Sunday, January 31, 2016

Supermodel Gigi Hadid, Palestinian (and the kufiya proves it); Zayn Malik's "Pillowtalk"

Supermodel Gigi Hadid has been coming out as Palestinian (or, half-Palestinian--her mother, Yolanda Foster, is Dutch, her father is real estate developer Mohamed Hadid), ever since December 2015, and her Palestinian-ness has been getting a lot of attention in the media, as reported by Khelil Bouarrouj on the blog of the Institute for Palestine Studies. Gigi's instagram photo of her (and her girlfriends') henna'd hands is what prompted all the attention, but she has also posed in a Coco Chanel designed kufiya-styled top. (More on Chanel's kufiya-styled line in a future post!)

I hope Bouarrouj is correct in his optimism that it's good for Palestinians when some high-profile figures like Gigi celebrate their heritage.

Meanwhile, Gigi's boyfriend (or is he?) Zayn Malik (ex-One Direction) has a new single "Pillowtalk" that was (from January 28-29) at position #1 on the Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 chart. Zayn Malik's dad is British Pakistani. In Zayn's video he is snoggling with the half-Palestinian Gigi Hadid. Both of 'em are blonde -- is this how "Muslims" subversively penetrate mainstream Western popular culture? The vid was only released on January 28, and as of this posting on January 31, it had over 23 million views. So I guess it's rather popular. What does it say when people named Malik and Hadid sit at the commanding heights of US-Euro popular culture? What do people who click on that YouTube video think of Donald Trump's Islamophobia?

UPDATE February 1: I've been informed that the reason Gigi was wearing that kufiya-themed outfit was that she was flown in to Dubai to showcase it for the Chanel resort collection. Nothing at all to do with Palestinian pride. (Thanks, Mezna!)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A new generation of Palestinian strugglers and their kufiyas

The Electronic Intifada recently (January 28) published a set of stunning photographs, courtesy ActiveStills, of young Palestinians confronting the Israeli forces of the occupation as well as the security forces of the PA, over the last four months. They are amazing photos (by Anne Paq in Bethlehem, Ezz Al-Zanoon in the Gaza Strip, Mohannad Darabee in the Ramallah area, Oren Ziv in Bethlehem and the Ramallah area). I find EI's report somewhat disingenuous, however, in that it fails to mentions one key aspect of the recent upsurge in confrontations -- that many have called this the "knife intifada," given that it has been characterized by a series of lone wolf knife attacks, as well as car rammings and shootings, aimed at Israelis, both soldiers and civilians, and has resulted in the deaths (between September 13 and January 5) of 25 Israelis. The period of course has been marked by clashes between groups of Palestinians (usually, rock-throwing) and Israeli soldiers, and of course Palestinian casualties are far higher, totaling over 160. (EI does mention the numbers of Israeli dead, but not the nature of the killing.) Since the fact that knife attacks are a significant element of the current struggle, it seems odd to me that EI doesn't discuss them at all. Instead, the quite striking images of Palestinian resistance seem to be the story.

And while I admire the courage as well as the stylistic flare of those Palestinians now fighting the occupation, at the same time it pains me to think that these young people represent yet another generation of Palestinians condemned to confronting violence. This occupation is about to be (in June) 49 years old. FORTY NINE. How can this keep going on and on and on and on? What does it mean for us to admire the bravery and fortitude of this new generation of heroic Palestinian strugglers? I would much rather not see such photos any more, instead I want to see photos of young Palestinians dancing and partying and studying and enjoying "normal" life. I am sick of it. And yet...don't they look flash?


North of Ramallah, near Beit El settlement

 North of Ramallah, near Beit El settlement


“We cover our faces because the occupying authority might [otherwise] arrest us. We also 
fear our own [Palestinian] authority would arrest us in the same way.” Bethlehem

North of Ramallah, near Beit El settlement 
(the insignia of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is on the headband)



Gaza Strip, east of al-Bureij refugee camp


Gaza Strip, east of al-Bureij refugee camp 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Another Jajouka movie

There is the 1983 documentary that Philip Schuyler worked on, Master Musicians of Jahjouka.

(And please see Schuyler's astute article, "Joujouka/Jajouka/Zahjoukah: Moroccan Music and Euro-American Imagination", which you can read here.)

There is Augusta Palmer's Hand of Fatima (2010).

