Yemen’s Instrumental Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Yemen’s Instrumental Music is a great way to relax and enjoy yourself. You can find a variety of instruments to play, and the music is perfect for any occasion.

The Different Types of Yemeni Music

Yemeni music has a long history and is very diverse. There are four main types of Yemeni music: folklore, camel music, modern and religious. Folklore is the oldest type of Yemeni music and is generally performed by people in the countryside. Camel music is a type of music that is traditionally played by Bedouins on camelback. Modern Yemeni music is a fusion of traditional Yemen music and Western music. Religious music is usually played in mosques or during religious ceremonies.


Is a type of music that is characteristic of the Hadhramaut Governorate in southern Yemen. It is distinguished by its use of the oud, violin and percussion, and is seen as an expression of Hadhrami identity.


Al-Lahja is the best known form of Yemeni music. It is usually performed on the rebab, a bowed, string instrument. The music is often improvised and has a very distinctive ornamentation. Al-lahja is traditionally played at weddings and other celebrations.

Second in popularity to al-lahja is the sanam, an unaccompanied vocal music usually sung by men. Sanam music often includes poetry and is often about love or religious devotion.

Yemeni music also includes a variety of folk songs and dances. These folk traditions are most often performed by women and are generally accompanied by the tablah, a type of drum. Folk songs are typically about daily life, love, or religion.


Al-Ghina’ is a type of music that is popular in Yemen. It is usually performed on the oud, which is a type of lute. The word “ghina’” means “desire” or “longing,” and this type of music often has a longing or wistful quality to it. Al-Ghina’ often makes use of microtones, which are very small intervals between notes that are not typically used in Western music. This gives the music a unique sound that is unlike anything else you might hear.

The Instruments Used in Yemeni Music

Yemeni music is vibrant and alive, with instruments that are both unique and integral to the music. While some of the instruments may be familiar, others are quite rare. This article will explore the different instruments used in Yemeni music, as well as their roles in the music.

The Oud

The oud is a string instrument with a long neck and a pear-shaped body. It has a deep, rich sound and is used in a variety of music genres, including Classical Arabic music, Turkish music, Persian music, and Afghan music. The oud is believed to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia and is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world.

The Rabab

The rabab is a type of Yemeni lute that is traditionally made from the wood of the apricot tree. It has a long neck and a pear-shaped body with a small sound hole. The rabab has two or three gut strings that are plucked with the right hand, while the left hand is used to stop the strings. The instrument is often decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay work.

The rabab is used in a style of music called sha’bi, which is very popular in Yemen. Sha’bi means “popular” or “of the people.” This type of music generally has simple melodies and rhythms that are easy to dance to. The rabab is also used in more traditional pieces of Yemeni music, such as the qasida (a type of poem) and muwashah (a type of love song).

The Qanun

The Qanun is an important instrument in Yemeni music. It is a type of zither, and usually has 72 strings. The Qanun is plucked with the fingers, and the player uses a plectrum (pick) to strike the strings. The instrument is traditionally made of wood, but modern instruments may also be made of metals such as aluminium or brass. The Qanun is used in both solo and ensemble music, and is particularly associated with the maqamat (melodic modes) of Yemeni music.

The Influence of Yemeni Music

Yemeni music has been influenced by many factors over the years. One of the most significant influences has been the country’s geography. Yemen is situated between two major trade routes, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. This gave Yemenis the opportunity to interact with a wide range of cultures, which in turn influenced their music.

The Influence of Yemeni Music on the Arab World

The influence of Yemeni music can be felt throughout the Arab world. Its distinctly Arabian sound has been adopted by many Arab musicians and can be heard in a variety of genres, from classical to pop.

Yemeni music is characterized by its use of the oud, a stringed instrument that is believed to have originated in Yemen. The oud is often accompanied by percussion instruments, such as the tabla and the darbuka, and by the melodic drone of the mizmar. Yemeni music is often very rhythmic and catchy, making it popular for dancing.

Yemeni music has also been influenced by other Arab musical traditions, as well as Turkish and Indian music. Yemeni musicians have combined these different influences to create their own unique style of music, which has gained popularity throughout the Arab world.

The Influence of Yemeni Music on the West

Yemen’s music has been greatly influenced by the country’s strategic location. Yemeni music is a fusion of Arab, Persian, Indian and African traditions. For centuries, traders and pilgrims travelling along the Incense Route would stop in Yemen, and the country’s musicians would play for them. In this way, Yemeni music spread throughout the Arab world and beyond.

Yemeni music was first introduced to the West in the early 20th century by explorer Wilfred Thesiger.During his travels in Yemen, Thesiger recorded hours of traditional music on his phonograph. These recordings were later released by the British Library and are now available online.

In recent years, Yemeni music has been gaining popularity in the West. In 2010, American band Akron/Family released an album of Yemeni-inspired songs called “Sub Verses”. The album drew attention to the rich tradition of Yemeni music and led to a revival of interest in this genre.

Today, there are many Yemeni musicians living in exile in Europe and North America. These artists are working to keep Yemen’s musical traditions alive and to introduce them to new audiences.

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