Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Kominas: National Tour (+kufiya bonus)

Taqwacore icons The Kominas are going on national tour! Go see them: all reports of live sightings are very positive. This is the latest, updated poster, fresh off the (virtual) press.

This is the first iteration of The Kominas tour poster. Which do you prefer? (Forgetting the fact that the second is the 'correct' version. Whichever you choose, you must admit that The Kominas really have the image thing going on.

And the kufiya thing going on. (This photo is from their Facebook page.)

Other Kominas and taqwacore-related items that I've come across of late (mostly, in fact, courtesy of The Kominas).

##A video of highlights of the 2007 Taqwatour, with The Kominas, Al-Thawra, Omar Waqar, Vote Hizballah, and The Secret Trial Five.

@@A report from The Guardian on a new book (The Taqwacores: Muslim Punk in the USA) featuring photographer Kim Badawi's images of Islamic punk bands, from 2005-07.

%% The Kominas have recorded a new track, "Blackout Beach," which was featured in a new play, "Water Board: A Play About Torture," which is being performed today at the YMCA Theater, Cambridge, MA. (Please read about it--I can hardly stomach it myself.) You can hear the song on The Kominas myspace page--or if you're a "fan," on Facebook.

^^A long trailer for the film, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam.

&& Watch The Kominas practice. With trumpet. They keep putting out these clips, so stay tuned.

I just got hold of John Lennon's The Lost Home Tapes 1965-1969. It's cool that we can have access to The Kominas home tapes almost instantaneously. Not that The Kominas are The Beatles, but Shahjehan Khan does bear a resemblance to John Lennon.

^^Nice interview with The Kominas. The word means "scum" in Urdu. They explain their humor. And their politics. "Shariah Law in the USA." Taqwa: Terrorists Are Quite Well Adjusted.

Again, be sure to go see The Kominas if they are playing anywhere near you. Hopefully their next tour will swing by NW Ark.

Friday, July 17, 2009

M1 of Dead Prez in Gaza (and Kufiyaspotting #50)

Those familiar with the work of the rapper Dead Prez will not be surprised that he is now in Gaza, as part of a 200 person delegation, including former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and New York City Councilman Charles Barron, bringing in humanitarian aid under the auspices of Viva Palestina.

Hopefully he will have a chance to perform in Gaza in the company of Palestinian rappers, as he did back in April in Chicago:

M1 is one of those kufiya wearing rappers who are knowledgeable about Palestine and who is active on behalf of Palestine.

Here's what he told Youth Radio about Gaza in March:

At the seat at every one of these motions that happen in the Middle East is the instability that's brought on by the oppression that's been in that region forever. Since 1948, there, the interjection of the same type of imperialism that shakes the world everywhere around in Africa, in the U.S. The reason I act the way I act is the same reason why the Palestinian people are being attacked. And I think there's one way out, there's one way towards peace and that's the same thing as Peter Tosh say, equal rights and justice.
Here's M1 in kufiya, kicking it Kenya in 2007 (courtesy lukas).

Here he is at the 2008 Slamdance Housewarming Party in Park City, Utah (the alternative to Sundance).

M1 was also present at the 2008 Sundance for the screening of Slingshot Hiphop, but I haven't found any pictures of him garbed in kufiya there.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Cheb Mami sentenced to 5-year prison sentence

Unbelievable! The Prince of Rai, dethroned. Here's a report from the New York Times on July 4 (p. A5):

France: Singer Sentenced to Prison


A French court sentenced the popular Algerian singer known as Cheb Mami to five years in prison for abducting a former lover in 2005 and forcing her to undergo an abortion, which was mishandled. The singer, whose real name is Muhammad Khalifati, had denied the charges but expressed remorse, saying he had been manipulated by his entourage and had panicked when he found out the woman was pregnant. The woman gave birth to a healthy daughter, now 3. The singer has had several hits in France and sang on Sting’s 2001 record “Desert Rose.”

