By Tamjid Alkohali
“Beautiful girl she’s just a beautiful girl, she’s awake everyday just to help up her mom. You put a gun on her face and tears fall from the skies, what a parent she’s got, they have killed her alive. Seeking an answer but I feel like I’m far, so run away child… What a dangerous thing, we need to stop it now. Cause she’s so precious she should be having a blast. I wish you were the type to maybe open your mind? Think for a second this shit is cold and its dark, so tell me is it right? Or it’s not? I don’t care what you say, you’ve just murdered that child cause she’s just a beautiful girl, she has simple dreams… books and toys and playgrounds that’s all she needs, and now that you’ve killed that dream you left her in pain.”
These are the words of the rap song “Mary”, written and sung by Amani Yahya, 21, from Hodaida in collaboration with guitarist Alaa’ Haider.
Amani is the first female rapper who performed in the center of Old Sana’a wearing a cap, jeans, and a t-shirt, looking like a boy in a conservative society where most women are covered by the Abaya and veil.
Amani is a dentistry student at the University of Sana’a. However, she decided to become a young female rapper after she discovered her talent two years ago. “My friends helped me to discover my talent because I used just rap for fun, until one day they said, ‘Amani you can be a rapper, do it!’” Amani said.
She was brought up in Saudi Arabia and returned to her country in 2010. She made her public debut in 2012 at The Basement Cultural Centre in Sana’a.
In her last song “Mary”, she tackled a real story of a child bride expressing sorrow for her stolen innocence and defiance in the face of oppression.
“It’s about underage marriage. It’s actually based on a true story. I met a girl long ago called Maryam and she told me about her story, that she got married at eleven, and it really affected me how much she suffered and she didn’t enjoy her childhood,” Amani added.
Amani also has other songs that she hasn’t recorded yet. She is very interested in women’s issues in Yemen. “My songs lyrics are about my personal life and other women’s issues and rights in Yemen. I want to be their voice and let my voice to be heard everywhere,” she stated.
Amani always writes in English. For her, English is easier than Arabic to express her feelings. “Writing in English gives my lyrics a deep meaning, more than Arabic. Nowadays in Yemen a lot of people speak English very well, so the youth would find it easier and a bit modern,” she explained.
Amani is very lucky compared to other Yemeni girls. She gets a great encouragement from her parents despite criticism from the community. “My family is my number one support. They just worry that my talent may affect my university. My friends also believe in me, and they believe that I have a message to deliver to the world,” she added.
Besides this encouragement and support, Amani has faced many hurtful comments by those who do not appreciate this type of art. “Being a female rapper in Yemen is not easy. I have got many people attacking me, saying that I’m not Yemeni and that I do not represent Yemenis. Most of them are because of the way that I look and dress, and others are about why I chose to be a rapper, that rapping is just for males, and that a woman cannot do such a thing,” she said.
However, Amani confirmed that none of these attacks could stop her. “There are many talented Yemeni girls, but most of them hide their talent in fear of society. I want them all to show their talent bravely because my insistence is the main reason behind achieving my dream,” she advised.