Jordan’s first maestra assertive despite challenges

Nimer released “Kafi,” an Arabic cover of “Tourner dans le Vide” in December as part of the Kalamesque project.
Sunday 17/06/2018
Yara al-Nimer, Jordan’s first maestra. (Roufan Nahhas)
Challenging norms. Yara al-Nimer, Jordan’s first maestra. (Roufan Nahhas)

AMMAN - Yara al-Nimer, Jordan’s first maestra, has been using her baton to knock down stereotypes and societal walls blocking women from achieving their professional goals.

“Being a female musician in the Middle East is very challenging, since the majority of the people here frown on it, whether it is from a cultural perspective or a religious one but this did not stop me from following my dream,” Nimer said.

Born in 1993, Nimer studied music composition and conducting at the University of Jordan, a challenging major that she said she embraced with passion.

“I started my musical career in 2009 by singing in the National Music Conservatory. Until 2012, I have not been able to read notes but my passion for music made me switch majors from business administration to conducting and composing,” Nimer said.

“I consider music as a universal language to spread ideas and emotions and my passion was strong enough that I started to compose music with such determination to take it up on both an academic and a professional level.”

The title for her graduation symphony reveals a lot about Nimer’s personality. She said she named the symphony “Altha’era” (“The Rebel”) to show that the younger generation can rebel against old thinking.

“I chose to compose a symphony based on a play written by my grandfather, Abdelrahim Omar, which discusses the Palestinian struggle in a humane way,” Nimer said.

“Altha’era” tells the story of a young girl being taken from her parents. Throughout the symphony, emotions and the struggle are translated into music that Nimer described as a fusion of folkloric music and Middle Eastern culture with international classical music.

In 2017, Nimer represented Jordan and the Palestinian territories at an ethno camp in Spain, singing and playing the qanun, a descendent of the Egyptian harp that has been used in Arabic music since the tenth century. Nimer performed more than ten concerts around Spain and participated in many workshops.

“As someone involved in music and culture I see there is a need to continue the effort in making our music global and I always call on youth not to give up and continue playing music as it is a way to express our messages whether locally or globally,” Nimer said.

“As young artists, we have to make the change needed and spread the word about our music globally and I believe we can do it as the Arab world has many talents. What we need is strong support from the society and this we consider a challenge.”

Nimer released “Kafi,” an Arabic cover of “Tourner dans le Vide” in December as part of the Kalamesque project, which aimed at restoring people’s memories of the beauty of the Arabic language, especially its classical form, by adapting pop songs and catchy tunes in classical Arabic and Bedouin dialects.

“‘Kafi’ does that as it takes one of the greatest songs, ‘Tourner dans le Vide,’ and makes it in the Arabic language for all to cherish and love,” Nimer said. “Arabic is a linguistic treasure that’s been increasingly marginalised lately and it is our responsibility to take action to change that fact.”

Nimer has been conducting musicians and teaching music with Corridor Jo, a non-profit organisation. She teaches music and conducting in Al-Salt and the Jordan Valley area.

“As a conductor, I believe that having leadership characteristic is crucial to be successful and to be able to conduct the orchestra of musicians in a way to bring the best out of them and to transfer the emotion to them and see it in the music,” Nimer said.

On her future works, she said: “We have a big surprise for fans of modern classical music and we hope we will receive the support needed.”