The only reason, of course, that this made the news is because of Mami's appearance as a sideman with Sting. Cheb Mami has not only had hits in France, but prior to moving there in 1985, lots of hits in Algeria.

If you read French, check out this report by Daoudi Bouziane in Libération, which reports on a bizarre interview Mami gave to the Algerian newspaper, le Quotidien d'Oran. Mami blames his Jewish manager, Michel Lévy, for giving him bad advice. And also he takes pains to mention that the woman in question, the photographer Isabelle Simon, is a French Jew. He claims to be a victim of a media plot, due to the fact that he's a successful Arab star.

According to the BBC, Mami's manager (also known as Michel Lecorre) was sentenced to four years for plotting and organizing the assault, and two of Mami's aides, Hicham Lazaar and Abdelkader Lallali, were convicted in absentia. Prosecutors claimed that Levy lured Simon to Algiers in August 2005, under the pretext of a business trip.

Here are more details on the crime Mami was accused, and then convicted of, from

Mami is accused of trying to force an abortion on his former girlfriend, a magazine photographer, during a trip to Algeria in 2005. It is claimed his alleged victim was locked in a house belonging to one of the singer's friends, where two doctors attempted to perform an abortion. She later realised the foetus was still alive and decided to keep the child....Mami has reportedly accused his manager of organising the abortion plan.

(Thanks to Lisa and Arun.)

Kufiyas are all over "The Hurt Locker"

To my great regret, The Hurt Locker has not yet opened here. Maybe, if NW Arkansas fans of Kathryn Bigelow are lucky, it will open later this month. Carolina, who is fortunate enough to live in NYC, has already seen it, and informed me that she spotted what looked like a kufiya on one of the characters. This prompted me, naturally, to get on the case, and a search of publicity stills turned up a number of kufiyas. Here's one of Ralph Fiennes as Contractor Team Leader.

Copyright © Summit Entertainment

and another:

Copyright © Summit Entertainment

There is of course, a long tradition, of Western fighters in the Middle East putting on kufiya. The guards of the early Zionist colonies and TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), for instance. Kufiyas were part of the uniform issued to British forces posted throughout the Middle East after the First World War, and called shemaghs. And here's what wikipedia says about their current use by US forces in the Middle East:

Since the beginning of the War on Terror, these keffiyeh, usually cotton and in military olive drab or khaki with black stitching, have been adopted by US troops as well. Their practicality in an arid environment, as in Iraq, explains their enduring popularity with soldiers. Soldiers often wear the keffiyeh folded in half into a triangle and wrapped around the face, with the halfway point being placed over the mouth and nose, sometimes coupled with goggles, to keep sand out of the face. This is also commonly done by armored, mechanised and other vehicle-borne troops who use it as a scarf in temperate climates to ward off wind chill caused by being in moving vehicles. British soldiers deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan are now issued with a tan-colored shemagh.

The wikipedia entry captures the material practicality of the kufiya, but misses its symbolism. The fact that the kufiya is associated with the "terrorists," with the "bad guys," is also a key element of its attraction. Wearing it seems to capture, in some way, the "evil" power associated with the enemy.

But what about this publicity still, which shows director Kathryn Bigelow and an unidentified assistant in kufiyas? (See kufiyaspotting #48.) Bigelow's is a "local" kufiya, but her assistant's is in "hipster" colors. Mixed messages...Associating with the soldiers...with the locals...with the US hipsters...

Copyright © Summit Entertainment

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Elia Suleiman's movie, "The Time That Remains": released in August

Here's a trailer for The Time That Remains, the latest film from highly-regarded Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman. It opens in France on August 12, after screening as an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival in May. God knows if and when it will open in the US.

