Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review of Le Trio Joubran, Palestinian Oud Trio, on NPR

It's not often that the national media pays any attention to contemporary Palestinian music, so I was very pleased to hear Banning Eyre's favorable, and quite compelling, review of Le Trio Joubran's latest album, Majaz (مجاز), which was released last October. The review was broadcast yesterday (April 29) on All Things Considered. I've only listened to a couple of cuts on the album, but I can still highly recommend it. Don't just read the review on line, but also listen to it, since you get to hear the music. To hear more tracks from Majaz, go here, to emusic--which is doing a great job of making music from all over the world, including Palestine, readily available. Emusic also has the entire Sabreen catalog, as well as Tamaas, the solo release from the eldest of Le Trio Joubran, Samir.

(I reviewed the Joubrans' earlier album here.)

Another Haifa Wehbe controversy, this time Bahrain

Thanks to a comment on an earlier post, I've been alerted to the latest Haifa controversy--in Bahrain, where MPs want her performance banned. An excerpt from the BBC report, dated April 30:

A raunchy Lebanese singer is causing controversy in Bahrain, where she is due to perform for the first time.

All but one of the members of the Gulf kingdom's Islamist-dominated parliament have approved a motion urging the government to ban Haifa Wehbe's show.

They objected on the grounds that the pop superstar's performance would be sexually provocative, violating Islamic conventions and Bahrain's traditions.

Organisers had earlier promised she would dress modestly during the show.

And just to remind hawgblawg readers what the MPs are objecting to:

More Haifa posts here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More on hip-hop kufiyas

I'm still gathering information. I talked to a friend who keeps pretty good track of these things, and he says that "old school" rappers who were known to wear kufiyas include Stetsasonic, EPMD, and Paris. I've not yet found any photographic evidence, but Paris makes intuitive sense, given his militant, Black Pantherish politics. Stetsasonic were conscious rappers, from NYC, where kufiyas were very common in the 1980s, so it's possible. EPMD? From NYC, so again, possible, although not as convincing as Stetsasonic to my mind.

The back cover of King Sun's 1990 album, Righteous But Ruthless, shows Sun sporting an all-black kufiya--definitely not a "Palestinian" style one. (The guy standing next to him--possibly producer King Shameek--is wearing a fez/tarboush.) King Sun never made a big impact, but was one of many influential rappers of the late eighties and early nineties who belonged to the Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percenters.)

Method Man (of the Wu Tang Klan) reportedly appeared in a kufiya in a video (but not "PLO Style, as I would have guessed.) I'm still trying to find which one. He also reportedly wrapped himself in a Palestinian flag in concert. Mos Def has worn a kufiya in concert as well, and has performed at benefits for Palestinian causes. (Mos Def is a "conscious rapper" as well as a Sunni Muslim--as opposed to belonging to the Nation of Islam or the Nation of Gods and Earths.)

And another Lupe spotting--an old one, from the cover of XXL (last October):

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Faux-kufiyaspotting: Jay-Z (Kanye stylee)

Thanks to John, I think a now have a photo of Jay-z on the Letterman show--the incident that some say gave a boost to the hip-hop kufiya movement. Here's a photo of Jigga arriving to appear at The Late Show, last October. The "kufiya" is of the faux variety, in the style of Kanye West (kufiyaspotting #30, below). The photos is from Celebrity wohoo.

Kufiyaspotting #31: Jermaine Dupri, Chris Brown

I've been asked to comment on the recent popularity of the kufiya in hip-hop circles, so I decided to hunt for more images and do more research. Of course, the kufiya in hip-hop is not "new" but dates back to the mid-to-late 80s, at least. Just as the kufiya has been around in political circles in the US since the early 70s, and in hipster circles since the mid-eighties.

Some claim that the latest upsurge in hip-hop kufiya wearing was incited by Jermaine Dupri (pictured on left), and given another jolt when Jay-Z showed up on the Letterman show wearing one (I've not found a photo of that one yet.) This may be the case, but Jermaine and Jigga were following trends and then taking them into more visible venues. They did not initiate hip-hop kufiya wearing. (On the right is Chris Brown.)

On this blog, I've "spotted" Houston rapper Chamillionaire (born Hakeem Seriki), Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West, The Cool Kids, Everlast (here and here), and Aki Nawaz of Fun>Da>Mental.

More to come!

Monday, April 14, 2008

More kufiyaspottings: DAM at Sundance

Originally uploaded by RJ Maccani
This is a great set of photos from Sundance, taken in January, featuring some of the stars of Jackie Salloum's film Slinsgshot Hiphop, which is about Palestinian rap. The guys from DAM and Mohammed of PR hang out with the likes of Quentin T., as well as important US hip-hop artists like M1 of Ded Prez and DJ Spooky and Chamillionaire (who sports a kufiya). Kufiyas abound! Check out all the photos.

Kufiyaspotting #30: Lupe Fiasco (and Kanye West--maybe)

A big "shukran" to Mark, who spotted this image for me, on the homepage of Lupe Fiasco's official website. Unlike most other celebrities who have donned the kufiya, we can be pretty confident that Lupe knows something about the Palestinian resonances of this symbol. Lupe (born name Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) is a Muslim, is quite open about his Muslim beliefs, and his father is African (I've not been able to determine which country). Besides the kufiya, there is also the cover of his latest album, The Cool, which features English writing made to look like Arabic script. (It says "Lupe Fiasco.")

