Mohammed Murshid Naji (b. 1929) comes from Abyan, a very poor valley to the east of Aden with a traditional African-influenced culture. When he was very young he participated in the newly formed Nadwa ‘Adaniyya, but then left. As a committed nationalist, he turned to patriotic songs and played an active part in the anti-colonial movement. However, he also possesses a superb repertory of sentimental songs such as Ya ward ma ziltu ahwaki (Oh my rose, I still love you), Ya habibi ayyu ‘idi (My love, which festivity?), as well as those recorded here. The words of his songs are sometimes old texts by writers such as Yahya ‘Umar, a famous 18th C. poet, but he mainly uses texts by some of the leading contemporary poets such as Mohammed ‘Abduh Ghanem (d. 1994), Mohammed Sa’id Jarada (tr. 3) and the hadrami Abu Bakr al-Mihdar (d. 1999, tr. 4). This repertory is another rich mixture where the singer has been the catalyst in bringing together the diverse influences at work in Aden and the surrounding area, adapting various popular tunes for the lute (tr. 2). Murshid Naji is also a refined man of letters, with several works on Yemeni music to his name.
The Aden song therefore attests to the search for a national identity that went on in the 20th century, providing the basis for the Yemeni song of the future.
Translated by Délia Morris
Available album: The Aden Song