The Master Musicians Of Jajouka with Bachir Attar (Roskilde Festival 2014); photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh

And now there is another, Jajouka Quelque Chose De Bon Vient Vers Toi, by Eric and Marc Hurtado, members of the experimental/industrial music group Étant Donnés from Grenoble. The brothers were born in Rabat, Morocco. The film is entered in the 27th Marseille International Film Festival, to be held in July 2016. The festival website has this to say about the film:

The film opens with an archaic tale, in brief stylised tableaux, concerning the divine creation of music. The myth is extended to a universe of sacred dimensions where it is difficult to differentiate the legend from its current perpetuation. Where are we? In the Moroccan Rif, in Jajouka, a village where, for over two thousand years, fertility rites involving music and dance, have been presided over by Bou-Jeloud, “the Father of Skins”, a local version of the god Pan.

The Hurtado brothers are famous musicians: their group Etant Donnés came to prominence through collaborations with various artists including Alan Vega, Genesis P-Orridge and Philippe Grandrieux (they produced original soundtracks for several of his films). They are also known as experimental filmmakers. Here their two passions are combined, raising the challenge of travelling back in time to hail the Master Musicians of Jajouka, yesterday and today. Besides, has time passed? It is therefore not about concocting a score destined to accompany autonomous images, but about making the music (its strident nudity, its incantatory austerity) and its history the very substance of the images and the scenario being staged. Their choice was obviously Pasolinian: to resurrect the archaic while remaining faithful to it, through the treatment of decor, lighting, acting and costumes. Here, the beauty lies in the rough friction between the muteness of the characters and their unbridled momentum towards another potential voice.

--Jean-Pierre Rehm

Based on the write-up, it seems the film is going to go over the familiar myths surrounding Jajouka (it's about the rites of Pan, Jajouka and its rites are located in archaic times, and so on), that Schuyler's article so cleverly deconstructs. But maybe someone who reads this will be able to see the film and can tell us differently...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Recommended: The Lost 45s of Sudan from Shellachead

One of the best reissuers out there, Shellachead, put out a wonderful collection of Sudanese music last month, all 45s recorded on Sudan's Munisphone label in the sixties and seventies. I was only familiar with two of the artists previously, the fabulous female trio al-Bilabil (read about them here) and Sayed Khalifa, who is most well-known in Egypt, at least, for his song "Mambo Soudani," which he performs in the 1957 film Tamr Hinna.

And here is a bit of info about Khalifa, courtesy Heather Maxwell of the VOA:

More than any other singer of his generation, Sayed Khalifa, is responsible for the popularity of ‘Omdurman songs’ throughout the Muslim Sahel and the Horn of Africa. A dynamic performer, Khalifa won fans throughout Africa with his reinterpretations of classic Sudanese songs in the national languages of his African audiences. He was born in 1928 in the village of Ad Dibeiba, not far from Khartoum, and in 1947 received a scholarship to study at the Arab Music Institute in Cairo. He made his first radio broadcasts, on Egyptian radio, during these student years, and in 1956 wrote his name into Sudanese history with his recording of ‘Ya Watani’ a patriotic song praising Sudanese independence. Like many of his musical peers, Sayed Khalifa’s career was curtailed by the Islamic regimes of the late 1980s, with some of his more sensual songs purged from the Radio Omdurman archives. The great Sayed Khalifa passed away on July 2, 2001 while undergoing treatment for heart disease.

His most famous song, and one of the Sudan’s most well travelled melodies, is ‘El Mambo Soudani’. The music was composed by Sayed Abdel Ray, and Sayed Khalifa himself composed the lyrics. This song has become a staple of Sudanese wedding bands, and was also the title of the 1998 Piranha records ‘El Mambo Soudani’ by the Cairo based group Salamat (Sayed Khalifa appears on the group’s 1998 CD ‘Ezzayakoum’). After encouraging his listeners to dance the Sudanese Mambo, Sayed Khalifa sings of his beloved, of her beauty and graceful silhouette, and of the suffering she puts him through.

But the other tracks on the collection are all worth listening to. You can listen to the entire collection here, via bandcamp, and you can download it for the very reasonable price of $5. (Plus you get the booklet that goes along with the music, as a pdf.) Highly recommended.

Friday, January 15, 2016

David Bowie was many things, and among them, he was married to a Muslim

Aki Nawaz (of Fun'Da'Mental) posted this photo of the late David Bowie on Facebook yesterday (January 14).

It's David's wedding (1992) to Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, daughter of Marian and Mohamed Abdulmajid, all shown here. Aki states that he had not seen any condolences to Iman on social media, and so he wrote, 'for what it's worth and respectfully in the traditional religious manner we say "From God we come and return" and may your pain and loss be bearable to all the family.'

I found this incredibly moving, both to be reminded that Bowie, besides being all the other incredible things that he was, which so many great articles and posts have told us over the past few days, was also a married man, and, yes, was married into a Muslim family. 

