The Say'un Popular Arts Group Performance at the Llangollen Music Festival in 2008

In July 2008 the Say'un Popular Arts Group returned to the UK to take part in the a number of festivals including the fringe at the Llangollen International Music Festival. The group's visit was funded by The British-Yemeni Society, The Yemeni British Friendship Association in Sana'a, The British Council, and The Yemen Embassy and was sponsored by Yemen Airways.

Its motto being "Blessed is the world that sings, gentle are its songs" the festival started after the Second World War, in 1947, aiming to bring together the peoples of the world in peace which is now in its 62nd year. The festival is a series of competitions for choirs, individual voices, dancers and folk instruments. Many of the entrants perform in national costume. The last time a Yemeni played at the festival was Hamoud Al Ghunaid in 1995, who came third in the instrumental category with his oed.

In 2008, the Say'un Popular Arts, a group of eight musicians from the southern Yemeni region of Hadhramaut, performed traditional Hadhrami and Bedouin songs on instruments such as the oud (lute), ney (flute), kaman (violin), qanun (a trapeziform zither), tabla (double headed drum), darabuka (goblet drum), daf (tambourine) and assorted Hadhrami drums creating a vibrant percussive accompaniment.

The Say'un Popular Arts Group is one of the best and oldest groups in the region founded in 1963. Led by Shukri Hassan Ba Raja', it boasts over 40 musicians and dancers including both men and women. They have played at many festivals all over Yemen as well as at international festivals in Jordan, Paris and Zanzibar. They first visited the UK to much acclaim in 2002 to take part in the Diaspora Music Village Festival. Seconds after they started their set in Kew Gardens the whole audience was up dancing to their infectious rhythms. Much of this music is used to accompany traditional dances at marriages and other social events and it is not surprising for the percussion section to get up from their seats for a spot of Hadhrami dancing amongst the audience!

The group's visit in the UK was organised by the BYS member Paul Hughes-Smith. They also performed at the Palm House, Sefton Park as part of the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival and in Sheffield for an evening concert at the Yemeni Community Association.