Zāmil lives in War-torn Yemen

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Photographic Source: اليمن الجمهوري

by Emily Sumner
Graduate Student in Arabic Literature, Culture & Media
Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota

In the celebrated Yemeni novel الرهينة (The Hostage) by Zayd Mutee‘ Dammaj, the protagonist, a hostage of the imam, is greeted by the soldiers living in the governor’s palace with verses of a zāmil:

يا دويدار قد أمك فاقدة لك.

دمعها كالمطر

Oh Duwaydar, your mother misses you

Her tears are like rain[1]

The inclusion of zawāmil in a Yemeni novel is indicative of their place in Yemeni life. Zawāmil accompany Yemen’s poignant historical moments, such as the fall of the imamate and establishment of the Republic. They are a lively component of Yemen’s cultural heritage, shedding light on its people’s social, political and literary history.

The footnote to the above zāmil in The Hostage defines it as a “traditional communal chant,”  نشيد جماعي تقليدي. A reductionist definition, yet it does get at the heart of what scholars have consistently said about this poetic genre: it expresses communal feeling and is performed by a group in response to a social occasion. In the case of The Hostage, the arrival of the Duwaydar prompts the zāmil; other moments that may inspire Yemenis to perform zawāmil are as divergent as the joy of weddings and the trials of war.

In his book Folk Literature Arts in Yemen (1988), ‘Abd Allāh al-Baraddūnī suggests that the zawāmil were dwindling at that time for a variety of reasons, chief among them the advent of modern weapons, which he claims stifle the zāmil’s pervasive sounds and rhythm. He contrasts the days when lines of men marched to battle while chanting a zāmil, their voices echoing in the air and overtaking their surroundings, with soldiers’ voices contained within moving cars. He concludes by asserting the zāmil is being reduced to “merely moral incitement, or the extension of a declining practice.”[2]

Yet the proliferation of zawāmil during the current war indicates their continued salience in Yemeni life and the ways in which Yemenis adapt cultural forms to suit novel circumstances. Al-Baradduni is not wrong—the zāmil is “moral incitement,” but perhaps the term “merely” is misplaced. The various sides of the current armed conflict, whether Houthis, pro-government forces, or supporters of the Coalition, compose zawāmil that are available not only to Yemenis but to a much wider audience on social media. The zāmil reverberates within Yemen and beyond its borders.

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By way of example, below is one popular Houthi zāmil retrieved from YouTube, along with my translation:

أداء: عيسى الليث

كلمات: محمد الجرف

وقت النقا حان ويل المعتدي ويله 1.     إستنفري ياجيوش الله في مأرب
والجن والإنس والأملاك تصغي له 2.     جنود ربي حماة الدار تتأهب
وبندقي في الخصم يدي مواويله 3.     الله أكبر صداها في الحشا يلهب
يابندقي لاهنت سامرني الليله 4.     صنعاء بعيده قولوا له الرياض أقرب
كلاً حزم عدته واسرج على خيله 5.     القوم شبت نكفها للقاء ترغب
حتى ولو في بطون الأرض نأتي له 6.     قولوا لسلمان ماله مننا مهرب
المعتدي يالغبي يبشر بتنكيله[3] 7.     هذا اليمن من تجاهلنا فقد جرب

 

Vocals: ‘Isa al-Laith

Words: Mohamad al-Jaraf

  1. Get ready for war, armies of Allah in Ma’rib!

The time for honesty has come. Woe to the aggressor, woe to him!

  1. My Lord’s soldiers, the protectors of the land, are getting ready.

The jinn, humans and angels all heed Him.

  1. “Allah is great!” Its echo blazes inside [of them].

My rifle in the conflict performs its songs.

  1. Sanʿaʾ is far away, tell him Riyadh is closer!

Oh my rifle  – may God protect you from humiliation – keep me     company tonight.

  1. The people’s disdain blazes and they crave an encounter.

Everyone has fastened their weapon and saddled their horse.

  1. Tell Salman he will never escape us!

Even in the bowels of the Earth we will get to him.

  1. This is Yemen! Whoever ignored us has learned his lesson!

The aggressor – that idiot – heralds his own destruction!