Here is a catalog of some reviews from US sources, the majority very favorable. David Hudson calls it a "deadpan Palestinian comedy," which sounds about right, based on my familiarity with Suleiman's previous work. (Thanks to Kamran for alerting me to the trailer.)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Novelist Claire Messud on Palestine

Novelist Claire Messud recently attended the Palestine Festival of Literature in the West Bank, and she just published a wonderful essay about her experiences here. She captures beautifully the dreadful reality of daily life--which I experienced last summer during my two weeks there as well. (I found this thanks to Angry Arab.) Please read the entire piece. I reproduce an excerpt below:

The Ramallah-based architect and writer Suad Amiry put it best when she explained that to be Palestinian now means never to feel at home, because you have no control over time or space. You can live a lifetime in one place and yet not master its geography: routes long-familiar will suddenly be blocked off by barriers or checkpoints; while open spaces in the middle-distance will sprout settlements almost overnight, vast urban conglomerations that change the landscape altogether. You can live a lifetime in one place and yet never know how long it takes to get anywhere: a mere 20-mile journey might consume a whole day, depending on the checkpoints and the whim of the soldiers you encounter. You might never get there at all: you could well be turned back.

I read Claire Messud's 1999 novel, The Last Life, which is about a French pied noir family. (Messud's father was one, a French settler in Algeria.) I didn't much care for it because I felt it really didn't grapple seriously with the French colonial past in Algeria. Based on this essay, I'm going to have to revise my opinion, and maybe check out The Emperor's Children (soon to come out as a movie directed by Ron Howard).

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Essential reading on Iran from MERIP + arrest of Iranian researcher Bijan Khajehpour

This press release was issued today:

NEWS RELEASE July 2, 2009

Middle East Research and Information Project
1500 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 119
Washington, DC 20005

Another Iranian Researcher Jailed

The Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of the economist Bijan Khajehpour by authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khajehpour was snatched from the Tehran airport on June 27 upon arrival from Britain. His whereabouts are thus far unknown to his wife, two young children, family, friends and colleagues.

His arrest fits into the deeply disturbing pattern on display since the Islamic Republic moved to quash popular dissent from the official "result" of the June 12 presidential election. On June 30 the Guardian Council, an unelected and unaccountable clerical body, "certified" that "result" on the basis of an internal review of only 10 percent of the ballots. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Iranian citizens are in jail because they have spoken out for more transparent democratic procedures and the rule of law in Iran.

Khajehpour is chief executive officer of Atieh Bahar Consulting, a highly respected firm based in Tehran, and author of tens of articles on Iranian political economy. He suffers from diabetes, and MERIP is very concerned about his health while in detention.

"It's impossible to know what is happening in the hardliners' 'black sites,'" remarked Kaveh Ehsani, an editor of Middle East Report, where Khajehpour's work has been published. Reports of torture during the post-election crackdown are so numerous as to be impossible to dismiss. The Islamic Republic has an execrable record of maltreatment of prisoners, one no better than that of the regime it replaced.

MERIP points to articles of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran which prohibit such maltreatment, outlaw the persecution of individuals for their beliefs, protect freedom of speech and the press and permit the free holding of public gatherings. These articles correspond to legal protections enshrined in the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.

"Unfortunately, the powers that be in today's Islamic Republic seem bent on flouting the constitution, with a brazenness unseen in recent years," continued Arang Keshavarzian, another Middle East Report editor who was in Iran during the June 12 voting. The Guardian Council's opaque and incomplete review of ballots is the most recent signal to this effect.

"Anyone who is still attuned to the hardliners' 'anti-imperialist' siren song should ask themselves why so many principled Iranians are in jail for closing their ears to it," added Chris Toensing, executive director of MERIP.

MERIP calls upon all defenders of human rights to press for an immediate halt to the crackdown on the Iranian dissenters and the prompt release of all persons unjustly detained.


"Protest and Regime Resilience in Iran," Khajehpour's analysis of a previous episode of pro-democracy dissent (Dec. 2002), is available on the MERIP website at:

For background on Iran, see the spring 2009 issue of Middle East Report, "The Islamic Revolution at 30." (This should be required reading for all reporters covering the latest events in Iran.)

For an absolutely essential analysis of Iran's latest events:

Kaveh Ehsani, Arang Keshavarzian and Norma Claire Moruzzi, "Tehran, June 2009," Middle East Report Online, June 28, 2009.