[Marxism] From The Economist: "Jewish Music in Yemen: Shalom Sana'a"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 27 06:36:42 MST 2014

By: The Economist

Listening to its lyrics, is it not surprising that residents of Sana’a,
the Yemeni capital, are fond of Zion Golan's song "Sana’a al-Yemen
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37jWlhiwTLM>". The catchy tribute to the 
city’s charms is frequently heard blaring from stereos and minibus
speakers. "Come with me to Sana'a," Mr Golan sings in Yemeni Arabic.
"Sana'a, my home, you'll like it."

But although the lyrics refer to Sana’a as home, its singer has never
set foot in the city. As an Israeli Jew, it would be impossible for him
to do so without a second, non-Israeli, passport.

Mr Golan is one of more than 300,000 Israelis who trace their roots to
Yemen, once home to a significant Jewish community dating back to at
least the 2nd century. The bulk of Yemen’s Jews left when Israelcarried
out Operation Magic Carpet, an airlift in the wake of the state's 1948
foundation. Some were keen to escape Yemen's instability and poverty and 
instances of anti-Jewish violence. Others left more reluctantly, perhaps 
not wanting to be separated from family. Persecution continued; in 2007 
many Jews in the north had to hole up in a hotel to escape Islamists.

Today barely a hundred Jews remain. But cultural ties have survived.
Yemeni restaurants in Israel’s Tel Aviv serve traditional cuisine; some
markets discreetly stock qat, a leafy mild narcotic popular in Yemenand
the Horn of Africa. And Israelis of Yemeni descent such as Mr Golan and
the late Ofra Haza, a pop star famed for her fusion of western and
eastern sounds, have written music that has found an audience in Yemen,
since it is grounded in the traditions of their ancestral home.

The artists' bootleg albums have long been bought and sold underground
(trade with Israelis illegal in Yemen). More recently, the internet has
made the songs more accessible. Young Yemenis watch performances on
YouTube, sharing them on social networking sites such as Facebook, where 
they often express astonishment at the resilience of Yemeni culture and 
lament the Jewish community’s near-extinction here.

The songs are controversial in some quarters. Yemenis defined as an
“enemy state” under Israeli law. Most Yemenis are critical of the
Israeli government and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. But Mr
Golan’s Yemeni fans cast such concerns as separate from the issue at
hand. “Politics is politics,” remarks a university student in the
capital. “Music is music.”

/From The Economist, //January 22, 2014///

More information about the Marxism mailing list