Saturday, June 28, 2008

MTV Arabia and Kufiyas

I returned from Palestine/Israel on the 24th. While there I had the opportunity to see Palestinian hip-hoppers G-town perform, and to spend part of a day in the Shu'afat refugee camp with bandleader Muhammad and a couple other members of the group (Giant M and Dr. E). (I hope in the future to write a post with more info about G-town.)

Muhammad told me that he doesn't think much of local (Palestinian) radio or television, but he really likes MTV Arabia, and especially the program, "Hiphopna" (Arabic for "our hip-hop"). Otherwise, satellite t.v. programs in Arabic don't cover Arab rap. (There are an amazing number of Arab satellite stations, many of which play lots and lots of music, but in all my time flipping channels, I never saw any videos or performances of Arab rap, or any non-mainstream music, for that matter.) So, it would appear that US corporation MTV is filling a significant gap in coverage of an important local(ized) popular musical form.

I had an interesting conversation about MTV Arabia (launched in November 2007) with Omar in Ramallah this Monday, the day I departed. He noted that the veejays on "Hiphopna" often wear kufiyas--but that the show doesn't play any Palestinian rap. Although during my six weeks in Israel/Palestine, I always stayed in places with lots of satellite stations, I had not seen MTV Arabia. I did some hunting yesterday, and found some video clips featuring one of the vj's--Palestinian-American Fredwreck (Farid Nassar)--wearing a cap with a kufiya pattern, as well as the photo above. (Fredwreck is wearing a red kufiya cap here, in a "Jeddah episode.")

Omar is doing research on the subject of the US use of hip-hop in cultural diplomacy. (I highly look forward to seeing the published results of this research.) His research suggests that those of interested in imperialism and cultural politics in the Middle East should be paying close attention to phenomena like MTV Arabia. Whereas it has become more or less conventional wisdom that US government-sponsored efforts like TV satellite channel al-Hurra and Radio Sawa have been failures (see Marc Lynch's latest post here), corporate efforts to accomplish roughly the same goal have been little criticized, as far as I can tell. (After talking to Omar, I am somewhat more skeptical about the positive uses of hip-hop for US cultural diplomacy than is Marc Lynch--see his latest thoughts here.)

So, here's a provisional estimate of what is going on with MTV Arabia. (Inshallah, someone will do or is doing some serious research on this, and will be able to make a more definitive analysis. Hell, I don't really even have much data!)

MTV Arabia's show fills a gaping hole: it broadcasts and disseminates Arab hip-hop, something no other Arab media, whether radio or satellite television, is doing. So it's a US corporation that gets credit for filling this critical cultural vacuum. And in turn this US corporation determines which Arab hip-hop artists are going to get wide play. (And which are not: to wit, politicized Palestinian rappers, like the very influential DAM, not to mention all the others. And I don't know which others.) Mind you, hip-hop style, particularly when it comes to clothing, is ubiquitous in the Middle East, and hip-hop is very popular among Arab youth. And hip-hop, of course, has "rebellious" and "authentic" resonances, given its history in the US. It is this aura of realness, oppositionality and hipness that hip-hop music and style can trade on as hip-hop circulates abroad. The corporate reality of hip-hop, as documented by astute observers like Jeff Chang, on the other hand, is not well known, and rather cleverly disguised. It therefore makes sense that MTV Arabia veejay Fredwreck might deploy hip-hop's "radical" credentials as well as evoke Palestine by flying his kufiya flag--at the same time as corporate interests are promoted and Palestinian hip-hop in particular gets erased or ignored.

I in no way mean to diss the hip-hop talents of Omar Boflot, the Egyptian rapper who was voted the top MC by Hiphopna's judging committee or Lebanon's MC Zoog, voted the "people's choice," at the end of the show's first season. (See's report here.) Both demonstrate skills, and I'm glad that the show has brought them to prominence. Omar Boflot honed his rapping abilities in Ghana. Check him out performing on the final episode of season one of Hiphopna here:

(But on the other hand, I'd still rather listen to the likes of DAM, or Clotaire K or Rayyes Bek from Lebanon, or MBS or Lotfi Double Kanon from Algeria, or any number of rappers from Morocco like Bigg or Muslim or Fnaire.)

