Tuesday, February 26, 2013

El Général and Shadia Mansour at BAM, March 9

 Yes, the El Général from Tunisia. I have been going on for more than a year about how the role of hip-hop in the Arab Spring has been way overblown. Here, among other places. But if there is one rapper who has been really and truly integral to the Arab Spring, it is El Géneral. In November 2010 he put out the song “Rais Lebled” which fearlessly attacked the problems that Tunisia’s autocratic president (rais) Ben Ali had imposed on his people. “Rais Lebled” appeared on Youtube immediately before the protests that ensued after Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, and it led to El Général’s imprisonment.Demonstrators in Tunisia are said to have chanted the words to “Rais Lebled” as they called for the release of El Général and for the end to Ben Ali's rule. (The blog Revolutionary Arab Rap posted an excellent account of El Général as well as links to vids and lyrics, in Arabic and English.)

So, this is a major occasion, the appearance of El Général at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and it's not to be missed--if tickets are still available.

Palestinian rapper Shadia Mansour has performed several times in the US, but she is well worth seeing too, especially on such a bill. (You may recall that I had my issues--ideological rather than artistic--with her song/video, "The Kufiya Is Arab," but I do admire her work a great deal.)

Also on the bill, Egyptian rapper El Deeb, with whose work I am less familiar, and Malian rapper Amkoullel, about whom I know very little.

Rounding out the bill, advertised as a rap event, is the Moroccan musician Brahim Fribgane. I've seen him over the years playing electric guitar in Hassan Hakmoun's band at the Essaouira Gnawa Festival in 1999; playing 'ud and guitar and doing vocals with La Mar Enfortuna at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music in September 2006; backing up Moroccan jazz singer Malika Zarra at Boom Restaurant in New York City in March 2007; and performing on 'ud with Gnawa artist Majid Bekkas in Fayetteville, Arkansas (yes! my hometown!) in October 2012. Fribgane is an all-around, extremely versatile talent, so you might expect any numbers of musical functions from him at BAM.

Fribgane and Bekkas were here as part of the Fall 2012 Caravanserai program. Caravanserai's artistic director is Zeyba Rahman, and she was here with the musicians in Fall. And she was even interviewed on Ozarks at Large.

It's the same Zeyba who is curating the BAM event. Way to go, Zeyba.

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