Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review of Aziza Brahim's "Abbar el Hamada"

Back in late May, I reviewed Spain-based Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim's fourth album, Abbar el Hamada, for RootsWorld. Read it here. And check out "Calles de Dajla," from the album, below.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mahraganat & hip hop mix from DJ No Breakfast

Ok, so I'm behind on posting...this is from 4 months ago, sorry! In any case, it's an excellent one from France's DJ No Breakfast, great fun, and it gives a sense of the great variety and clever mixing going on today in the mahraganat and hip hop scenes in Egypt. I really like what Abyusif is up to on the mahraganat front, and Satti is very cool too -- categorized as rap, I guess. The songlist is to be found here.

Here are a couple fine photos I found awhile back of the mahraganat scene -- I can't remember the source. If anyone knows let me know, it's important to give credit. 

I've now found the source for the top one: it's from CBS News, a wonderful portfolio of photos of the mahraganat scene. This is from a concert in April 2013.

 (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

This one is from the Manchester Guardian, "The World in Pictures," Jan. 2, 2014. It's a bachelor party with mahraganat music in El Marg, a large and very populous informal district on the northeastern edge of Greater Cairo.

New mix (well, a month old now) from Habibi Funk

"get to know what fadoul sounded like when he was playing around with rapping, disco from egypt, coladera from algeria, an arabic take on zouk music and much more. it also includes 2 tracks from egypts al massrieen which will be the next reissue on habibi funk."

This is all the information provided by Jannis of Jakarta Record (based in Berlin and Cologne), so, alas, no track list. But it is a sweet list.

Jakarta has released three notable Middle East albums of late:

Fadoul, Al Zman Saib -- Algerian funk from the 1970s, pretty amazing.

Ahmed Malek, Musique Originale de Films -- terrific music soundtracks from the Algerian master, including music from the soundtrack to Merzak Allouache's brilliant 1976 film Omar Gatlato.

Dalton, Alech/Soul Brother -- a 7" from Tunisian funk/rock band, released in 1971/72

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MTV documentary on Egyptian 'rebel music,' the massive June 30, 2013 demonstrations against Morsi, and the aftermath

This is a quite interesting documentary, from MTV, about the period running up to the Tamarrod-organized demonstration of June 30, 2013, and the role of musicians in that movement. Ramy Essam, Karim Adel Eissa of the rap group Arabian Knightz, and Nariman El Bakry, a music promoter, are all strong supporters of Tamarrod and critics of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. After the coup, Karim Adel Eissa expresses support the army, who he says he did not support previously. [Addendum from just a couple hours after this was posted. I posted more or less the same thing on FB. A FB re-posted, and within minutes a comment from Karim Adel Eissa, who says, "my stand openly and publicly changed shortly after that tho."] Nariman seems to shut down emotionally. Ramy got alienated by the crowds expressing support for the army at an event the night before the June 30, and so did not play at the June 30 demo. He says he was glad that Morsi got tossed out but not with the coup.

Good resource that is not always terribly accurate -- claims that 33 million Egyptians demonstrated against Morsi on June 30. Its estimate of 1200 killed in the Rabaa massacre of Muslim Brotherhood supporters on August 14 is more sound. Human Rights Watch estimates at least one thousand.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mashrou' Leila (Lebanese alt-rock band) & Orlando on NPR

The great Lebanese alt-rock band Mashrou' Leila is on tour in the US (and bands like this, of course, always skip Arkansas in such cases), and they played DC and showed up in the NPR studio to do a Tiny Desk concert. Their appearance (Monday June 13) coincided with the news of the Orlando massacre. Their lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is out gay, and they have been the subject of some controversy in Lebanon for their queer positivity.

Anastasia Tsioulcas (NPR Associate producer), who you should, btw, follow on twitter -- @anastasiat -- writes:

The group opened its Tiny Desk set with "Maghawir" (Commandos), a song Sinno wrote in response to two nightclub shootings in Beirut — a tragic parallel to what happened in Orlando. In the Beirut shootings, which took place within a week of each other, two of the young victims were out celebrating their respective birthdays. So "Maghawir" is a wry checklist of sorts about how to spend a birthday clubbing in their home city, but also a running commentary about machismo and the idea that big guns make big men.

"All the boys become men / Soldiers in the capital of the night," Sinno sings. "Shoop, shoop, shot you down ... We were just all together, painting the town / Where'd you disappear?"

It's a terrific song, very moving, and wow, so appropriate.

In an article about Mashrou' Leila by Kim Taylor Bennett, on Vice's musical channel Noisey, the group elaborate further about the song:

"‘Maghawir’ narrates a possible version of a club shooting in Beirut, drawing on references to real Lebanese case histories from two different shootings that took place within the same week, both of which resulted in the deaths of extremely young victims, each of who was out celebrating their birthday.

"The lyrics are formatted to read like a list of steps to follow on a night out in Beirut, satirically referencing the hordes of tourist-targeting bucket lists that overshadow readership on Lebanon like 'Things to do in the city of nightlife,' while maintaining a conscious attempt to sketch out the more tangibly tragic facets of such rampant and un-policed violence and gun ownership by accentuating the innocence of the victims involved—be that by opening the lyrics with a happy birthday wish, or only alluding to the actual death of the victim by running the metaphor of losing someone in the crowd of a club.

"On the other hand, the lyrics constantly brings up gender to situate the events within a broader discourse on gender and the recruitment of Lebanese men into locally-revered militarized masculinities, where said violence often becomes not only common, but rather part of a list of gendered provisions for the preservation of men’s honor, as demonstrated in the case studies the song refers to, where both assailants shot in retaliation to having their pride (masculinity) publicly compromised.

