There is a great difference between the one who plays the instrument of death, and the one who plays the instrument of life, this is the variance here between the one who carries a violin and the last rifle.
In Yemen, which is suffocating with the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world - according to the United Nations - as a result of the war that has raged the country for six years by the conflicting parties, the sound of music is trying to rise above the sound of bullets and bombing which deafened the ears of the world to listen to the voices of Yemeni artists and creators.
In the current stage of artistic decline that Yemen is experiencing, with the absence of musical institutes and the disappearance of most of the artistic activities and events, some promising artistic youth attempts have recently emerged to confront the bitter reality with some joy of playing, learning music, and organizing some musical events which represent a resistance artistic movement in a time of hunger, fragmentation and destruction.
New musical era
Hadramout Governorate, located in eastern Yemen and occupies 36% of its area which is experiencing remarkable security stability, especially after the liberation of its coastal cities from the grip of Al-Qaeda in April 2016, has recently witnessed a great artistic and musical movement in constant attempts to overcome the conditions of war and peacemaking. According to statistics from the Association of Artists in the coast of Hadramout, the number of artists registered in the association reached (950) male and female artists, distributed over eight districts on the coast of the governorate.
Moreover, The Ministry of Culture office in Hadramout governorate has organized a number of training courses in the basics of playing and reading musical notes, the first of which was launched in the city of Mukalla with the participation of more than 50 trainees of both sexes in December 2020 and lasted for two weeks. This session was preceded by the implementation of two musical training sessions in the districts of Al Shihr and Gail Bawazir, last November. Further, the office of the Ministry of Culture in Wadi Hadramout carried out another course in the city of Shibam for a number of trainees on the twentieth of December last year.
Throughout all of these training courses, the male and female trainees have been familiar about the concept of reading musical notes and its theories, and some commonly used maqams, in addition to practical applications in the use of various musical instruments.
Perhaps what distinguishes these courses is the high turnout of young people of both sexes; In the coast of Hadramout, the percentage of girls' participation exceeded 30%, in an attempt to break the stereotype after years of the decline in the contribution of the female group in such courses which were limited to young males.
The Director General of the Office of the Ministry of Culture in the coast of Hadramout, Maher bin Saleh, in an exclusive statement to "Khuyut", pointed out the importance of implementing these technical courses, which come within the plans and activities of the Ministry's office, with the aim of moving the cultural stagnation in the governorate, and the country in general. These events were also Hadramout messages of peace to the world through art and music, as he described it. He added, "There are efforts by the Ministry's office, in cooperation with the Governor of Hadramout, to reopen the Muhammad Juma Khan Art Institute in Mukalla during the coming period."
Additionally, in April of 2019, the Yemeni music distributor, Muhammad al-Qahoum, organized the Hadrami music event “Hope from the Depth of Pain” as the first Yemeni orchestra to play since the outbreak of the war. The event was held in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, with the participation of about (90) orchestral and traditional musicians from Yemen, Malaysia and Japan and a number of other nationalities.
Moreover, on the first of July this year, Yemenis of all categories interacted on social media platforms to make a different day each year dedicated to the "Yemeni song", as it is an integral part of the Yemeni identity, and an essential factor in the cohesion of the social fabric of the country.
Concerning the birth of a new musical era, the music distributor, Muhammad al-Qahoum, told “Khuyut”: “Despite the great artistic and musical gap between the previous generation and the new generation, the artistic movement that is taking place today in our country, as well as the youth’s demand for academic musical study, and interaction with artistic events, sends a feeling of joy and optimism in the souls, and I can say that we are on the threshold of a new musical era if the wheel continues to run in this way.”
With the tunes of musical instruments, the Hadhramaut National Theater in the city of Mukalla has witnessed a musical concert on the 26th of last August on the occasion of the conclusion of the training project “Music Comes Back”, implemented by the Momaiz Art Initiative. The initiative represents a first attempt to establish and plant the seed of academic musical education, in the absence of Musical education in the country for nearly three decades.
Regarding the idea and objectives of this project, which lasted for three months, the co-founder of the Momaiz Artistic initiative, Shaima Ben Othman, said in an exclusive statement to "Khuyut": "The project aims at making up for the big shortfall in artistic activities, and to bridge the gap between young musicians and the music industry market at the local and global levels. She added, "The suffering of the war was a main motive for creating a safe artistic space for young talents. If we were living in a normal situation, we might not have thought about creating this initiative."
Moreover, the project aimed to build the capacity of (30) young participants on reading musical notes of Western and oriental music and Yemeni pieces, and to learn Solfaic rhythmic forms in two different scripts, in addition to the basics of Solfaic singing, group playing and unifying musical styles.
Challenges to the artistic movement
Although the Yemeni environment has flourished for centuries with artistic diversity which is an integral part of the local culture with a rich heritage of rhythm, melody and music. However, the absence of conservatories and modern academic education, and the poor interest of the state's in this field; have prevented the musical arts from flourishing and the development of its traditional styles.
The conditions of war, political conflicts, the restrictions of social customs and traditions, and the influence of extremist religious discourses have also posed other challenges in front of this artistic movement.
In the face of the repression, incitement and restrictions that affect some artists and workers in the artistic field, and despite their critical voices on the pretext that (the time is not right for art); Art project owners adhere to the necessity and importance of art, especially at this stage, in order to contribute to the consolidation of societal peace that guarantees freedoms of opinion and expression and advocacy of public issues.
Regarding the challenges facing Yemeni women in this field, Shaima Bin Othman expressed her fears and concern over the incitement of extremist voices in society against women's freedom to practice their musical and lyrical hobbies.
Music for Peace
"Music never makes us strangers", this saying embodies a factual reality today with the technological development, the speed of the Internet and the modern media that can - with the push of a button – to learn about hobbies and interest of people from around the world and connect with them.
Two people may quarrel politically, regionally, or religiously, but they may agree to love the same song, or melt in love with the sweetness of the voice of a particular artist or singer.
And about the role that music can contribute to creating a spirit of coexistence and peace among people, music distributor Muhammad Al-Qahoum said in his statement: "Throughout my work, I realized that music can unite and not divide, and create a bright image of the homeland."
Al-Qahoum stressed: "I receive various encouraging messages and beautiful reactions from followers of different nationalities and affiliations about the musical works we produce and publish, and this confirms that art is the language of the world and an authentic message of communication and rapprochement between peoples, regardless of their differences."
An open career market
In addition to the human value represented by the arts and music, they provide substantial value and profitable job opportunities for workers in this field; Because part of the crises the country is going through is unemployment crisis and the deterioration of the economic situation, diligence, innovation and development can turn the ordeal into a gain, as working in the music field is a fertile market for investment.
On the possibility of this market flourishing, the music distributor, Muhammad Al-Qahoum, explained to "Khuyut", that the music field is a major source of income, and many can profit from it by organizing celebrations and festivals or recording in studios, and producing various artworks that can be marketed and sold, because our country is rich in arts. The beauty that can be presented to the world, music remains the language of peace and the worldwide language.”
The artistic environment in Yemen deserves the support of government agencies to artists and creators by activating the roles of the offices of the Ministry of Culture in all governorates, to create new music and creative arts that contribute to alleviating the burdens of the conflict that has exhausted Yemenis. This story is missing one chapter to be completed; Stopping the war, establishing peace, and building a modern civil state, all of this is enough to make Yemen an artistic destination that captivates the hearts of the world.