————————————————————————————-

[1] p. 18, translation my own.

[2] p. 147.

[3] Al-Laith, ʿĪsā, “Zāmil Ṣanʿāʾ baīdah qūlū lahu ar-Riyāḍ aqrab.” YouTube video, 5:36, posted by

Shamūkh Yamānī, December 31, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tRFJdzQwZw. Accessed February 23, 2020.

الإعلان عن إطلاق موقع يمن ابديت اون لين

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الإعلان عن إطلاق موقع  يمن ابديت اون لين

ينشر موقع يمن ابديت اون لاين البحوث والدراسات اليمنية بما في ذلك المقالات المهنية بلغتين العربية والانجليزي و مراجعات الكتب والتقارير التي يصدرها باحثو وزملاء المعهد الأمريكي للدراسات اليمنية. تتم الإضافات والتحديثات على مدار العام بعد تقديمها والموافقة على نشرها من قبل المحررين. وان كانت المقالات اقل من الف كلمة فسيتم نشرها كنص في الإنترنت. بينما يتم نشر المقالات والموضوعات الأطول بصيغة بي. دي. أف لأمكانية نسخها من الموقع. ويتخذ المحررون قرار الموافقة على نشرها. ان رغبتم في تقديم صور او رسومات يجب ان تكونوا اصحاب الحق في نشرها اولديكم اذناً بذل. أما بقية حقوق الطبع فهي للكاتب. التفاصيل على الموقع

Announcing Yemen Update Online

Yemen Update Online publishes research in English and Arabic in any field of Yemen Studies. This includes professional articles of any length, book reviews and AIYS fellowship reports. Items will be added throughout the calendar year as they are submitted and approved by the editors. If the article is less than 1,000 words it will be published as text online, but longer articles will be published as pdfs to be downloaded from the site. Decisions on publication are made by the editors. If you are submitting photographs or drawings, make sure that you have permission to do so.  All rights remain with the author. For details, check out the website.

Why Yemen Matters

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The forum “Why Yemen Matters: The Heritage of a Land in Crisis” was held at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton on February 19, 2020, sponsored by the Near Eastern Studies program under the leadership of Dr. Sabine Schmidtke. Speaking at the event were AIYS members Najwa Adra, Nathalie Peutz and Dan Varisco. Present in the audience was AIYS board member Tarek Al-Wazir.

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(left to right): Dan Varisco, Nathalie Peutz, Hassan Ansari, Najwa Adra, Glen Bowersock, Sabine Schmidtke, Christian Robin

Yemen’s war and humanitarian crisis are in the news, but very little is known about the rich cultural heritage of the southwestern corner of Arabia throughout history. Also largely unknown are Yemen’s geographic and economic diversity or their impact on recent events. Yemen’s diversity owes much to conquest, trade, and migration between Yemen and Christian Ethiopia, Sassanian and Islamic Iran, Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt, Ottoman Turkey, the African coast and Southeast Asia. In this panel experts on different periods of Yemeni history and its diverse contemporary contexts probe beyond current politics to share their insights and discuss potentials for future scholarly research on Yemen.

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Dan Varisco speaking on the historical diversity of Islam in Yemen.

Why Yemen Matters

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Yemen’s war and humanitarian crisis are in the news, but very little is known about the rich cultural heritage of the southwestern corner of Arabia throughout history. Also largely unknown are Yemen’s geographic and economic diversity or their impact on recent events. Yemen’s diversity owes much to conquest, trade, and migration between Yemen and Christian Ethiopia, Sassanian and Islamic Iran, Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt, Ottoman Turkey, the African coast and Southeast Asia. In this panel experts on different periods of Yemeni history and its diverse contemporary contexts probe beyond current politics to share their insights and discuss potentials for future scholarly research on Yemen.

There will be a Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Why Yemen Matters: The Heritage of a Land in Crisis,at the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton on Feb. 19, from 5:00-6:30 pm. This Panel Discussion presents current IAS Scholars:  Najwa Adra (IAS), Hassan Ansari (IAS), Glen Bowersock (IAS), Nathalie Peutz (New York University Abu Dhabi), Christian Robin (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris), Sabine Schmidtke (IAS), and Daniel M. Varisco (American Institute for Yemeni Studies).

