Yemeni Music and Folkloric Dances

UNISCO has considered the San’ani type of song as an immaterial cultural heritage for humanity which should be saved and maintained. The San’ani songs come around love and flirtation and often end with the praising of  Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him.  Most of the San’ani songs are derived from the Humaini lyrical poetry school which doesn’t exactly apply the standard Arabic grammar as it is a combination of both local dialects and standard Arabic.



Types of Yemeni Musical instruments:


The old Sana’ani Oud (Lute):  The old Yemeni Oud which is called the "Kanbous" and known in Sana’a as "Turbi" is a one piece instrument. Its body and neck are carved out from a half-trunk of a slim coconut tree, and being cut linearly and graved from inside to form the Oud's cavity.  Only, the Oud's head (Pegbox) which contains the keys (Pegs) is being carved from a separate piece of wood and attached to the nick with a special glue made of cow-legs called "Akab", while the Oud's chest being covered with goats’ leather.


At the right outer side there is the bridge in which strings are attached, then, there is a small piece of wood called Gazala, which is placed over the leather on the middle of the Oud transferring  those strings coming from the bridge to a small white ivory piece placed at end of the neck called the nut, through which the strings are being transferred to the  head (Pegbox) to be attached to the keys (Pegs).


The number of keys (Pegs) in the Yemeni Oud are seven among which three are dual and one is single, where four natural strings made of Goats-Gut being attached to them. A falcon's feather is being used by the singer - while playing music - to click on the rings.


Reed pipe (Flute):  It is a melodious sound instrument made of hollow reeds and opened from both sides. It has six holes in the front side where the first group of three are a little bit far from the other three holes group, in addition to a middle hole from the back. All those holes are opened according to the calculated proportions of the Arabic musical scale.



Violin: It is a four strings musical instrument featured with its most melodious sounds, and considered as one of the most famous instruments being used in classic music. It is the highest and noblest bow stringed instrument that expresses emotions.


This instrument and its family have competed with all other stringed instruments and became the dominant over them since two centuries except the piano, but it could not weaken the violin's position or decrease its dominant level, as violin and piano have no contradiction because each one has its own feature.


Violin is a more expressive stringed instrument because it can reflect all human emotions and expressions, while some others believe that it expresses the sensations, emotions and even the strongest wrath and desperation due to the diversity of playing techniques which gave it a strong expression force.


Dulcimer: It is a stringed instrument which is more famous in eastern orchestra and solo playing. It is enriched with melodious sound and reached a prominent position due to its broader vocal space feature, as it has about three and half octaves that make it able to covers all Arabic musical keys. We can say that dulcimer is the law or constitution for all Arabic musical instruments, while  it could be considered - in terms of importance -  as the basic mother instrument in the East as it is with piano in the West, because other musical instruments are depending on it to adjust their melodies, in addition to its centered position in the middle of Arabic orchestra music.



Folklore dances:



Yemen is the origin of folklore, and its name is being enforced while talking about humanitarian reference of the most superior folklore arts, that based on deep-rooted and distinguished folklore through which a lot of other singing spectrums were launched. Yemen has more than one hundred folkloric dances divided to three general types:


Zafeen: It is a dance performed by two dancers who dance on the tones and melodies of popular musical instruments in the presence of many audiences gathered in a circular of rectangular shape. This dance can be also performed by a man and a women.


Sharh: It is a dance performed along with melody and rhythm among a group of audiences gathered in a big circle participating with clubbing and singing. This dance is performed by two dancers and one of them could be a woman in specific areas.


Bara' : It is a dance performed along with drums, where audiences are gathering in a big circle in the middle of which there will be two or three dancers holding Janbiyas (daggers) in their hands and shaking them while dancing.


Known as a war dance, Bara' is the most popular folkloric dance  in Yemen which is varied according to areas and tribes. Among the different types of Bara', here are the Hamdani, Tihami, Harithi, Yafiee and Maribi, but each type is distinguished by its own music and motion's speed.




Folkloric chants (Zawamil):

It is one of the Yemeni authentic folklore arts which comes along with a certain type of dance. It is performed by Yemenis all over the country from  Sa'da to Mahra province forming the unity and identity of the Yemeni nation.


Centuries ago, Arabian Peninsula had known such types of chants (Zawamil) and their accompanied dances, and when we have a look at the lyrics of  theses chants we find them forming a historical record and an epic of a whole nation's history, which is  considered as a reference for different historical events starting from the third century when Yemen had been attacked by Romans and Aksum up to now.


It is a heroic epic to defend land and defeat enemies, which is clear through the great deal of arms worn by the dancer while performing it.  Those lyrics, repeated by the poets, had shown the humanitarian advantage of chants  in solving complicated issues among tribes, as their poems had paved the way for reconciliation, throwing away disputes and revenge issues and helped in establishing treaties and covenants, and such humanitarian aspects are deserved to be written in golden letters. These poems had paid attention to the issues and concerns of the people and praised tribes, hospitality and receiving  guests in wedding cermonies. Chants had paid more attention to the poetical impact than dancing motion.