Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rap of the Syrian Revolution

First rate analysis by Nahrain Al-Mousawi of the only Syrian protest rap ("Communiqué No. 1") I know of that has appeared in the wake of the Arab Spring's spread to Syria. I suggest reading the entire article. Below I excerpt the lyrics that Nahrain translates:

The vid opens with the statement: “The revolution is faceless”

Statement [Communiqué[ No. 1
The Syrian people won’t be degraded
Statement No. 1
We won’t remain like this
Statement No. 1
From Houran* came the good news
Statement No. 1
The Syrian people are revolting …

You exterminated Hama as if it were nothing
Today our rights are in our hands and we will not forgive...

We live in silence/ It’s been years
how long do we have to stay like this—dead...

You sold the Golan for cheap
You sabotaged the cause and defiled it
History shows that no oppressor ever lasted
We will realize our dream of freedom even if it costs blood
The government is destined to fall
The king either flees or is buried

The vid ends with these lines from Syria's famous poet Nizar al-Qabbani:

How do we write with locks on our mouths
Marking each second for the butchers to arrive
I carried my poetry on my back and it has exhausted me
What will happen to the poetry when it collapses.

*Der'aa, where the revolt started, is in the Houran.

Now, watch the vid:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dan Gilman on Egypt's new 'martyr pop'

I recommend, for your reading pleasure and for your edification, Dan Gilman's piece on Egypt's new "Martyr Pop." He shows how pop stars like Hamada Helal, Amr Diab, Tamer Hosny, and Mohamed Fouad have, post-Mubarak, produced songs and videos dedicated to the martyrs of the revolution. As Gilman, a graduate of the University of Texas' Anthropology Department and currently on a post-doc in Cairo, shows, these seem like belated attempts by artists not known for their strong support for the pro-democracy movement, and in some cases, as backers of Mubarak, to revive their reputations. The attempt seems lame. But the analysis is strong.

This is not the first time that Egyptian pop artists have attempted to express their solidarity with martyrs, with mixed results. See Elliott Colla's article on Egypt's pop intifadiana, "Sentimentality and Redemption: The Rhetoric of Egyptian Pop Culture Intifada Solidarity," in the book I co-edited with Rebecca Stein, Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture (Duke University Press, 2005.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Palestinian kufiya fashion

Check these out, from the tumblr microblog KuffiyaClothing:

The original source of the photo below is: TEDxRamallah Adapt International / MCDM LiveStream event - Scott Macklin (taken by @saareal)

And this is a photo done for (the site of Kuffiya Clothing).

And here is the website for Kuffiya Clothing, with more photos. If you can figure out how you actually order from this site, please let me know. I want a hoodie!

Kufiyas in Hard Kaur's "Desi Dance"

Hard Kaur is the UK's first Asian female rap artist, according to the BBC.

"Desi Dance," recorded with Detroit's D12 (Eminem's group), is the first single from her second, forthcoming album (which was announced awhile back but is yet to appear). I am unable to claim that this is a great song. But the vid is interesting, because:

It appears that a "desi dance" requires lots of kufiyas.

There is this, Hard Kaur's quite fabulous head wrap. I'd love to see Amy Winehouse done up in one of these.

And then there are the dancers accompanying Hard Kaur on the "desi dance." Not only do they look like Palestinian guerillas, but the kufiyas are wrapped around their head so as to expose only their eyes. In Palestine they are known as "mulaththamin," "masked men," who confront the Israeli occupiers with their faces wrapped in kufiyas, so as to evade identification by Israeli security. (Wearing the kufiya in this manner is now illegal in France.)

And note that here Hard Kaur not only has a black and white kufiya dangling from her neck, but also a red and white kufiya tucked into her belt, or her front pocket. Desis can't have too many kufiyas...

Here Hard Kaur appears with Bizarre of D12. Is B's shower cap an ironic commentary on Hard Kaur's head wrap?

And to balance the kufiya, a turban. Raja style.

