During more than five decades, the great Yemeni artist (Ayoob Tarish) was able to occupy an exceptional status among Yemeni singers that few other musicians had. The map of his popularity extends from Sa'ada to Al-Mahra, and his songs became part of daily practices in public life, not only because he expressed the sentiments of the broader segments of society, but also because he was the most similar and closer to its people. His songs exercised their presence away from the artificiality and pedantry, so they were simple and understandable. It cannot be dealt with apart from the context of its artistic formation, its reality and the country's social, cultural and political perspectives.
Ayoob came from rural origins, and those “peasant” roots are not wrong with him, because he, like most of his generation, was one of those who moved from the countryside to the cities. In contrast to the dominance of his Taizi dialect over his singing, he is always distinguished by the fact that he sang for all Yemenis; His melodic vocabulary formed a common denominator for many Yemeni musical elements, adding to it part of his influence of his favorite musician, Mohammad Abdel Wahhab. However, he succeeded in making this influence hidden, but it will appear in the composition of his melodic tools and the talent of his voice.
Perhaps Ayoob benefited from elements present in the Al-Hujaria area, such as “Al-Mahajel” or “Al-Malalat”, but he was able to use many other sources which produced a lyrical personality unlike any other, and was able to reach every house in Yemen. Thus, he became one of the great symbols in Yemeni singing.
Therefore, it is expected that any criticism directed at him will raise this huge amount of reactions that were circulated recently on social media, which is nothing but an embodiment of the status he has acquired, and before that we can recognize that through the presence of his songs in the daily routines of Yemenis.
However, most of the controversy remained far from Ayoob's art, starting with an approach that adopted the literary criteria in criticizing him, leading to plenty of reactions that were characterized of being convulsive and exaggerated. Rather, it sought to confuse the personal with the general, in a scene that perpetuates a mentality that rejects difference, with the prohibitions it adopts in art, such as religion and politics.
This is what calls us to restore the author of the song “Whatever Nostalgia haunts me” back to its context, with the artistic archive he produced that enriched Yemeni art, far from excessive sensitivity which seeks to create untouchable symbols.
And I will restore the point of view of the Russian musician (Igor Stravinsky) when he expressed his dissatisfaction with the monopoly of the of literature intellectuals on music criticism. He also requested them to leave the music to the lyrical critics, and this does not mean that criticism of singing is prohibited for a certain group; because everyone talks about it, but we have to separate between private taste from specialized criticism.
It does not mean that I play the role of a specialized critic, but I will definitely try to challenge some arguments that have nothing to do with art. The singer of "Mahlneesh" has an artistic career that was characterized by a special context that cannot be compared to others, and perhaps what distinguishes him is his unique singing identity that has become a character that cannot be copied.
Moreover, if we go back to the rural roots, then it cannot be treated as a imperfection, as I have said before and indicated, since the great singer Umm Kulthum "Star of the East" began her singing wearing a turban, coming from the countryside; In contrast to her great talent and unique voice, in Cairo she was affected by the social and cultural conditions, which contributed to her development when she came into contact with musicians, poets, and intellectuals. She was present within an Egyptian art community that was experiencing a golden era, and all of this contributed to refining her singing character.
However, those roots also made Um Kulthum more flexible, as her style was not limited to satisfying elitist taste, especially in her decorative character, but also made her close to the popular sense. This helped her in her artistic career to satisfy different generations and diverse groups, to become the voice and symbol of the Egyptians. This does not mean that her art or her person is untouchable.
Certainly, there is a wide gap between two different experiences, as the author of the Yemeni national anthem had grown in a poorer artistic community and in less civilized environment. Yemen at that time was rapidly emerging from a dark age which was as close to primitive as possible, and the musical tools, whether academic or professional, were very scarce.
Thus, Ayoob is almost an example of a self-made, self-reliant career, and in this respect he did not have the same conditions as the art community that existed in Aden during the fifties and sixties. However, this did not constitute an obstacle for him to impose himself as one of the most popular and influential Yemeni artists at the local level.
On the other hand, the beauty of a song should not be classified because it is first of all of a good poetry, but rather because it is a good melody. And if we go back to the history of singing, we will find that many of the lyrical masterpieces were not characterized by high poetry, but on the contrary; The high poetic workmanship is more difficult to formulate melodiously, compared to the easy and ordinary ones.
For example, during the nineteenth century and before, popular art, such as opera, relied on many vulgar poetic expressions because the essence of opera music is melodic and dramatic expression. The same goes for later forms of music, such as jazz, rock, and pop; We will see limited exceptions that were distinguished by fine poetry, such as "Bob Dylan" and "Tom Waits".
While we will find a lot of what Umm Kulthum or Abdel Wahhab sang relied on ordinary poetry, unlike some beautiful snapshots, but what characterized that artistic era, he devoted his attention to composing the poem as the highest level of singing, which produced some great lyric poems.
Accordingly, criticizing the singer Ayoob Tarish according to the perception that he does not possess a high literary taste, is not considered a defect in him, as we have previously pointed out. The singer has his own potential tools to express himself, and the art of singing does not often require high poetic formulas. And if we talk about the Egyptian musician and composer Sayed Darwish, can we detract him because much of his melodies, which we classify as vulgar or ordinary poetry? of course no; Because its importance lies in the melodic formulas he left which contributed to the renewal of Egyptian and Arabic singing.
Further, his artistic intelligence was not personal cunning as much as it revealed a great talent that dealt with the available tools and adapted them to its best. Far from what many classify based on a regional impression, including some of his fanatics, the owner of "The Bird of the West" refused to be confined to certain geographical boundaries, to collect in his singing a formula expressive of all Yemenis.
It does not mean that lyrical poetry is equal in expression and art, as there is also a difference in its sublime, ordinary, and even vulgar styles. However, a few exceptions to what was sung are characterized by high poetic formulas that can be approached with what the art of poetry has reached outside of singing.
On the level of lyrical poetry, there are many sublime lyrical expressions that Ayoob sang, and this should not be related to his poetic taste only, as circumstances allow an artist to deal with good poets, and it is the circumstance that brought him together with lyric poets, such as Abdullah Abdel Wahhab Noman "Al Fadhool".
In a reductive way, Ayoob's artistic status can be dealt with according to his context. It is a real lyrical phenomenon that was able to express the sentiment of the majority of Yemenis with its simplicity and spontaneity. Besides, his artistic brilliance cannot be measured by complex melodic structures - because it is a reflection of the reality in which he lived, and was in contact with it artistically and socially - but rather by what this artistic phenomenon achieved.
Furthermore, his artistic intelligence was not personal cunning as much as it revealed a great talent that dealt with the available tools and adapted them to its best. Far from what many classify based on a regional impression, including some of his fanatics, the owner of "Oh Bird of the West" refused to be confined to certain geographical boundaries, to collect in his singing a formula expressive of all Yemenis.
Ayoob was influenced by the Sana’ani and Lahji lyrical styles, as well as by Al-Adani and Al-Hadrami songs in addition to Arab influences. In more than one interview, he always confirmed his love for the Egyptian musician, Mohammed Abdel Wahhab. Its advantage is that it expresses these different elements with its expressive spontaneity, thus forming the lyrical vocabulary that went deeply in the hearts of Yemenis and became a part of them.