

Mahajil and Ahazij: The Most Prominent Traditional Arts

“Al-Yawm Wallah Wallah Daim…Ya Shahr Nisaan Ayn Al-Masayil..

Ayn Al-Ghamama Ayn Al-Asayil…Ya Tayr Ghanni Fawq Al-Khamayil…

Al-Ward Yarqus Wa Al-Ghusn Mayil”

With these words and chants, the Yemeni people stand out with a lyrical style that is repeated by simple Yemeni farmers and sung by women in the morning and evening, especially in the Yemeni countryside. Mahajil is one of the most prominent traditional arts that spread in the Yemeni countryside, characterized by combining music, singing, and dancing. Its performance is popular at weddings and social occasions. Additionally, Mahajil is characterized by its fast and lively rhythm and the dancers’ ability to perform precise and rapid movements.

Mahajil is famous for its reliance on traditional musical instruments, such as the tambourine, drum, and cymbals, and is distinguished by its folk rhythms and simple melodies that captivate the audience. It is a means of strengthening social cohesion and communication between members of society. Furthermore, Mahajil is a means of attracting tourists and promoting cultural tourism in Yemen, as tourists from all over the world come to enjoy its wonderful, lively, and exciting performances.

In addition, Yemen is famous for its folk Ahazij, which are used to express all human emotions in all their diversity and volatility, from joy to sadness, longing, and nostalgia. The coastal areas of Yemen are famous for singing these Ahazij, which rely on beautiful melodies and moving lyrics that address various topics appropriate to the occasion, whether joyful or sad, reflecting the feelings of the Yemeni people and expressing various cultural and social aspects of society.

Moreover, Yemeni Ahazij are a means of transmitting Yemeni folk and cultural heritage to future generations, carrying within them a rich history and a long-standing legacy that must be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Yemeni Muwashahat and Religious Occasions

Yemen is famous for its diverse Muwashahat and anthems, the most prominent of which are the Sana’a and Hadrami styles, among others. They are considered popular arts that have distinguished Yemeni culture throughout the ages, and this art is one of the most prominent arts that Yemen abounds in, characterized by a religious and spiritual nature, and sung with a sweet voice and calm music.

Historically, the art of Yemeni Muwashahat is one of the oldest forms of folk art in Yemen; it was used as a means to express feelings of joy, longing, and flirtation, in addition to praise and glorification. It was sung at religious and social occasions. Muwashahat and anthems were classified into several types, the most prominent of which are general Muwashahat that are sung in the Miqyal (a social occasion) and poems of praise, glorification, and thanks, in addition to Muwashahat praising the prophet and longing for him, and poems of joy, flirtation, and pride that are sung at weddings and celebrations in general.

Singer Abdallah Salih says: “Muwashahat is an essential element in the Yemeni cultural heritage and an ancient cultural heritage characterized by a semi-classical Arabic language that expresses feelings. It is also one of the most prominent forms of artistic expression in Yemeni culture and was previously used as a means to express feelings and ideas, and was sung at religious and social occasions such as weddings and celebrations.”

He explained that Muwashahat and anthems are some of the oldest Yemeni traditional arts that still maintain their authenticity and beauty despite the current development and the introduction of many different styles in Yemeni singing that have deprived some Yemeni songs of their historical and aesthetic spirit.

Social occasions in Yemen, from weddings, festivals, events, and holidays, have created a fertile environment for preserving the singing heritage in all Yemeni governorates with all its colors and patterns. These events contribute to transmitting this heritage from one generation to another, enhancing the feeling of belonging, and fostering opportunities for the emergence of new talents that help spread and develop the Yemeni singing heritage. Social occasions also helped in forming an interactive environment that encourages everyone to participate in spreading the culture of traditional singing and raising awareness of its importance, in addition to strengthening communication between the different regions and tribes of Yemen.

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