Gaar Adams in Foreign Policy:
The music video for “Habib Galbi” (Love of My Heart), a sorrowful Yemeni folk song, opens with a simple shot across the desert. Inside a small hut, an exasperated woman pulls back the woven curtain of a Bedouin tent and croons in Arabic over a hollow, hypnotic drumbeat and ghostly minor key: “Love of my heart and eyes, it is a wonder who has turned you against me.”
From the shisha-smoking old lady with kohl-lined eyes, to the Yemeni dance sequences and classically Arabic mournful undertones, “Habib Galbi” looks like it could be straight out of southern Arabia. And in some ways, it is: The song is sung in authentic Yemeni dialect and is composed from the lyrics of ancient Yemeni folk songs. When a Yemeni friend recently played “Habib Galbi” for his elderly grandmother in Sanaa, their accents were so good she thought that the all-girl singing trio might be from the Haraz, a rugged mountainous region just west of the capital.
But the sandy landscape in the music video is far from the Haraz Mountains — it was shot over 1,500 miles away in the Arabah region near the Mediterranean Sea. Though the Arabic may sound effortless, those singing it actually only know the language as a second tongue. And the band — called A-Wa, a stylized transliteration of Arabic slang for “yeah” — hasn’t even come close to stepping foot in Yemen. They’re Israeli.