Abu Bakr Salem Balfaqih

Abu Bakr Salem Balfaqih

Posted on: 6/26/2022 1:23:09 PM

Abu Bakr Salem Balfaqih (Arabic: ابو بكر سالم بلفقية) (March 17, 1939 - December 10, 2017) was a Yemeni singer, poet, and composer. He is also nicknamed 'Abu Aseel, The Father of Khaleeji Music', and 'the one with the golden voicebox' (Arabic: صاحب الحنجرة الذهبية). Abu Bakr is known in the Arab world for his unique riveting voice.

Some of Abu Bakr's patriotic odes to Yemen celebrated significant historical events such as the abolition of the monarchy in the north in 1962, the independence of the south in 1967, and the unification of both the South and North Yemen in 1990. In addition to the Yemeni nationality, Abu Bakr also held the Saudi nationality after he moved to Saudi Arabia in the 70s. He worked with other Khaleeji music pioneers including Talal Maddah, Tariq Abdul-Hakim and Shadi Gulf. His last release was a duet with young Yemeni singer and winner of the “Khaleeji Star” (a singing competition on the television) Fouad Abdulwahed.

Early life and education

Abu Bakr was born on March 17, 1939, in Tarim, a historic town situated in the Hadhramout Valley in the south of Yemen. His family was from Ba 'Alawi sada. After his father died he was raised by his mother, grandfather, and uncles. His grandfather Abdel Rahman Balfaqih was a poet in Hadramout.

While he was a teenager he was asked to perform the Adhan call to prayer in mosques in Tarim. When he became insightful about both poetry and Islamic studies, he started singing nasheeds (spiritual odes) locally. When he was 17 years old he wrote his first poem 'You are the most beautiful among all roses'. He started composing folk songs when he moved from Tarim to Aden which at the time was experiencing a cultural and musical boom, home to rising artists such as the Yemeni poet Lutfi Jafar Iman, and the singers Ahmed Bin Ahmed Qasim and Muhammad Saad Abdullah. He studied at a teachers' institute in Yemen.


Before drawing his path in the music world, Abu Bakr worked as a teacher for three years. Abu Bakr began singing at organized parties and events and performed on Aden TV. In 1956, he made his big hit through a broadcast with his first song using his first poem Ya Ward Mahla Jamalak.

Later in his career, Abu Bakr brought together all the poems that he turned into songs into one book that he called A poet First, a Singer Afterwards. Inspired by the great amount of positive feedback that he received after his first appearance on TV and after his hit on the broadcast in Aden, Abu Bakr dedicated two years of hard work to focus on his music career. Within these two years, he regularly released songs including Lima Alqee Al Habib, Khaf Rabek,Ya Habib, and Ya Kahef Al Rouh.

In 1958, Abu Bakr left for Beirut to find more opportunities as it had a well-established regional music hub through its plethora of performance venues, radio stations, and well-designed recording studios. He released a series of popular singles such as 24 Sana'a (24 hours) which sold more than one million copies and became a hit in the Arab world in a relatively short time. It is still considered one of the classics of the Arabic music Tarab genre. Abu Bakr fled Beirut when the Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975.

After leaving Beirut, Abu Bakr settled in the capital city of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh. In Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni poet Hussein Al’Mahdhaar wrote most of Abu Bakr's greatest songs and in return, Abu Bakr sang Hussein's greatest and most memorable compositions. Abu Bakr held concerts across the Gulf countries, drawing large crowds.

Honours and awards

  • 1968 - He received Greece's golden disc award for his album Mata Ana Ashoufak (When Shall I See You).

  • 1978 - He was ranked as the third-best voice in the world in a contest organized by UNESCO.

  • 1985 - He sang at the Albert Hall in London and the concert was organized by the Government of Oman and the Omani Sapcon Company for Arts and Literature on 1/11/1985

  • 1989 - He was awarded the first-degree art medallion by the Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

  • 1992 - He was granted an Appreciation and Excellence medallion from the Omani Ministry of National Herite.

  • 1999 - He won a prize for the best singing performance at Abha Touristic Festival in 1999.

  • 1999 - He was granted another Appreciation medallion from the UAE song festival and an Appreciation certificate for his art accomplishments at the Gulf Song Festival.

  • 2001 - He was honoured by the King of Bahrain decoration of first-class arts and literature

  • 2002 - The Arab League honoured him along with other Arab art pioneers.

  • 2003 - He won the UNESCO Prize as the second-best voice in the world and the cultural medal in 2003.

  • 2003 - The University of Hadhramout awarded Abu Bakr an honorary doctorate degree.

  • 2014 - He was honoured by Sultan Qaboos sultan of Oman decoration first-class arts and literature


  1. Ya Ward Mahlaa Jamalak (You are the most beautiful among all roses)

  2. Ma Fe Ahad Mertah (No one is satisfied) duet with the Kuwaiti singer Abdallah Al Rowaished

  3. Khair Al Kalam (The Best of Words) duet with the Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi

  4. Sameh (Forgive) duet with the Saudi singer Rashed Al-Majed

  5. Sirr Hobbi (The Secret of My Love)

  6. Kama Al Reeshah (Like a Feather)

  7. Bashil Hobak (I will Take your Love)

  8. Ya Mesafer (O Traveler)

Abu Bakr suffered from health problems for the last ten years of his life. He had open-heart surgery and suffered a kidney failure when he was being treated in Munich, Germany. He was admitted to a clinic for several months afterwards. He also went at intermittent periods to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His last appearance was at the Saudi National Day celebration at the Red Sea city in Jeddah in September 2017. He was not able to continue singing, however, due to his long-term illness. He died three months later on December 10, 2017, at the age of 78 years.

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