I also don't want to diss the kufiya-wearing Fredwreck. He's Palestinian-American, and so unlike many hip-hoppers who have donned the kufiya, we can be sure that he understands what its symbolism is all about. Moreover, Fredwreck has not been afraid to articulate his opinions about Palestine--which he had visited three times as of fall 2006--when interviewed. For instance, here's what he had to say when interviewed by dubcnn in September 2006:

It’s like apartheid all over again you know what I’m saying but worse. They’re just stealing peoples' land out there and the people fight back they want to ask “oh they’re being terrorists” you know saying “they’re trying to attack us” but you know who attacked who first? You know who occupied whose country? Israel. And like this week you have the United Nations here and the United Nations have not one time…Just any country from the United Nations was to let happen to them what has happened in Palestine, I don’t know what those countries would do so it’s a really sad situation out there.

Moreover, Fredwreck, who is best known for his production work with Tha Dogg Pound, also launched a hip-hop effort to oppose the US invasion of Iraq, known as the STOP Movement. It resulted in, among other things, the release of two anti-war rap songs featuring the likes of KRS-One, Everlast, Mobb Deep and the Alchemist. (Download "Dear Mr. President" here and "Down with Us" here.)

There is even a surprising acknowledgement of Fredwreck's Palestine politics on the MTV Arabia website. The short description of Fredwreck says that "'he now counts his favourite city as Al Kods (occupied Jerusalem)..." "Occupied Jerusalem"!? Can we expect some right-wing attacks on MTV for its anti-Semitism?

But despite Fredwreck's personal politics, ultimately, I think, his kufiya baseball caps, and his Snoop Dogg affiliations, just provide MTV Arabia with a superficial patina of street cred and rebellion. (As do the green tips for living that are listed on the MTV Arabia website under "Social Campaign.") All in the interest of US (imperial) cultural diplomacy and corporate profit.

As I finish this, I have, as it happens, just read an article about an earlier era of cultural diplomacy in the Sunday New York Times. It concerns a photo exhibit that focuses on the State Department's deployment of "jazz ambassadors" in the era of the Cold War (check out the amazing slide show here--you don't see these photos in the print edition--except for the Armstrong which I've reproduced).

What struck me (and I'm guided in this thinking by my discussions with Omar) is that whereas the jazz musicians were willing to play abroad on behalf of the US government, they weren't simply puppets. Rather, they were quite politically aware. For instance:

"[Louis] Armstrong canceled a 1957 trip to Moscow after President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to send federal troops to Little Rock, Ark., to enforce school-integration laws. 'The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,' he said. 'It’s getting so bad, a colored man hasn’t got any country.'

Administration officials feared that this broadside, especially from someone so genial as 'Ambassador Satchmo,' would trigger a diplomatic disaster. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told Attorney General Herbert Brownell that the situation in Arkansas was 'ruining our foreign policy.' Two weeks later, facing pressure from many quarters, Eisenhower sent the National Guard to Arkansas. Armstrong praised the move and agreed to go on a concert tour of South America."

Louis Armstrong in Cairo, 1961 (credit: Louis Armstrong House Museum)

The article goes on to discuss current US government efforts to deploy US musicians as cultural ambassadors, but unfortunately focuses mostly on jazz musicians and not on the hip-hop ones. Again--and I am informed here by my discussions with Omar--I'm skeptical that any US hip-hop ambassador, whether corporate sponsored or government sponsored, would show the political integrity and acumen of the likes of Satchmo.

ADDENDUM (July 2): I should have mentioned that the canonical study of the US "jazz ambassadors" is Penny M. Von Eschen's Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War. I am told that a film based on this subject is in the works.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Release from Natacha Atlas: "Ana Hina"

It's always an exciting event when a new Natacha Atlas album is released. Ana Hina is already out in Europe, but not due to be released on CD in the US until September. Fortunately, you can purchase downloads, from iTunes or or

In some ways, Ana Hina represents a continuation of what Natacha has been up to since the beginning, "fusions" of Western and Eastern music. The difference is that this album represents more of a look backward, a "revival" of earlier fusion traditions. In particular, those of Abdel Halim Hafez (Egypt) and Fairuz (Lebanon). So rather than Arabic tunes set to reggae or hip-hop or dance beats, Natacha returns this time to famous East/West fusions that go back fifty years or so. As Natacha explained when she performed some of this material in Chicago in September 2006, she wants to show that East/West fusion isn't something "new" but something that musicians in the Middle East have practiced for decades.

