Artist Mohammed Alghoom (South24 Center)

Hadrami Artist Mohammed Alghoom and the Heritage Symphonic Revolution


Sun, 17-09-2023 06:18 PM, Aden

 Alghoom has created what can be described as a musical revolution

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

In a world that does not rain gold or silver, several people prove their ability to realize their dreams and reach for the stars, overcoming every hardship amid the cruel circumstances. These successful people use the adverse circumstances as an incentive to help materialize their ambitions. Instead of surrendering to impediments in a country like Yemen where support for creative people is difficult to come by, the success of Hadrami maestro Mohammed Salem Alghoom in the field of music is like a bright shining star in a country that is exhausted by years of unending conflict.

Alghoom, a composer of traditional symphonies, is one of the most prominent musicians in Yemen and the Arab region. His orchestra performs the unique musical heritage of the Southern Hadrami region and other popular Yemeni tunes.

Alghoom has made his music stand out – by combining the latest in musical tech with the traditional musical instruments while enthralling audiences with heritage music tracks. The young man from Hadramout, who is in his 30s, is the founder of the ’Yemeni Hadrami Orchestra’, which has been very well received at many prestigious opera houses in the Arab region and across the world, and earned much praise. 

The beginning of the journey

In April 2019, Alghoom presented his first international composition at a concert dedicated to traditional symphonies held in Kuala Lumpur. He led an orchestra comprising 90 musicians, including 30 from Hadramout, who played on traditional Hadrami musical and percussion instruments while the other musicians were from China, India, Malaysia, Japan, and Uzbekistan.

“South24 Center" in an exclusive interview with Alghoom spoke to him about the beginnings of his brilliant journey as a composer of traditional Hadrami symphony. He said: "The idea of starting an orchestra began while I was a student at the National Institute for Music in Amman in 2014. We used to hold a meeting in a musical salon every Wednesday organized by students and professors interested in the arts where we played musical tracks. I used to present works belonging to the Yemeni heritage. Despite the simplicity of the traditional Yemeni music, I noticed the people’s admiration for it. The positive impression these musical works garnered pushed me into thinking about them from a global perspective, to be presented to audiences in a different way.”

He added: "Bringing this project to life wasn't an easy task, especially as it needed support from its very beginning. However, thanks to people accepting the idea and supporting it, I was able to bring it to reality. The Hadramout Cultural Foundation has supported most of our previous concerts, including the ones held in Kuala Lumpur and Cairo.”

Alghoom believes that the arts and cultural environment of Hadramout is ingrained deeply in the society and is part and parcel of everyday life. He explained: "The arts left a great impact on us while we were growing up. We experience this in different aspects of life. Even our religious traditions, especially Sufism, have a deep presence in the form of ’Muwashahat‘ and ’Mawalid’ (religious festivals that commemorate the birth of revered figures).

"I believe that Hadramout has an excellent cultural and arts environment and marvelous musical traditions that will shine more. It is a place where the arts was truly born and has a presence in all aspects of daily life," he said.

Global achievements 

Alghoom explained that they were able to deliver their musical message through two global concerts, adding that he is proud of this success. He told "South24 Center": "Through our music we succeeded in emphasizing that Yemeni arts and heritage are wonderful and have beautiful forms, and that the arts are a tool for peace and love that can deliver a strong message to the entire world."

"The success of our concerts is the beginning of our path. Our road is long and requires more effort and determination," he added.

On March 9, 2022, the Cairo Opera House in the Egyptian capital hosted Alghoom’s concert, titled "A Yemeni Tune on the Banks of the Nile". It included traditional Yemeni numbers played by 120 musicians from different nationalities. The band played eight heritage tracks in a new global orchestral format for the first time.

Alghoom says that the huge popularity he has gained from a purely musical venture, as seen from the overwhelming positive feedback they receive, is a sign of real success, even though they are still at the beginning of the road. 

Elaborating on his offshore concerts, he said: "In April 2019, we played six musical tracks inspired by Hadrami culture during a concert titled ’Hope Stemming from Deep Pain‘ in the ancient ’Istana Budaya’ opera house in the Malaysian capital."

It is worth mentioning that the tracks played at the concert included ’Al-Hira", "Madrof Al-Asala", “Lawhat Al-Harb Walsalam” (Al-Edda), “Al-Wada' Al-Mofrih” (Al-Hadani), "Mezmar" (Al-Habish) and “Sabouha” (a folk song).

He disclosed that they are preparing to hold more such concerts in some Arab, and European opera houses as well as elsewhere.

The Hadrami musician voiced wonderment at attaining success so early in life. He said: “Indeed, we didn't expect this degree of success for our venture. We work hard; and keeping in mind our audience we plan all our musical pieces before each performance in order to be distinctive.”

On May 16, 2019, then Hadramout Governor Major General Faraj Al-Bahsani, who currently serves as a Vice President of the Southern Transitional Council and Member of the Presidential Leadership Council, honored Alghoom by granting him the Governorate Shield for his efforts in promoting the Hadrami arts on the global stage by his concert in Malaysia.

Obstacles and frustrations 

However, the path is not strewn with roses, and Alghoom has to contend with many tough challenges. He said that a musical venture like his orchestra can face big challenges even in stable countries. He explained: "This symphony orchestra came up in a country that indeed suffers from instability. There are the inevitable challenges, including the difficulty of acceptance of the idea by people due to their tough conditions. In addition, there are the logistic challenges, and making all the arrangements, as well as the movement of the team. We can’t forget the hardships related to our traveling abroad, as well as securing new opportunities.”

He said: “We would be able to acquire more success and international presence if the orchestra was based in another country or if the circumstances in Yemen were better.”

Commenting on the favorable impression towards the orchestra as well as the initial criticism they had to face, he said that the local audiences have varying views on the playing of traditional music while in contrast the offshore audiences are always more appreciative and attend the programs in greater numbers.

According to Alghoom, the local audiences changed their initial critical views after seeing the very positive reviews of non-Yemenis. 


On the path ahead, Alghoom said: “We have international ambitions. We seek to achieve bigger success in the days ahead. We are very open to other cultures. In the Cairo concert, we played pieces which are completely different from the Hadrami style. We seek to be an Arab front, not just Hadrami or Yemeni only. We have big ambitions and we are moving ahead in that path with resolute steps.”

Regarding the offers received by Hadrami music labels, he said: “Offers are not everything. We receive offers in one way or another. We certainly deal positively with all opportunities.”

With his orchestra Alghoom has created what can be described as a musical revolution. He hasn’t limited himself to composing orchestral tracks but is also refashioning some of the famous international and national songs in a unique Hadrami style.

One of his well-known pieces is remixing the theme song of the American TV series “Game of Thrones” with a Yemeni twist. He presented the number using the traditional Hadrami maqamat (melodies). He also remixed other famous global songs such ‘Despacito’ and ‘Havana’ by adding the traditional Hadrami touch to these works.

His company “Sada Alebda” earlier owned only audio studios before it became an international firm, and now has four branches, including three in Yemen while its main headquarters is located in Dubai where he lives.

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic

South YemenHadramoutMusicArtCompositionAlghoomArtistSTCYemeni music