Some folks objected to Aki's post saying, she wasn't an observant Muslim, she posed for Playboy, etc. On the other hand, I've never seen evidence that Iman ever publicly abandoned or criticized her faith. I'm not a Muslim myself, but I'd say that, from the Muslim perspective as I would want to understand it, it is up to God to judge Iman and not us, and therefore, Aki's condolences seem entirely appropriate. 

As an aside, Aki's post impelled me to do a bit of reading, and I have learned that Iman's father was a Somali diplomat and her mother a gynecologist, and that Iman attended high school in Egypt and speaks (apparently) Arabic.

And as for David Bowie, allah yarhamu.

Toukadime mix for Onorient + what 113 sampled on "Tonton du Bled"

The inimitable Toukadime did a mix for Onorient awhile back. Check it out here:

I didn't know people were doing mixes like this: you play the first tune on YouTube, leave it on, and it cycles you through the next 11 tracks. Great stuff, including the likes of Ahmed Wahby, Reinette l'Oranaise, Cheb Khaled, Line Monty (who I recently learned was 'discovered' by Charles Aznavour), Haim Botbol, El Kahloui Tounsi...

And I learned something I had not known from this mix, that the sample that the renowned French rap group 113 use on their 2000 hit (#5 on French charts) "Tonton du Bled" is from the first track on this playlist, Algerian ouahrani star Ahmed Wahby's "Harguetni Eddamaa." Check it out.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Algerian music scene: Sofiane Saidi, NOMAD'stones, Labess

A couple informants have clued me into a 'new' music scene happening in Algeria. Three examples of what is a broader trend, that includes Kabylia -- but I have no examples yet from the latter.

1. NOMAD'stones

The sound is very French, with vocals in Arabic, and the look of the vid is too. And no wonder, it was filmed (for reasons I don't know) in Montreal. Can't find much material on them as of yet, but it's a great sound.

2. Labess

Labess are in fact a Montreal-based Algerian group, led by singer and guitarist Nedjim Bouizzoul, who was born in Algeria, and moved to Montreal with his family in 2003. Although based in Canada, their reputation has spread to the Maghreb and the Maghrebi diaspora, and so it makes sense to link them to the "Algerian" scene. Read more about the group here.

3. Sofiane Saidi

This track is my favorite of the three, probably because it kicks so, so hard, and is at basis a modernized version of a "rai trab" song, rai in the style of a Cheikha Rimitti or a Cheikha Rabia. (And perhaps the presence of Transglobal Underground's Tim Whelan on the track helps too.) Sofiane Saidi was born in Sidi Bel Abbès, one of the birthplaces of rai music. (Although Oran is often considered to be the wellspring of rai, both Sidi Bel Abbès and Aïn Témouchent are important cradles of the genre as well.) He has been performing for some time, at least since the mid-90s, and has worked in the past with the likes of Natacha Atlas (he appears on her 2006 album Mish Maoul) and with Tunisian oudist Smadj (on his 2015 album Spleen). His first album, El Mordjane (The corral), was released in December 2015. It's quite good, but this track, "Gasbah Ya Moul El Taxi" (roughly, take me to the Casbah, cabbie), is by far the best.

Read more about Sofiane Saidi here and here

(Hopefully my informants will hip me to more of the new Algerian scene.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Haifa, Palestine, 1937: a photo from the Japanese Muslim Association

Courtesy Professor Kelly Hammond, History Department, University of Arkansas. I hope she passes on some more! (The photo is from a publication by the Japanese Muslim Association that she came across during her archival research.)

Recommended: Fadoul -- Moroccan funk from the 70s

Habibi Funk Records has tracked down the until-now obscure, and amazing funk recordings, of Fadoul et les Privilèges (sometimes spelled Fadaul et les Privilèges), and released them, on vinyl, CD, and download. You can listen to the tracks and read about them and order them here, on the Habibi Funk bandcamp site.

The recording has received a fair amount of press, and it is well deserved. Jannis Stürtz, who runs the label, describes the sound as "Arabic funk played with a punk attitude," and that seems pretty accurate. Even if the music was recorded before anyone in Morocco was imagining punk.

If/when you go to listen, I recommend starting with "Sid Redad," which is an Arabic cover of James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," and "Al Zman Saib," an Arabic cover of Free's "All Right Now." Then try "La Tiq Tiq Latiq," which is the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm A Man," in Arabic.

I was surprised by how "Al Zman Saib" (Times are tough, roughly) was rendered on the cover as الزمان صعيب as I would have thought that الزمان صعب was the correct spelling. But maybe that's how it is spelled in Moroccan colloquial?