My favorite tracks on this album are the 'Abdel Halim tunes and one of the Fairuz numbers. All of them are done pretty much as straight covers, as tributes, not deviating in any remarkable way the originals. (The bandleader, pianist and arranger, as in Chicago, is Harvey Brough, and the band plays all acoustic instruments.) When Natacha introduced the 'Abdel Halim Hafez songs that she performed in Chicago, she said what attracted her was their jazz feel. "Bayni wa Baynak Eh?" (What is there between us?) is a well-known 'Abdel Halim song, whose instrumental riff, if you can believe it, is drawn from the Woody Woodpecker cartoon theme song! (Thanks to Martin Stokes for this information.) The Woody Woodpecker influence is somewhat stronger in the Abdel Halim original. Check it out for yourself: here is Woody Woodpecker, and here's Abdel Halim. (For the lyrics to "Bayni wa Baynak Eh?", go here.) The other Abdel Halim song Natacha does is "Al-Aseel," a somewhat lesser-known song, and even more jazzy than "Bayni wa Baynak Eh?" (Listen to the original here.) Of the three Fairuz covers ("Ya Laure Hobouki," "Le Teetab Alayi," and "La Shou El Haki"), my favorite is "La Shou El Haki" (Why this talk?). Written and arranged by the Rahbani brothers, it has that typical light, snappy feel that is so characteristic of their work. The other song I particularly like is "Hayati Inta Reprise," a cover of a song on Natacha's previous album, Mish Maoul. Particularly effective on this track is the accordion work, and especially the solo, of Gamal Kurdi (who used to play accordion with Abdel Halim Hafez.)

These were the highlights for me, but all the tracks are of a consistently high quality. "Lammebada," the opening number, is a revered song from the Arab Andalusian tradition, that has been recorded numerous times. Check out Catalonian singer Maria del Mar Bonet's live version, on youtube. It has also been recorded by La Mar Enfortuna, who opened for Natacha at the Old Town School of Folk Music in September 2006. I'm never fully convinced by tracks recorded by Natacha in English, but her version of Nina Simone's "Black is the Color" is serviceable. Also worth mentioning is the very pretty, "He Hesitated," an anti-war song, which is about a soldier pondering whether or not to shoot.

If you are familiar with Abdel Halim Hafez and Fairuz, you might think, like one of my Palestinian friends does, that Natacha's versions are pale imitations. My response is, no, Natacha isn't Abdel Halim or Fairuz, nor does she pretend to be. She is doing tributes to their music and their spirit. I think they are admirable renditions, and I fully endorse the idea of trying to bring their artistry and their tradition of cultural openness to Western audiences. This is a great recording, and I recommend it highly. Check it out, and then go seek out the originals as well.

International “Wear Your Kaffiyeh With Pride” Day: June 6

I only learned about this event today, organized in England by iMuslim, in response to the Dunkin' Donuts kufiya flap. Read about it here. I have no idea how many people donned kufiyas in response.

Meanwhile, check out Lorraine Ali's excellent commentary in Newsweek on the DD/Rachael Ray kufiya spat. Some choice excerpts:

Shouldn't we be more offended that Ray was shilling their weak iced coffee, a beverage that should be criticized for impersonating, well, iced coffee. But cries of "Bad java!" just don't seem to catch the attention the way racist rhetoric against Arabs and Muslims does...It's doubtful the ad would have been pulled if a handful of critics found Ray's garb too Hispanic or too African-American. The groups themselves would have been dismissed as bigoted or insane.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mutamassik & Morgan Craft in Sweden

Check out this vid of Morgan Craft and Mutamassik performing at the Clandestino Festival in Gothenberg (Göteborg) Sweden. It's a kufiyaspotting; it's a desert camouflage spotting; it's avant-garde agit-prop. It reminds me, for some reason, of Jimi Hendrix doing "Machine Gun."(Thanks, Giulia.)

Keep your eyes and ears out for Mutamassik's forthcoming release, That Which Death Cannot Destroy. In the meanwhile, download the teasers from RoughAmericana.

"Hate Couture": A Kufiya Slideshow from the Sidney Morning Herald

Despite the awful title, this is a pretty decent slide show about kufiya fashion, politics, and history, from an Australian perspective. (Thanks to Wayne, who alerted me to this over 10 days ago.) The report was inspired by the Rachael Ray/Dunkin' Donuts flap.

The report has good visuals (and if you look closely, you will notice that at least a couple are taken from previous postings on hawblawg). Nice soundtrack (Goldfrapp and Palestinian rap group DAM). Informed commentary from a Palestinian-Australian. And interviews with various young Australian kufiya wearers, who know...absolutely nothing about the history or political significance of the kufiya.

And in case you completists missed this one, here's German actress and former fashion model Diane Kruger decked out in her kufiya (I learned about this from the slideshow.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

More kufiya (and hijab) fashion: Art Basel Parties

I can't 'grab' this photo from the terribly trendy art parties in Basel, so go here. This is found in the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times. Thanks, Kelley.

