Horia Abdullah al-Rayashi is a young artist from Rada’a district in al-Baidha governorate. Horia is seventeen years-old. She is the third child in her family, the only girl among six brothers.
Horia’s voice is as beautiful as Ahlam’s, the famous singer from the Gulf, to the extent you can’t easily differentiate between the two. She is currently studying in the twelfth grade in al-Khansa secondary school in Sana’a. What follows is her first exclusive interview with a newspaper after her appearance last week on the Saba channel with the “Najm min Saba,” or “Star from Sheba” program.
Q. What about your show in front of the public?
In the Youth Palace in Sana’a, al-Khansa school organized a graduation ceremony. I was in the tenth grade and I placed in third. I performed the first song of Ahlam for the theatre, and I wasn’t nervous. The crowds were surprised by my performance and confidence.
I participated in festivals, competitions, and activities that were organized outside the school, such as the “International Day for Women.” Also, I recently recorded a special song for cancer patients.
Q. It is said that your success is due to your famous elder sister, Amal ?
I used accompany her to various festivals and shows, and she used to introduce me to many famous artists. It was great opportunity to meet artists and develop contacts with them. It was an opportuinity for others to get to know my talent.
As for what happened in the “Najm min Saba” program, on Thursday before the last, the organizers had asked my sister if she knew any Yemeni women with beautiful voices.
She replied, “my sister’s voice is excellent, and many poets and composers have praised her.” After that, the executive director of the program set the following episode to host me and it was the very first exclusive appearance for me.
Q. So how do see yourself as different from your sister, Amal?
I still remember the festival organized by the artist Nader al- Mathaji, who asked my sister to sing, but I sang in her place; it was set for a park, and she doesn’t like to sing in big public venues.
Q. How were you first attracted to art?
Not only my sister, Amal, but also my brother, Nasser, is an artist. He likes to sing in his friends’ weddings, graduation ceremonies, and parties, and he is also a member of a band. My father has a beautiful voice, but he does not sing in anywhere except at home. Tribal customs prevented him from singing; however, he does not deprive us of his singing .
Q. You have said your father didn’t sing because of traditions and customs, how did your father allow you to sing even though you are a girl?
Actually, our community looks down upon artists. People consider any artist to showy, or no better than a wedding singer. I must make clear to you that I’m doing something distinctive and honourable; I sing in high-level festivals and activities.
My father knows that art is the nutrition of the spirit. He knows that the times have changed and people have become more educated. Moreover, my father defends art from the criticisms of traditional people in the society.
I would like to say that art is a great mission and the man is wild, but mild with music. Art should be used properly to serve the country and people and to convey a positive message with grace and eloquence.
Q. Were there any artistic institutions which encouraged you as a young artist?
– I would like to mention that the Artists Syndicate and the Yemeni Ministry of Culture offers little in the way of artistic encouragement, and there are not many art activities, which are only organized every now and then.
I would like to build my artistic reputation outside Yemen to draw the attention of the artistic community.
Q. You have said the current Ministry of Culture doesn’t have a role in your artistic career. What did the previous ministry do for you?
In fact, it did not provide me anything, but when I met Mr. Khalid Rowaishan, the former minister, at the festival for the International Day for Women, at which I sang and he was highly impressed with my voice. He took pictures with me and promised in front of journalists to cultivate my talents, but he was unseated soon after that day, and my dreams of receiving any help from the ministry went with him.
The former minister used to attend cultural and artistic activities and pay real attention to the arts. The ministry was totally different during his tenure.
What about artistic companies?
Artistic companies in Yemen are being exploited, not actually invested in. The evidence is that one of the companies committed to give me a certain sum of money, but the articles of the contract prevented me from singing for other companies. So I refused their conditions, because art is precious, and needs to be spread. Therefore, I became certain that my album must be produced outside Yemen.
I wish they gave art the priority, and not just money. I wish they supported the talents of artists without such an obsessive concern for gain.
Q. What is your next performance?
I need to be patient about it! I don’t like to perform any song of my own songs, unless the opportunity and proper support are available to produce high level of art. Actually, I have two special songs on par of the Gulf artists. The great poet of the Arabian Peninsula, Ali al-Qahtani, as well as Mohammed Bin Aboud al-Amoudi, helped me to record those two songs and gave me their full support. I would be happier if I could travel to the Gulf to start my artistic career.
Q. What did you do to make your dream come true?
I have been communicating now with top local and international artists to draw their attention in the next few months. I want to prove that Yemeni Women can have great presence in the field of art. I will also show to the artistic community that Yemeni artists are exploited and that they do not even have adequate support.
Q. What are your main achievements?
I participated in competitions for the capital Secretariat’s schools, and I got the first place for the past two years in a row, and this year I hope to participate, but the cultural activity of the schools hasn’t started yet.
I participated in the Fourth Forum for girls which was organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports two years ago. I was the one who opened the ceremony with a special song. But, when I want to compete, people said that my voice is too good to participate in such competitions.
Recently, I have participated in a concert organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Sana’a. It celebrated the special friendship in the field of energy between Korea and Yemen. My sister was asked to sing and as usual I went with her.
We were praised by the crowd there, and people said they had never heard such beautiful voices. The audience was told that before they left, they had to hear my voice again, and I felt that everyone was happy and warmly applauded, even though they do not speak Arabic.
Q.Who supports your artistic talent?
My father helped me a lot. He and my mother supported my wish to develop my talent and to fulfil my dreams. Without them we couldn’t sing at all because of our conservative community, which especially the case for Rada’a, our home.
My mother and my sister Amal, and the two poets al-Qahtani and al-Ammodi, as well as the composer, Ahmed Bin Gobl. Wahbiah Ibrahim, the headmistress of al-Khansa School also supports me a lot, and I couldn’t forget the artist, Nader Abdul Razak al-Mathhaji and Abdul Rahman al- Akfash as well.