The meeting will be held in the White-Levy room at IAS. This event is part of the Near Eastern Studies Workshops sponsored by Professor Sabine Schmidtke (IAS). RSVP to nitschke@ias.edu.

Ecumenical Scene in Aden in 1888

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صورة نادرة في عدن تجمع كل الجنسيات والديانات
عدن بلاد التعايش السلمي والتسامح ولقاء الحضارات.. اعتبرها سكانها أم الدنيا الثانية ومدينة عالمية!

صورة قديمة تعود لعام 1888 ميلادية للسكان في عدن آنذاك وهم من الجنسيات التالية: [صومالي ، بارسي (ايراني) ، صيني ، نوبي(سوداني) ، عربي ، سيخي وبينيان (هندي) ، يهودي …].
وهذا لا يعني بأن هذه الصورة توحي بأن عدن مفروغة من اهلها العرب الاقحاح ، لكن نسبة كبيرة من الوافدين بقوا وآخرين رحلوا..وهذا طبيعي في مدن منفتحة على الخارج بالنظر لموقعها مثل غيرها من المدن الساحلية في اليمن وسواها . والتشدق بالعرق الواحد واللون الواحد والسلالة الواحدة بداهة هو ضربا من العنصرية.
كانت صنعاء ومدن شمال اليمن تستورد الاحذية الجلد الاصلية من عدن صنع محلي بينيان ، ولهذا تسمى ” قنطرة بينيان” من صناعة الجالية الهندية في عدن وربما تستورد عن طريقهم من الهند باعتبار عدن محطة في طريق شركة الهند الشرقية .
وإذا كانت القاهرة قد وصفت بجدارة بأنها أم الدنيا، اي انها احتضنت عبر تاريخها ما لا يحصى ولا يعد من مختلف جنسيات العالم بل من كل جنسيات وطوائف وملل ونحل وأديان العالم..يرى سكانها : “ ان مدينة عدن هي ايضا يجب ان توصف بأنها أم الدنيا -الثانية على الأقل- ولا يحتاج القارئ الحصيف ذو العقل المشرق النبيه المنصف المنطقي الى أدلة تلو الادلة ليقتنع بأن عدن مدينة عالمية مثلها مثل هونج كونج لكن مع فارق التطور الاقتصادي لكن بالنسبة للتطور الحضاري فهي لا تقل درجة عن غيرها من المدن المتحضرة لكن حضها عاثر للأسف انها المدينه التي تميزت بقدرتها على استيعاب كل الثقافات وكل من سكن فيها من البشر على اختلاف ثقافاتهم وجنسياتهم ودياناتهم وعاشوا وتعايشوا مع غيرهم من الطوائف والجنسيات فيها بوئام وسلام وطمأنينة وتسامح فهل نجد عدن الام الحاضنة ونجد ناسها الطيبين”. هذا على حد تعبيرهم..

من شبكة فيسبوك لمحمد محمد احمد البعجري

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003284068136‎

Nancy Um on Mocha in Chicago

“From City to Text to Image: Pieter van den Broecke and Safi ibn Vali in Seventeenth-Century Mocha”
by Nancy Um (SUNY Binghamton)

Friday, February 14
, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
Neubauer Collegium
University of Chicago
5701 S. Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL

In this talk, Nancy Um will examine two seventeenth-century images of the Red Sea port of Mocha in Yemen. The first is an etching by Adriaen Matham, which was published in the journal of the Dutch East India Company merchant Pieter van den Broecke. The other is a painting that appeared in a pilgrimage narrative written by Safi ibn Vali, a Persian scholar who was sponsored by Zib al-Nisa, the daughter of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The two images will be placed in dialogue, with a consideration of the complicated relationships that were sustained between port city spaces, travel narratives, and image genres in the seventeenth century, a time when Red Sea travel, for both trade and pilgrimage, generated considerable visual interest.

This event is sponsored by the Interwoven project at the Neubauer Collegium. This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who need an accommodation in order to participate should contact the Neubauer Collegium at collegium@uchicago.edu or 773.795.2329.