Now watch the vid yourself:

Friday, April 22, 2011

In tribute to Ahmed Bassiouny: First Annual Egyptian Independent Artist Music and Film Festival

Smart review of the first annual Egyptian Independent Artist Music and Film Festival from Al-Masry al-Youm. The festival was a tribute to the martyr Ahmed Bassiouny (who I've posted about several times). The reviewer, Mia Jankowicz, liked the performance of the band, Machine Eat Man, but: 'Assured as it was, it was hard to discern anything specifically “Egyptian” from Machine Eat Man's sound. It was tronica for sure, but not yet “Egypt," particularly when electronic strains of sha'abi music might make a decidedly more authentic claim on Egyptian electro.' Jankowicz concludes: 'A more fitting tribute to Ahmed Bassiouny might start with supporting experimentalism -- his chosen style -- and afflicting the comfortable with humor and a critical eye...In coming years, to see this become a focused platform for the same emerging experimental media artists that Bassiouny worked so hard to support, would be extremely exciting.'

For an example of what Bassiouny was about, check out this riveting performance. It will make you regret his passing. This is what Jankowicz means by 'Egyptronica,' I believe.

The photo above was taken by me, in late March, in Zamalek. Bassiouny is on the right, Mustapha al-Sawy on the left.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Some responses to France's 'burka ban'? Paris Fashion Week and Erykah Badu

As of April 11, it was illegal in France to appear in public with one's face covered. In anticipation of the soon-to-go-into-effect legislation, some Paris designers, including Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Marithé François Girbaud, featured some fashion designs inspired by the burka at Paris fashion week in March. Read about it in this article from The Independent. (Elaine Sciolino notes in today's New York Times that, although there is much talk of the burka, in fact what the women in question are wearing in France is not the burka but the niqab.)

AFP PHOTO/Pierre Verdy

AFP PHOTO/Pierre Verdy

AFP PHOTO/Pierre Verdy

This is of course not the first instance of "hijab fashion" to appear on Western runways. It's not something that I've been following terribly closely (kufiyas seem to consume most of my time and energies), but I have on occasion posted on it in the past. This occasion, however, seems, possibly, to be somewhat more oppositional.

Meanwhile, is Erykah Badu's poster for her Dubai appearance on April 9 in any way related to France's new legislation?

And in a kind of footnote, in light of the above, what would you make of this?

I recently came across this via SPIN magazine. Hebrew letters (on face and on either breast), plus insignias on both shoulders which resemble the Arabic for allah. And a pyramid. The mystical symbolism is, well, beyond me. Gnostic Kabbala Afro-futurism.

(Erykah, despite requests from the BDS movement, performed in Israel in 2008. While there, she appeared in a t-shirt expressing opposition to the war in Iraq; her Israel concert poster featured a khamsa; she expressed support for Palestinian rappers; and defended Louis Farakhan.)

Erykah makes some of the best music in contemporary r&b/hip-hop/soul. I love her last two albums.

Egyptian Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2011, dedicated to the martyr Ahmed Basiony

==Thirty Days of Running in Place, 2010 (interactive multimedia project)==
Featured in the exhibition Why Not, Palace of Arts, Cairo, January 2010
Presented in a specially constructed room outside the Palace of Arts in the garden of the Cairo Opera House. © Photo: Ahmed Basiony's family

Here's the announcement about the pavilion, from the Universes in Universe website. (I've posted about Ahmed Basiony previously, see here.)

The Egyptian Pavilion is honored to present a project in the name of our friend and brother, Ahmed Basiony (1978 - 2011).

On January 28th, 2011 - artist, musician and professor, Ahmed Basiony was killed with several gunshot wounds inflicted by snipers on the Friday of Wrath in Tahrir Square (The 2011 Egyptian Revolution). Ending at 32 years of age, the same period that witnessed the remaining year of Anwar Sadat's presidency, followed by his assassination, and resulting with an Egypt held under the Mubarak Regime, Basiony was what one would consider an emblem of hope to millions of Egyptians, who were determined to live their life for change from a nationally repressed command.

A man who lived and died for his country; an artist honored for his courage and loving mystique amongst his friends, colleagues, and students who were proud to learn from his life, and more-so from the cause behind how it all ended, Basiony's words on his facebook status, on his last Wednesday and Thursday evenings, showed his full determination to continue the revolts in peace though beaten down with police batons:

"Please, O Father, O Mother, O Youth, O Student, O Citizen, O Senior, and O more. You know this is our last chance for our dignity, the last change to change the regime that has lasted the past 30 years. Go down to the streets, and revolt, bring your food, your clothes, your water, masks and tissues, and a vinegar bottle, and believe me, there is but one very small step left… If they want war, we want peace, and I will practice proper restraint until the end, to regain my nation's dignity."

The works on view, will be a two-fold production of works done by the artist, however, it is intentionally designed to reflect a random display of incidents.

