Saturday, July 23, 2011

Anthony Shadid on "Yalla Irhal Ya Bashar": Syria's Revolutionary Anthem

Check out his video report here, and his article in the New York Times, yesterday, here.

The vid, with performance by Ibrahim Qashush (whose throat was cut soon thereafter) is here, with subtitles.

Note that the subtitles do not capture this: at about 2:30 the chanter says "ru7 sale7 7aref il S" which means go fix your pronunciation of the letter S, referring to Bashar's lisp! (Thanks to Yusef for this.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No SCAF Rap: Message to Tantawi, by Ramy Donjewan

I've been complaining of late that the role of hip-hop in the "Arab" Spring has been somewhat exaggerated. I plan, or I should say, hope, to do a post on this later, once I've thought it through more. But I really like this rap, from Ramy Donjewan, that was posted today on youtube.

It's called "Message to Tantawi," and it is just that, a message to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, the Minister of Defense, and the chair of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or SCAF, which has ruled Egypt since the departure of Hosni Mubarak on February 11. The message to Tantawi is in his capacity as the head of SCAF. The democracy movement in Egypt has become increasingly frustrated with the SCAF, and in particular, of late, its failure to prosecute effectively those responsible for the 800+ deaths at the hands of the security forces during the revolution. Donjewan articulates this, and other demands, and frustrations of the revolutionary movement.

I like this song's flow, its lyrics, the calculated urgency of the Donjewan. Its slow, measured beats, convey a sense of dread, and the simple, repetitive guitar playing adds to the effects. I especially like the chorus, which can be translated as: What we did at first we'll do again Tantawi if our demands aren't implemented. (It's very poetic and effective in Arabic.)

(Once again, I urge someone who can do it quicker and more effectively than me to translate the lyrics of this song.)

You can download the song for free here.

Donjewan put out a song right before the start of the revolution, called "Against the Government," that was quite fantastic as well. Check it out here.

The title of this post: No SCAF Rap, is lifted from the 3Arabawy blog, where I first learned about this song.

(Footnote: the wikipedia entry on Tantawi says he's of Nubian origin, but the sources for this claim are gone. Is this true?)

UPDATE (later the same day): Robin translated a bit more: "Oh Tantawi, my brother's blood is very dear, and we are not making threats... where is the right of the poor, the one who died?"

Ultras in kufiya (Cairo, Tahrir)

One of the great stories from the Egyptian revolution is how the "ultras" (fanatical football/soccer fans) of Cairo's two main clubs, Ahli and Zamalek, played a key role in defending, and in fact saving, the Revolution, on the night of February 2nd. When I was in Cairo, a good friend (and a reliable source) told me about how, on that night, when the thugs (baltagiyya) of the regime attacked, the word was sent out from ultras on the square, and 2000 more ultras showed up to organize those on Tahrir, many of them middle class youths not so accustomed to street fighting, as well as to fight for the revolution themselves. As my friend explained, the "ultras" detest the police, who have been as tough on them as on any Egyptians causing "trouble," or not. They've experienced the beatings, the torture, the abuse that so many young Egyptians have routinely faced at the hands of Egyptian security. And, what is more, the ultras have lots experience fighting the police and the security. The other key force that came to the rescue of the revolution on the night of February 2 were the Muslim Brothers. Their leadership was also called from the square when the regime thugs launched their attacks, and so the Brothers sent out about 2000 of their own "self-defence squads," i.e., their toughs, their enforcers. A coalition of ultras and Ikwhan therefore saved the revolution that night, along with the less-experienced but willing-to-fight thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators who were already there. (A great source on the intersection of politics and Middle East soccer is James Dorsey's invaluable blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. He has posted several times about the role of the ultras in the Egyptian revolution.)

This Friday, July 15, the Brotherhood boycotted the protests at Tahrir. But the ultras were there, as this photo, and account, from 3Arabawy, shows. And I quote:

Ahmed Bahar and Tarek “Masaken” of Zamalek’s Ultras White Knights in Tahrir Square on Friday night. 

I had an interesting chat with Tarek, a young UWK member who’s also a staunch pro-Palestine supporter. He told me he’s been attending demos in solidarity with Palestine since he was a prep school student. Both Bahar and Tarek in addition to thousands of other UWK members took part in the January uprising, and their role, as well of that of the Ultras Ahlawy, were sometimes central in confrontations with the Central Security Forces troops on the Friday of Anger, and against the thugs during the “Battle of the Camel” on 2 February.

It's great to learn that some of the ultras are not just struggling for democracy in Egypt, but are also supporters of the struggle of the Palestinians. And please note the Che t-shirt.

kufiyas: Cairo airport and Riyadh shopping mall

This is from Cairo airport, July 2011 (thanks, NT). You might think this represents an Arab woman in "traditional" fashion, but women don't usually wear kufiyas as headscarves. Swarovski is an Austrian company that produces lead crystal and other related luxury products, so this mannequin doesn't seem to have anything to do with the kiosk behind it.

Then there are these, from Mamlaka Shopping Mall, in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, January 2010 (thanks, EC). Very deluxe kufiyas, that have nothing to do with Palestine solidarity or any progressive politics whatsoever, and everything to do with elite Saudi identity. (The red kufiya, with white dishdash, is traditional Saudi dress.)  Kenzo, Lamborghini, Borsalino, Versace: very swank. Please get me a Versace next time you're in Jedda, won't you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

kufiyaspotting: "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" (2008)

Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) are on the track of a band called Where's Fluffy. They get to a NYC club, where everyone is waiting for the late-night appearance of Where's Fluffy. This band (Are You Randy) comes on instead. Everyone is disappointed, boos, and leaves. Except for one loser, who takes his shirt off and dances around like a loon. The fact that the deejay of the band (played by Sammy Marc Rubin) was wearing a cool kufiya didn't dissuade anyone from leaving.