Monday, February 03, 2014

Samira Tawfiq sings to Jordan's red kufiya

The famous Lebanese singer Samira Tawfiq (given name: Samira Ghastin Karimona) was born in the village of Umm Hartin, in Suwayda province, Syria in 1935. Her father Ghastin worked at the Beirut harbor. She made her career in Jordan, reportedly due to all the competition from other big names like Fairouz and Sabah and Wadi' al-Safi, and she became known especially for her songs done in Bedouin dialect. Here she is singing about the red(-and-white) kufiya, which is closely associated with Jordanian national identity, particularly due to the fact that it is worn by members of the armed forces. This patriotic song dates from the 1970s, and is no doubt somehow in response to Jordan's expulsion of the Palestinian resistance movement in 1970-71. (The iconic Palestinian kufiya is the black-and-white one.)

You can download a great Samira Tawfia (Taoufik) LP here, and frankly, its songs are better than the red kufiya one.


Hammer said...

This patriotic song dates from the 1970s, and is no doubt somehow in response to Jordan's expulsion of the Palestinian resistance movement in 1970-71. (The iconic Palestinian kufiya is the black-and-white one.)

Not even remotely correct; not the date, too. Wow! Samirah Toufiq was loved by every Jordanian, and she was particularly invited to sing for the Jordanian Armed Forced (Umm El-Ghiesh; was a nickname given to her; which means 'the Army's Mamma').

As a Jordanian, let me explain to you, dear Ted the way people started wearing the “dichotonic” colours of red, and white kufiyas. First, the beginning of wearing this headdress dates back to the 1700s.

The main colour used is white-and-black, and Arabs as far as Egypt and Iraq started wearing it when the Ottoman Empire expanded to the north; namely, what is known today as Kurdistan where this headdress originated.

The word used today in countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia (in addition to some extent to Qatar; Bahrain, and a few other Arabian Gulf states), is sh'mag or eshmagh, and this word is 100% Turkish in origin, and the Turks took it (or, as linguists like to say "borrowed" it), from the Kurds who wore these mainly while they tended their flocks of sheep in the mountainous regions of northern Iraq.

The material used (or, was as now all that is used to make these garments are synthetic textiles mixed with a tiny amount of cotton), was sheep’s wool, and this came in two colours only: White, and Arabs (especially Jordanians, and Saudis), refer to white sheep as beiyadh and black (mostly sheep, but it can also be coming from goats' hair; even when that's preferably left to make the tough roped head-band that stabilises the headdress on top of its wearer's head in place, namely again el-e'ghal which means 'the restrainer').

With time, the texture used for making these shmaghs became more decorative, and people started dyeing the wool with beautiful colours. First was green, as this is a colour loved by Arabs whose religion Islam beckons most to wear it (i.e. Prophet Mohammed's said favourite colour was green). Then, the traders who sold these to rich Ottomans dyed them red/royal red, but soon, a new headdress took their place and the Turkish fez, or tarboush became prestigious to wear,and ultimately people stopped wearing them in the larger cities, and it was only common to be seen worn in the rural, more agriculture and farming dependent rif.

No-one could afford the red kufiyas (Note: the name came from the way this headdress is worn; which is done by kuffing literally the two long ends on top of each other. Kuff, or later on cuff in English is a word that's originally Arabic, and it means "to turn a sleeve; to make hidden"), and the white ones were worn by virtually everyone: Palestinians and Jordanians alike.

The distinction came from the way the Hashemite Court's Royal Garrison wore the red ones (Read: To announce their Royal status as Royal Guards), and this began way back when Jordan became an Emirate in the early '20s after the British Army tried to make them look presentable.

But, Palestinians also wore red shmags as well as most Arabian Gulf residents regardless of their social status, though in the Gulf, it's more common to wear sheer, white-coloured ones that are known as ghoutrah (Trans. The Cover/ Veil).


Hammer said...

When the Civil War broke between Fedayeen guerilla fighters from the Palestinian factions that came from the Six Days War to seek refuge in Jordan, almost all people did not wear any headdresses whatsoever, save from the aforementioned rural rubes and country folks.

Palestinians and Jordanians in large cities like Amman; the capital where I reside at the moment wore the average badlah or suit and some insisted on wearing the fez, too. But, you couldn't find any in the early 70's, right to the early 90's who wore the red or white headdresses, or sported these as a way to announce his origins.

Most Jordanians are Palestinian in origin. Some here can attest that there are basically no Jordanians save from some Bedouin in the south and far northern governorates of Mafrag and M'aan, and oddly enough, those people wear mostly the "sheer, white" headdress that does not come embroidered with any motifs, angular shapes, or any colours whatsoever.

Not that there was any racism between Palestinians and Jordanians at all: All this sepratism as I call it started after the second Gulf War began. It's a very tediously long story to try to put to words here, and most of all... In English.

You can't find racist people in Jordan unless they are those who come from the governorates close to Palestine (like A-Salt, Irbid), and even when the people who come from these places having indubitable Palestinian origins, in addition to Syrian ones, they hate to be referred to as Palestinian-Jordanians and thus created the whole scene in the early '90s.

Other than that, there is absolutely nothing to mention when it comes to the Civil War that nearly tore Jordan into two warring halves. What I mean is there is no-one who talks about this war; be they Palestinian-Palestinians; Palestinian-Jordanians, or *long gasp* Jordanian-Jordanians.

I live in the very same place where the last remnants of these fedayeen were exterminated by the Jordanian Armed Forces, and not far from where I type these very words here to you, there sits their bones on a hilltop called 'Jabal Aliyah', in the Al-Nasser district; which was called so (Nasser means victory), after the victory over the Black September militia who threatened to overtake the place with their P.L.O.-paid Kalashnikovs.

Lastly, I once took a taxi cab in the mid-'90s to go see a football match between Al-Faisali Football Club and Al-Wihdat: These two clubs have a similar rivalry, or so-called Old Firm like say, Rangers and Celtic do in Scotland being Jordanian (presumably Faisli is and the colour they wear is blue), or Palestinian (mostly Wihdat, and the colour this time is a combination of green and red, so much they’re known as the ‘beets’ in popular jokes).

As is usual, you need to entertain yourself through the ride, so I and the "chauffeur" started "grokking" deep about this whole "black" section of Jordan's "dark" political history. He smiled at me, smoking his dirt-cheap cigarettes and said: "Who else do you think has placed this hatred in between us?" I said, "You tell, please" and that's when he threw his filter-burned cig, looked at me again with his red, fiery eyes, and said in a gruff voice: "Americans!"

He might be right after all, who knows?

Back to the song now:
It is a song from the mid-'80s and it was something that teachers used to play on large cassette-players in the morning queue of students before they were excused to enter their classes as a way to instill the national identity in these young men.

That is... All.