A year prior to the uprisings, Basiony had worked on a project titled 30 Days of Running in the Space. Exhibited outside the Palace of the Arts (located across the Nile from Tahrir Square, on the Opera House Grounds*) was a square structure enclosed in transparent plastic sheets. The space was made for a digital and performance-based concept, whereby the artist was to wear a sensor-fused plastic suit he had designed, that would calculate levels of sweat produced and number of steps taken while jogging everyday in the space for an hour - for 30 days (a period reflecting the number of exhibition days). From the quantitative measurements explored while jogging, the data was then wirelessly transferred on a large screen displaying a grid of colors that evolved with the changes explored from the function of everyday energy and consumption.

30 Days of Running in the Space will then be juxtaposed up against another set of screens - this time, an unedited documentation of an unplanned chase for change: Showing raw footage of the revolts on the streets of Cairo, since the start of the risings on January 25th up to the 27th. Basiony, amongst his colleagues, filmed the motions around him, and upon returning every evening home, he downloaded all footage on his laptop - however, the footage on the night of his disappearance on the 28th, was never found.

30 Days of Running in the Space is homage to the raw footage that survived Basiony's sudden exit. A reflection to Basiony's life as a well-respected Egyptian artist, son, husband, father, and friend; a chased consumption who desired change for the betterment of his country - all events for this exhibition were documented on film, and will occupy 5 screens in the exhibition hall, showing randomly side by side.

Aida Eltorie, Curator
Shady El Noshokaty, Executive Curator
Magdi Mostafa, Multimedia Engineering

*Why Not? Exhibition curated by Mohamed Talaat, 7 February - 11 March 2010, Palace of the Arts, Cairo, Egypt. More about, Nafas Art Magazine, Febr. 2010

For more about Basiony, please go here.

Addendum, April 23. For those who read Arabic, this is an account of Egypt's 2011 Biennale Pavilion from al-Shuruq, April 1. (My friends who read the Egyptian press regularly say this is Egypt's best newspaper.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Notes on Dana International

1. Dana is going back to the Eurovision Song Contest. After winning as Israel's representative in 1998, she is returning in 2011 (May 10, 12, 14), to represent Israel with the song "Ding Dong."

Here's her 1998 winning performance of the song "Diva."

And here is "Ding Dong."

I vastly prefer "Diva," but that doesn't mean that "Ding Dong" can't win.

2. Here's a youtube video of Dana's performance of one of her earliest songs, "Sa'ida Sultana." If the date is correct (1993), then Dana has just had or will soon have sex change (MTF) surgery. Note how she simulates bellydancing early on, when Ofer Nissim is playing a kind of 'Oriental' riff on the keyboards.

The song is a "version" of Whitney Houston's 1990 hit "My Name Is Not Susan," sung entirely in Arabic, except for the last verse, sung in English, and drawn from Whitney's original. (Watch the vid here.)

You can and should check out the lyrics, which are quite clever, here (scroll down a bit).

3. Dana was rather inactive from 2002-2006, but returned with a new album in 2007. One of the most interesting of its tracks was "Seret Hodi," a Bollywoodish number, done with Idan Yaniv. Dana's early releases (1993-96) featured a number of tracks in Arabic. Since then it's primarily Hebrew and some English. Does "Seret Hodi" represent a kind of "return" to her Eastern roots, or is it just an attempt to ride the Bollywood wave? Or both? In any case, here's the video:

4. You can read an article I published about Dana in 2000 here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Egypt's Jon Stewart: Bassem Youssef Show

Bassem Youssef (r.) at Tahrir Square (April 12, 2011 episode)

I love how much coverage Egypt is getting in the US media. Positive coverage.

Here's NPR's report on Bassem Youssef.

Here's his Youtube channel. Here's another story on Bassem from the Daily Beast. Enjoy.

Kufiyas: Rihanna, Pat Benatar. Who looks tougher?

Pat Benatar, courtesy Vs. the Pomegranate.

Nirvana sent me the Rihanna.
Is this supposed to complement her Arabic tats?
Or just another way to indicate her support for the Afghanistan surge?
Love the red fringe.

Libyan Hipsters

Lots of irony in these findings. Very funny. This one, courtesy Sebastian Meyer.

This one, which features the characteristic 'hipster kufiya,' I got through a Facebook friend. The source, I never found. Don't you love the 'ironic' bazooka? Puts a whole new spin on 'irony.'