But also check these out. Are this and this further examples of hijab chic, or maybe even niqab chic?! You tell me.

Palestinian Hip-Hop: G-town

Yesterday I finally got to attend a live performance of Palestinian rap, by G-town, from Shua'fat. They performed at the French Cultural Center (FCC), on Salah El-Din Street, in East Jerusalem. The event was part of the FCC sponsored program, Fête de la Musique en Palestine, and it was opened by Jack Lang, former Minister of French Culture! (Lang used to make efforts to promote French rap, back in the day.)

I was very glad to make the discovery of this group--which only happened because I happened to walk by the FCC the day before, and saw the advertisement for the event. G-town are quite good, charismatic performers, interesting lyrics that mostly have to do with Palestinian concerns, and good beats. The venue was not ideal for a hip-hop event--the garden of the FCC seems more suitable for sedate cocktail parties and the life. But the band was enthusiastic, if a little ragged in the execution. The crowd was quite young, pre-teens and young teens for the most part.

I chatted a bit with Muhammad, the group's leader, after the show. He said he learned English from rap lyrics. (He speaks English quite well.) The artists he listened to most while in high school were Tupac, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. Muhammad said that he considered this rap to be a kind of resource that he could use to express the reality in Palestine, and particularly, the fact that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories as well as those who carry Jerusalem identity cards, live in a ghetto like blacks in the United States. They face violence, racism, residential segregation, etc. The G in G-town, in fact, stands for "ghetto."

(photo shot by: me; Muhammad is on the right)

One of the band members said that G-town has been in existence since 2002--but they didn't actually perform til 2006. I asked what the older folks thought about the rap that his group does, and he said, at first they thought it was all about bling-bling and gangstas, but then they listened to it and realized that G-town was discussing serious political and social issues. His father supports what he does and has attended his concerts.

Check out G-town's myspace page here. You can download some free tracks if you've signed up for myspace, and can also check out some photos of G-town in performance. I wondered about whether bands like G-town have opportunities to perform, but apparently they do. A researcher I met who knows the group said that they had performed at a Shu'fat refugee camp cultural festival last weekend at the Hakawati theater in East Jerusalem. The lineup included a wedding band (bad, she said), a comedian, and G-town (the headliner).

Part of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shu'afat is composed of Shu'afat refugee camp, and some of the group's members are from the neighborhood, and some in the refugee camp. The refugee camp and the adjacent village of 'Anata are in the process of being encircled by an Israeli-built wall. Soon, there will only be one exit out of Shu'afat. Anyone who does not carry a Jerusalem identity will be stuck inside. G(hetto)-town indeed! (For my photos of the Wall and Shu'afat, and more info, go here, here, and here.)

G-town have self-released a CD, called Derdaka (which means, talking nonsense). I have no idea how one could obtain it--they gave me a complementary copy.

I also met the man at the FCC who was responsible for putting on the show. He told me that there are five French Cultural Centers in Palestine-Israel: West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah and Gaza. France is the only foreign country with a cultural mission in Gaza. He told me as well that the French rap group M.A.P. (Ministère des Affaires Public), from Lilles, performed last year in Nablus as part of the Fête de la Musique en Palestine. They played at al-Najah University, outside, and 2,500 to 3,000 people showed up. I was quite surprised, given the conservative reputation of Nablus and al-Najah, but he said that no one complained and that in fact, the reception was quite enthusiastic. The FCC brought M.A.P. (whose members include two men of North African origin) back to Palestine in April, and the group performed in Gaza. My informant said that no objections were raised, Hamas didn't complain, and the band was received enthusiastically. He also said that the FCC shows French movies with Arabic subtitles, and that these attract large audiences as well.

Go here for a bit of video footage of MAP at al-Najah in Nablus. You can see how big the crowd is. And kufiyas are in evidence. And check here too.

And check out this video of a member of MAP rapping at the Wall, in front of some graffiti of Leila Khaled.

Settlers in Kufiyas Beat Palestinian Peasants

I'm fairly confident that this was hardly reported in the US--but it's very dramatic footage: "masked" (i.e. kufiya-swathed) Israeli Jewish settlers, carrying baseball bats, beat up an elderly Palestinian farmer. Such events are not at all uncommon in the Occupied Territories--here's a report from Ha'aretz of a similar event last year. Thanks to Israeli human rights group B'tselem, this particular beating was videotaped. B'tselem passed out 100 video cameras to Palestinians, in the hopes that such events would be documented. The project is called "Shooting Back."