"In marrying the lyrics with upbeat dance-worthy music, the song gestures towards the evident normalization of such behavior, wherein lies the critique of the 'capital of the night,' by questioning whether or not violence is just another thing we can dance to, another element of the country’s nocturnal paysage under the continued patronage of the political elite which often chooses to protect criminals because of vested political interests."

Three different transliterated and translated versions of the song are here.

Also, check out this very smart article from Good by Tasbeeh Herwees, who interviewed Mashrou' Leila when they performed in Los Angeles in November 2015, on their first US tour. (They're now on their second.) A few choice excerpts:

The musicians, however, are rarely asked to talk about technique and style. “We’ll go to France, someone will ask how we feel about Charlie Hebdo,” says Sinno. “Or we'll go to Italy and someone will ask us if we can buy CDs where we come from. It's embarrassing.”

With the advent of the 2011 Arab uprisings, Mashrou Leila’s fans conceived new explications for the music. “The interpretations go their own way,” says Abou-Fakher. “[Our music] gets appropriated for movements in Egypt at a particular time or to a cause in Palestine at another time.” Songs that previously gestured at discontent were reappropriated as calls to revolution. They were played at political rallies in Cairo, Tunis, and Amman, where the band has massive—and growing—audiences. “Inni Mnih,” a song on their 2011 album El Hal Romancy—in which Sinno sings, “let’s burn this city down and build a more honorable one”—was misread as an anthem for the Egyptian revolution. Once, at a music festival in Beirut where the group Gorillaz was also playing, the band sang an Arabic rendition of Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” as a tribute. The clip found its way online, where it was reinterpreted as a rallying call for protesters in Tunisia. “It gets all these political associations slapped onto it,” Sinno says...

In “Djin,” the third track, Sinno sings, “I don’t do sodas, I don’t do teas / I drown my sorrows, forget my name and give myself to the night / liver baptized in gin, I dance to ward off the djin.” The lyrics are an exercise in demystification, an attempt to dismantle the myth of Beirut as a playground for Western jet-setters and nightclub-hopping tourists. “At the very beginning, we were sort of pissed off about the way Beirut is always portrayed as this party destination,” says Sinno. “For people who live there, there's a lot of actual politics that get negotiated in these spaces, in bars and clubs.”

The “danciest” song on the album is also one of their most sobering. “Maghawir”—which begins by narrating a night out in Beirut—is about nightclub shootings in Lebanon. “Shootings in clubs in Beirut happen more frequently than I think people would like to admit,” says Sinno. Only last month, a club shoot-out in the city killed eight people. “Wear your black suit and come down,” Sinno sings on the track, “bearing that when snow caps the hill / all the boys become men / soldiers in the capital of the night.”

 And...here's what Sinno said in the group's Washington, DC concert on Monday, according to CNN.

He reacted strongly to a crowd following the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, lamenting the attack against the LGBT community as well as the rhetoric against Muslims and Arabs that followed.

"Suddenly, just because you're brown and queer you can't mourn and it's really not f---ing fair," Sinno said on stage while performing at the band's sold out show Monday night at The Hamilton in Washington. "There are a bunch of us who are queer who feel assaulted by that attack who can't mourn because we're also from Muslim families and we exist ... this is what it looks like to be called both a terrorist and a faggot." 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May 11 is World Kufiyah Day

Who knew? I only just found out, thanks to Elliott.

World Kufiyah Day was started by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, a Montreal-based organization with university chapters across Canada. The group started World Kufiyah Day to bring awareness and solidarity to Nakba Day, which is May 15. 

Read more here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

#dronelife: "Drone Bomb Me" by ANOHNI

A remarkable video of a gorgeous and terrifically brave song by ANOHNI, formerly known as Antony, best known as lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons. I can't embed it but you can watch it here. Directed by Nabil Elderkin--who has directed a lot of great videos, including the stunning "Two Weeks" by FKA twigs--and starring supermodel Naomi Campbell.

The vid is visually stunning, the singing sooooo beautiful, but the lyrics, damn!

Love, drone bomb me
Blow me from the mountains
And into the sea
Blow me from the side of the mountain
Blow my head off
Explode my crystal guts
Lay my purple on the grass

I have a glint in my eye
I think I want to die
I want to die
I want to be the apple of your eye

So drone bomb me
(Drone bomb me)
Blow me from the mountains
And into the sea
Blow me from the side of the mountain
Blow my head off
Explode my crystal guts
Lay my purple on the grass
(Lay my purple on the grass)

Let me be the first
I'm not so innocent
Let me be the one
The one that you choose from above
After all
I'm partly to blame

Has there been a more stunning pop culture response to the drone program than this? I don't think so.

Lest we forget, the cruel stats of the US drone program, from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Pakistan, since 2004:
Total strikes: 423
Obama strikes: 372
Total killed: 2,497-3,999
Civilians killed: 423-965
Children killed: 172-207
Injured: 1,161-1,744

Yemen, since 2002:
Confirmed drone strikes: 113-133
Total killed: 514-747
Civilians killed: 65-101
Children killed: 8-9
Injured: 94-223

Possible extra drone strikes: 81-97
Total killed: 337-489
Civilians killed: 26-61
Children killed: 6-9
Injured: 78-105

Other covert operations: 15-72
Total killed: 156-365
Civilians killed: 68-99
Children killed: 26-28
Injured: 15-102

Afghanistan, from 2015:
Total strikes: 293-295
Total killed: 1,321-1,800
Civilians killed: 61-62
Children killed: 4-18
Injured: 160-165