Kanye West is featured on the cover of the January 2008 cover of Spin, as co-entertainer of the year, along with Daft Punk. This photo is from Spin's feature article on Kanye. It's a faux kufiya, it evokes kufiya. I guess it belongs here, I've finally decided, since being alerted to it by Chris (thanks!) a couple months back.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New from The Guevara Connection: "Gaza Calling" from Convention 303

You've gotta listen to track five! Dave Watts, who runs The Guevara Convention, describes this track, and the group, here. It features a phone call from their Gazan friend Bilal, who's trying to call the United Nations. "Hello...where are the United Nations? Can you hear me?"

All of Gaza is wondering, where are the United Nations?

Fun'Da'Mental Update (of sorts)

I'm about to give another talk about Fun'Da'Mental, and I'm trying to update myself on Fun'Da'Mental happenings. So here are a few tidbits.

First, a video clip of Nawazish Ali Khan, who has performed and recorded with Fun'Da'Mental for a number of years. (If you buy the All Is War bonus CD, you will find a number of essential Fun'Da'Mental vids as well as a documentary about Fun'Da'Mental. The documentary has some interview footage with Nawazish and also some concert footage featuring Nawazish. His most notable recording with Fun'Da'Mental is his vocal track on "Ja Sha Taan," from Erotic Terrorism.) The clip here features Nawazish at a Fun'Da'Mental concert, singing and playing harmonium without backing. I believe he is singing the praises of Ali ("Mullah Ali"), the 4th Caliph, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, who the Shi'a regard as the rightful successor to the Prophet.

Nawazish continues his lesson here.

The second item is from a report on Fun'Da'Mental's trip to Prague, where they performed in December 2007, from the Prague Post. We learn that the band has really suffered due to the uproar over their album All Is War: The Benefits of G-had.

Sightings of All is War are incredibly rare — Nawaz says there’s an “unspoken ban” on the album. But, worse than that, the band’s workload has sunk dramatically, with promoters pulling out all over the place.

“It’s cost us dearly in terms of work,” Nawaz admits. “Before the album, we were doing about 70 to 80 gigs a year. Prague is only our fifth this year. Why was it that, during the punk era, bands would be quite controversial and all the promoters would say, ‘Yeah, come on, it’s your right’? I expected something similar to come back from the promoters and the music industry [for us], but there’s been nothing.”

“Everybody has been frightened off,” added the band’s beats master, Dave Watts. “It’s like Fun-Da-Mental were the terrorists. We’re not killing people; we’re talking about the state killing people. And we’re talking about resistance, and trying to understand what gets into the heads of people that are prepared to cross the line and give up everything in the defense of their family and their land.”

Finally, and on a happier note, more Fun'Da'Mental music is now available. Go to the official Fun'Da'Mental website, and check out the "News" item dated November 18, 2007. There you can download three new Fun'Da'Mental tracks. They are somewhat different from previous Fun'Da'Mental releases. I've not listened closely enough yet to offer an opinion. the most interesting, I think, is "Darfur and Disneyland," written and sung by Lloyd Sparkes.

Another track is available for listening, though not for downloading, at Fun'Da'Mental's myspace page. It's a really wonderful recording of a live collaboration between Fun'Da'Mental and Bakshi Javed Salamat Qawwal, from 1998. Javed Salamat was a pupil of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Check out this youtube clip of Javed performing:

More on "El Gusto"

In the Sunday NYT today, this item, reproduced below, from critic Ben Ratliff's review of new/interesting releases (in Playlist, a weekly and invaluable Sunday Times feature). I blogged about this recording and film earlier, here and here. It's nice to see the NYT finally catch up!

Check out this wonderful performance of the El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers, from the BBC2 program, Later...with Jools Holland. Preceded by a nice intro from Damon Albarn. Unfortunately, Maurice El Medioni, who appears in the film (but not the recording), is not on piano in this clip.

Abdel Hadi Halo & the El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers

Connected to “El Gusto,” a documentary film by Safinez Bousbia to be released later this year, this piece of audio vérité documents the reconvening of an old Algerian band that included both Jewish and Muslim musicians. And there’s your movie, of course, but the album stands on its own merits. The music is chaabi, a long-lost alloy of North African, Andalusian and Middle Eastern sources; its high period was in the bars of Algiers after World War II. The orchestra has banjos, lutes, mandolins and violins, playing unison lines; it’s led by a pianist, and it moves along on a bed of percussion, thundering and then turning romantic and vulnerable. This recording, recently released by the British label Honest Jon’s, represents an incomplete version of the band that will be seen in the movie. (It has none of the older Jewish musicians, who relocated to France in 1962, when Algeria became a Muslim-ruled state. In 2006, when this recording was made, they were still afraid to return to Algiers. The orchestra later staged a full reunion, its first gig in more than 45 years, in September in Marseilles, France.) It’s a bewitching record anyway, with gorgeous natural-room sound and powerful, guttural singing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Turban'd Kim Wilson, Fabulous Thunderbirds

I finally found a photo of Kim Wilson in a turban. Kim Wilson, the great lead singer and harmonica player of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The other guy is lead guitarist, Jimmy Vaughan, brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. Jimmy plays in a more restrained style than brother Stevie, but is fully his equal. I used to see these guys play in clubs all the time in the late 70s in Austin, and they kicked ass. Best album from that era is their eponymous The Fabulous Thunderbirds (19779), and this one, What's the Word, is a close second.

Kim used to wear the turban in concert quite often, and he looked slick.