Printer Friendly

Houthi poetry and songs: Propaganda, art or both?

The Houthi movement's official musical group, Firqa Ansar Allah, sings popular songs like "Ma Nabali," meaning "we don't care."

The power of music and words isn't news. Throughout history, wars were started, fought, and brought to an end with the uttering of a single word. Likewise, music has been used to move the masses.

In 2011 Yemen saw a reemergence of these techniques during the country's anti-government uprising. Poetry and music were used to rouse emotions and convey political and social messages. Most recently, these artistic forms of expression have also served the Houthis' (a religious group from the country's north that has morphed into a political grouping) ascent to power.

Salah Al-Dakak, a poet who represented the Houthis at the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), says he feels compelled to support the Houthi cause through his craft.

"As artists and writers, our only way to support those struggling against the regime was through our poems, it was our duty."

He said this was especially true during the Houthis' six wars against the central government from 2004-2010.

Al-Dakak said that he wrote the following lines when visiting the shrine of Hussein Badr Al-Deen Al-Houthi, the founder of the Houthi movement:

Oh Master of the weak, you have surrounded them [the enemy],

Smugness and arrogance reign no more,

If they attack you, your arms are like lightening bolts,

Shedding their blood, turning it into rain for the soil,

You're grandeur is too complex for them to understand

The artist is selective about whom he shares his craft with.

"I don't publish my poems in newspapers because most are owned and operated by political parties that have their own message and target audience," Al-Dakak said. "I sing them at Houthi events and share them on Facebook, in order to get them out to the widest audience possible, including those who differ with me on politics."

Many poems are uploaded to YouTube, where artists create music videos to go along with the poems. These videos include images and clips of speeches made by Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, the movement's current political and spiritual leader. Malik Al-Shami, a graphic designer and freelance film editor, has produced a number of these videos. His work primarily consists of mixing poems with speeches made by Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, adding sound and pictures taken in areas around Sa'ada and other cities.

Al-Shami's work is frequently broadcast on Al-Masira, the Houthis' official television network.

One of the most popular Houthi songs is "Ma Nabali" (We don't care), produced by Firqa Ansar Allah, the movement's official musical group, according to Al-Shami.

A video accompanying the song opens up with pictures of various Houthi leaders, including Al-Houthi standing next to his brother and the movement's founder.

What follows is an eclectic mix of shots and images taken from various sources, carefully chosen to evoke feelings of pride, anger, and commitment to the movement's struggle, said Al-Shami.

These include shots of Houthi fighters in full military gear, interspersed with shots of the group's infamous sloganA[degrees]A[degrees]--"Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews, Victory to Islam."

These images are followed by news clips that show U.S. soldiers beating Iraqi prisoners during their occupation of the country. Finally, clips are taken from the film, "Lion of the Desert," directed by Syrian-American Mustafa Al-Akkad. The film depicts the life and times of Omar Al-Mukhtar, a Libyan jihadist who fought Italian occupation prior to World War II.

To some, the lyrics of the song suggest that the Houthis are eager to partake in a similar war:

We don't care

We don't mind launching a new world war

We ask for rifles

It's a shame to continue living like this

Struggling in the path of God, we've experienced the taste of bittersweet

We welcome death

Hello, oh demise

"Armies tend to have ballads and hymns that encourage their soldiers to be brave in battle," said Dr. Amal Abbas, a professor of psychology at Taiz University. "For the Houthis, these poems and songs are their hymns."

However their appeal is not limited to Houthis.

"Many poems speak to and inspire people from all sectors of society. They're an effective way to mobilize crowds and inspire people," she said.

Bassam Al-Shariabi, a taxi driver who considers himself politically independent, likes listening to Houthi songs and poetry on 99.1 Sam FM, a local radio station affiliated with the movement.

Most of the time, he lets those he's driving decide what they want to listen to. However, when he's alone, he prefers Houthi affiliated songs. "There are more than 13 radio channels in Sana'a. Islah members listen to Hayati FM, while Saleh supporters like Yemen FM," Al-Shariabi said. "I'm not a big supporter of any side, but I like listening to Houthi songs because of the sound. They're beautiful and have great lyrics."

Like Al-Dakak, Muad Al-Junaid, a well-known Yemeni poet, has recently made it a policy to only recite poetry at protests and events that are officially organized and sponsored by the Houthis. His most recent poem was written after the Houthis entered and took over Sana'a on Sept. 21. He recited the poem in Tahrir Square the same day:

They are a few young men, who held a sit-in to support the uprising,

They are a few young men who believed in God, and so they united,

They're no longer cave men They've awakened from their slumber ...

Shocked by what they saw in caves filled with silence ...

Oh, how long have they been asleep!!

... We have wasted years being silent in the face of injustice...we were lost...our country was lost...

But they woke up!! Rejecting submission they flounced, and launched an uprising supported by God...

Al-Junaid, a member of the Hashimite family and thus an alleged descendant of the prophet Muhammad, first rose to prominence in 2008 after appearing on a popular poetry competition series, "Poem Challenge," broadcast on the Saudi Fawasil TV Channel.

He performed, "Hod Hod Suleiman," a sonnet that speaks of love and infatuation. Al-Junaid won second place in the competition.

Later, during Yemen's 2011 anti-government uprising, Al-Junaid was one of the first poets to protest in Freedom Square in Taiz city. He wrote hymns denouncing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

While Al-Junaid was known as the "Revolution's Poet," clearly siding with anti-government protestors, work from some of Al-Junaid's collegues is not as polticially clear.

During the beginning of 2011, both protestors and supporters of Saleh would listen to songs by Ayoub Taresh. His work centered on themes of patriotism and duty to one's country.

Oh my country, my country, oh Yemen, I salute you, until the end of time,

I salute all men who have struggled for Yemen

Three years later, Al-Junaid is a vocal advocate of the Houthi movement.

"After the 2011 uprising, some political parties imposed their agenda on Yemenis and turned against the revolution, using it as a means to cover up their own corruption. It was necessary that a new uprising be launched in order to correct the old one."

Copyright Yemen Times. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. ( ).
COPYRIGHT 2014 SyndiGate Media Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Dec 4, 2014
Previous Article:AQAP claims attack on Houthi positions in Rada'a.
Next Article:'Death to America': Would you like some chicken with that?

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |