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  • Seiyun Popular Arts Group

    CountryYemen
    Genrescoastal roots taarab traditional
    FestivalSauti za Busara 2005
    Seiyun Popular Arts Group
    Seiyun Popular Arts Group

    Hadhramaut has a long history of association with the maritime routes between the Swahili Coast of Africa, the Arab World and India, absorbing centuries of musical and cultural influences. The music of this part of the Republic of Yemen is rich in rhythms and varieties of instruments with songs and dances based around the daily lives of the local population who are almost exclusively Muslim. Songs also reflect work activities such as agriculture, fishing and seafaring. Here you will find instruments such as the simsimiya and tambura (lyres), mizmar (double clarinet) and a huge array of drums and African-influenced dances such as the liewa and bambila as well as traditional music of the nomadic Bedouin.

     

    It is estimated that in the 1930s some 90,000 Hadhramis, out of a population of 260,000, had migrated at some time in their lives. The return journey was equally popular, at least until the advent of the communist regime in 1967. Familes would send their sons home to absorb their Hadhrami heritage and they brought with them a taste for Indian rhythms and styles of playing. The Sultan of Mukalla (the main Hadhrami port on the Arabian Sea) fostered a music group which played exclusively Indian and European music. As well as the music, much of the architecture shows a distinct Indian flavour with its embroided window blinds and carved balconies still visible in the old quarter of Makulla today.

    The Seiyun Popular Arts Group is one of the best and oldest groups in the region founded in 1963. Led by Shukri Hassan Baraja, it boasts over forty musicians and dancers including both men and women (of which nine people will be here for the Festival in Zanzibar). The group has played at many festivals all over Yemen as well as other countries including Jordan, France and UK. Its repertoire includes traditional Hadhrami and Bedouin songs as well as material sung in a dynamic fusion of Arabic, Swahili and Hindi languages. Instruments include violin, oud, ney (flutes), qanun and percussion.

    (excerpts from Diaspora Music Village UK Festival Programme with thanks to Paul Hughes-Smith)