Bahrain's Ramadan drummer adds coronavirus message to pre-dawn call

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The tradition of musaharati – Ramadan drummers who awaken the faithful for their pre-dawn meal –may be dying out across the Muslim world, but Yasser Al Samak has become a social media hit by adapting age-old songs for the time of coronavirus.

The silence of the darkened streets of Bilad Al Qadeem, a village outside Bahrain's capital Manama, has been broken during the holy month by the voice of the 50-year-old accompanied by the pounding of a drum.

In a distinctive Bahraini accent, Mr Al Samak sings of life in the pandemic, extols the benefits of social distancing, and gives thanks to medics and first responders for their sacrifices on the front line.

"Oh quickly the time of suhoor arrives, but this time it is different from all the years before.

"Stay home with your family, and blend your suhoor meal with hope, because those who rely on God, he will protect them," he sings.

"Make yourself strong with prayer and wear the mask as a shield against the pandemic," go the lyrics, which mix religious blessings with standard health advice.

Mr Al Samak also humorously plays on the word "corona" urging people to still eat "macarona" – macaroni – rhyming in Arabic to say that life must go on and that the faithful should not lose their resolve in the face of the crisis.


Ramadan around the world

Worshippers prayer at a mosque in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. AFP

The muezzin of the grand mosque of Basra, closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, reads the Quran. AFP

Palestinians gather for iftar along the shore of Gaza City. AFP

Members of the Pakistani Youth Society distribute free meals in the Flatbush neighbourhood of Brooklyn in New York City. AFP

Shiite cleric Ali Al Atabi reads from the Quran in the vicinity of Imam Ali shrine in Iraq's central city of Najaf. AFP

A Palestinian man packs smoked mackerel before selling them in Rafah, Gaza Strip. AFP

Iraqi soldiers control motorists at a checkpoint in Baghdad's Mansur district, Iraq. EPA

People wearing face masks buy food at a market in Thailand's southern Narathiwat province. AFP

An Iraqi man buys pickles in Mosul, northern Iraq. EPA

Bangladeshi family members eat iftar in Dhaka, Bangladesh. EPA

People stand on marked spots to practice social distancing in Jakarta, Indonesia. AP Photo

Muslims pray before breaking their fast in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. REUTERS

A muezzin at a mosque close to shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani calls for prayer in Baghdad, Iraq. Reuters

A street food vendor sells 'kari kambing', a goat curry. in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. EPA



In a centuries-old tradition, the musaharati was once a key element of the day-long fasting during the month of Ramadan, but the practice has become rarer across the Muslim world now that people have alarms and smartphones to rouse them from their sleep.

In the village where Mr Al Samak roams from street to street, with a lockdown in force, only a few residents are out and about buying basic necessities. Traffic is light and the stray cats mostly have the pavements to themselves.

Video clips of Mr Al Samak reciting his timely messages have circulated widely on WhatsApp and Instagram.

The veteran musaharati said he hopes to raise awareness while also spreading hope and maintaining a sense of continuity during the crisis.

"We had poems specifically written this year about coronavirus and they have been popular. I sing them alongside traditional ones," he said as he walked the streets of Bilad Al Qadeem.

"I have been doing this for 30 years, but it's not like before when we had a lot of children taking part," he said of the youngsters that used to come out and trail behind him.

"Now because of the coronavirus situation we are limited to a maximum of five people."


Coronavirus in the Middle East

A medical worker assists another to dress up in protective gear at a tent in a newly opened field hospital in Makkah in Saudi Arabia. AFP

View of the field hospital set up in Cite Sportive d'El Menzah in Tunis, Tunisia. EPA

A man wears a protective face mask while jogging in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Reuters

A view shows traffic on the Zalka to Jal Al Dib motorway an hour before the start of a four-day nationwide lockdown, north of the Beirut. AFP

Barber Ali Sfar, wearing a face mask, dresses a boy's hair in Tunis. AP Photo

A man wearing a protective face mask waits outside a branch of Etisalat Egypt Telecommunications Company in the Cairo suburb of Maadi, Egypt. Reuters

A stop sign is displayed at a checkpoint where Jordanian police stand guard during curfew in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

Neighbours of the Jordanian caricaturist Osama Hajjaj, team up in creating works of art on their roof in Amman. Reuters

Children enjoy a sunny day with their parents, after being allowed to go out for four hours for the first time since April 4 in Istanbul, Turkey. Reuters

Children enjoy a sunny day with their parents, after being allowed to go out for four hours for the first time since April 4 in Istanbul, Turkey. Reuters

A woman wears a face mask in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA

Cars drive past the blank billboards on the 6th of October Bridge in Cairo, Egypt. Reuters

Workers wearing protective face masks stand on a building under construction in the New Administrative Capital. east of Cairo.

Congolese Eouani Mambia Morelline, 40-year-old head of a collective for migrant women in Morocco, visits her neighbours while wearing a protective mask in the Moroccan capital Rabat. AFP

A Yemeni motorcyclist wears a protective face mask at a market in Sanaa, Yemen. EPA


Updated: May 14, 2020 04:56 PM

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