Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Che Spotting

Supporters of Cyprus' president-elect Dimitris Christofias wave Cyprus flags and Che Guevara banners at a victory celebration, Eleftheria Stadium, Nicosia, February 24. Christofias was the candidate of the Cypriot Communist Party, the surprise victor, and the beneficiary of the Greek Cypriot electorate's revulsion toward his predecessor's hardline stance regarding negotiation with Turkish Cypriots. Christofias is the first Communist leader of an EU country.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kibbespotting: Rewriting the History of the Blues

No doubt almost anyone who reads this blawg heard this amazing story (Jan. 31) on NPR's Morning Edition: "Kibbe at the Crossroads: A Lebanese Kitchen Story." On the face of it, this is just a "food" story, a bit of NPR fluff. But it turns out that a story focusing on the mostly unknown history of Syrian/Lebanese cuisine in the Mississippi Delta opens up a history of Syrian-Lebanese immigrants in the Delta and their ambiguous position on the black-white color line. I love the image of Robert Johnson sitting under a sycamore at the legendary crossroads in Clarksdale, guitar by his side, eating barbecue he had procured from the nearby Abe's Barbecue, a restaurant founded by a Lebanese immigrant (Abraham Davis) from the Lebanese town of Zahle. (Probably he didn't eat kibbe, which seems at the time to have been "home" food cooked up on Sunday and not served in Lebanese-Syrian restaurants.) We learn too that Ike and Tina Turner worked for a Lebanese-owned grocery store in nearby Riverton. And we learn that during the days of the Civil Rights movement, Abe's Barbecue and the Lebanese-owned Chamoun's Rest Haven were among the only in the area that would serve blacks. (Without more evidence, I don't think we should generalize on the basis of this story about the commitment of Arab-Americans in the South to the Civil Rights movement. But I do have it on good authority from a friend who knew Ike Turner quite well that Ike always had kind words for Lebanese, based on his experience working for a Lebanese-American grocer.)

At one point in the story, Pat Davis, owner of Abe's, pulls out a CD and plays a song in Arabic sung by Danny Thomas, who was cited by those interviewed for the story as the preeminent Lebanese-American, and star of the very popular sitcom "The Danny Thomas Show," which ran from 1953 to 1964, and often featured Danny's fictional Lebanese uncle, "Uncle Tonoose" (played by Hans Conried--see photo).

The CD in question is The Music Of Arab-Americans, released by Rounder, and the song is reportedly the only recording in Arabic released by Danny Thomas. I highly recommend it, and Danny's song is one of the best on the CD. (The very informative liner notes were penned by ethnomusicologist Anne Rasmussen.)

And, read to the bottom of the "Kibbe" story for a useful discussion of the song, "Miserlou."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm

Another reminder that March 19th is the 5th anniversary of the Iraq invasion. Please join the effort to end this madness. In Fayetteville, you can participate in Pancakes for Peace on March 1, and the 5 Years Too Many demo on March 8. United for Peace and Justice is organizing events throughout the country on March 19--go here to find an event. And if you blog, please join the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm. Information available here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Colin Farrell, Kufiyaspotted Again

Check out this MSN Video, where he's being interviewed about the film, "In Bruges." (Thanks to The Bedouin Project for this info.)

5 Years Too Many!

And 1 trillion dollars too many [WRONG! As of today, Feb. 19, it's $495 billion too many, according to the National Priorities Project], 1 million (or so) Iraqi dead too many, 4000 (nearly) US soldiers too many...I can hardly believe that the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War is nearly upon us (March 19). Fayetteville's peace organization, the Omni Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology, is planning to mark the anniversary with a demonstration, strung out along College Ave. from College to Township, on March 8. (Not March 19, because that's during spring break for us.) Join us!

And, to raise money for the event, a Pancakes for Peace breakfast on March 1st. With coffee courtesy of Arsaga's!

Another "Soundtrack for the Next Misadventure": Abjeez

I came across this video, "Eddeaa," by the Iranian group Abjeez, while reading the blog Rough In Here, Rougher Out There. I can't understand Persian, and don't know enough about Iran to really understand the video, but I find it uproariously funny. The scenario seems to evoke early twentieth century, pre-Pahlavi, Qajar Iran. I think. Check it out for yourself.

"Abjee" is Persian slang for sister, and the band is two sisters, Safoura and Melody Safavi, plus backing musicians, and are based in Sweden. More information here.

Also check out Abjeez's very clever video, "DemoKracy," complete with English subtitles. It's a clever, humorous critique of the US neo-con use of the smokescreen of "democratization" to justify military intervention in Iraq and potentially (though now, mercifully, much less likely) Iran. Abjeez describe the video as being a response to "AIPAC is pushing us to war with Iran for Israel." In this regard, I have much more faith in Obama's willingness to talk, as opposed to bomb, Iraq, than in either McCain or Clinton.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I'm going to Creighton University next week to give a talk about "Contemporary Trends in Middle Eastern Pop Music." (Nice poster, no?) The topic is way too large, so I'll limit the discussion to Haifa Wehbe, "gnawa fusion," and Palestinian rap. Today I'm trying to write up the Haifa bit, which has involved, among other things, scanning the web for useful sources. In the course of my searches I came across the absolutely essential Haifa Wehbe Fashion Blog. Check it out to keep up to date on what Haifa is wearing. We should never forget that Haifa is not just a singer: she's also a fashion model.

What's your favorite Haifa song? I'm quite partial to "Ma Sar." I know, it's pretty much just a techno/dance song with vocals in Arabic, but hey, it's a good dance song, and I like how Haifa's voice sounds on it. Number two for me would be "Ana Haifa." Check out Haifa's most recent videoclip, "Mosh Adra Astana," here.

local kufiyaspotting

I've really slacked off of late when it comes to blogging. There's no real compelling excuse, other than the fact that I was in Portland last week for a meeting of the editorial committee of Middle East Report and to speak (along with Rochelle Davis and Lara Deeb) at Reed College.

There are many things I have wanted to write about, but for now, since it's easy, I wanted to report my latest kufiyaspotting. The photo is of DJ Shortfuze, spinning the wax in Fayetteville on New Year's Eve, for a party at Urban Table. Last night Shortfuze opened for the legendary Mixmaster Mike--a really fabulous show. Turntablism is coming on strong in Fayettenam, as you can read in this article published in the Northwest Arkansas Times. (Shortfuze has an MA in anthropology from the U of A, where he took some classes with me. He acquired his dj-ing skills all on his own, however.) The photo is sampled from the kxua blog.