Thanks to Elliott, who alerted me to this report on BBC.

These attacks by "masked" settlers remind me of the days of the Israeli death squads--the "undercover units" that were put into operation in the Occupied Territories in 1988 by then-Minister of Defence Yitzhak Rabin, as a means of taking out intifada activists. As Anita Vitullo reported in Middle East Report (No. 178, 1992), as of 1992 these undercover squads, which typically performed their operations in "traditional" Arab dress (which always included kufiyas), had killed over 100 Palestinians.

What usually happens in the cases of settler attacks is that the perpetrators are not charged. In this instance, two settlers have actually been arrested. I'm sure it is only thanks to the fact that the attacks were recorded on video, and that the video got into the hands of international media, like the BBC.

This is in marked contrast what happened in the wake of the recent attack on two Palestinian youths who were hanging out at the mall in the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze'ev in the East Jerusalem area. The Palestinians were set upon by 80 Israeli Jewish youths from the settlement, and badly beaten. The Israeli settlers wanted to ensure that the mall was Arabenrein. No onlookers intervened. The attacks ended only when the police intervened. To date no one has been charged. No doubt this was not reported in the US, but it was reported by Ha'aretz.

Why were these Palestinian youths hanging out in the mall? There aren't any malls, or anything like them, in the Arab areas of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem municipality provides five times as much funding to Jewish areas as to Arab areas. But everyone pays the same taxes.

For photos, and descriptions, of settlements, the Wall, checkpoints, and expropriations, please check out my flickr account. This is what I've been checking out for the last few days.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This is not a separation barrier

The Wall, Abu Dis
Originally uploaded by tsweden
I'm posting a lot of photos on my flickr account (go down a ways on the righthand column and click, or go here), and I also end up writing descriptions. I reproduce one below. I visited the wall at Abu Dis (east of Jerusalem) on Thursday.

A construction worker invited me on to the roof of a 5-story building he was working on. When I got to the top he said, "Nice view, eh?"

The "separation barrier" is ostensibly a security measure, to protect Israeli Jews from suicide bombings and other terrorist acts.

In fact, tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs reside on the other side of the wall. And the Jewish settlement of Ma''ale Adumim (pop. 35,000) is on THIS side of the wall, just down the road from here, to the east.

I met a middle-aged gentleman who lives very near here, right next to this beautiful wall. He has two brothers who live just the other side of the wall. He can't visit them without getting permission from the Israeli secuity (often hard to get) and driving by a very circuitous route. (There is NO crossing close to here.) He used to have 200 sheep, but now only has 6, because of problems with water caused by the wall.

Another man I met used to work as a head nurse at a Jewish hospital on the other side of the wall. Now, he can't work there any more, and has to eke out a living selling coffee and small pastries at a tiny kiosk.

A head nurse....

This is not a "separation barrier."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kufiyaspotting #38: Jonas Brothers

Thanks to Melanie, who spotted this one for me. And she writes:

While babysitting, I was watching a Jonas Brothers commercial on The Disney Channel. What do I see carefully placed around the neck of one of the brothers? A kufiya. It was on the screen for no more than three seconds of the commercial, but it was clear to me what I just seen. The "fashion" accessory has even trickled down to the Disney kids.

Melanie hunted for a photo from the commercial, couldn't find one, but found this instead. I think it's Nick who is wearing the black-and-white, and Joe in the blue one. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

I think I may have found the commercial that Melanie saw. It's not real clear, but I'm sure that there is a kufiya around the neck of one of them:

Will Michelle Malkin step in again to protect our children from this new jihadi threat?

For those of you who don't know--and I had to look this up--the Jonas Brothers are a pop-rock band who appeal to a 'tween demographic, as far as I can tell. They appear often, in person and in ads and in soundtracks, on the Nickelodeon Dhannel, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network.

Perhaps kufiya wearing is an attempt to appear a bit more hip, to instill a hint of street cred?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kufiyaspotting #37: K-Salaam and Beatnick's Mixtape, "New York Is Burning"

K-Salaam is an Iranian-American DJ, born Kayvon Sarfehjooy. He has just put out a new, free mixtape, together with Beatnick, called NY is Burning. It features several prominent rap and dancehall/reggae artists, including Mos Def, Sizzla, Outlawz, Damian Marley, Dead Prez and Capleton. The title refers to the anger in New York City over the not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell murder trial. The mix-tape was released as advance publicity for the forthcoming K-Salaam & Beatnick album, Whose World Is This?, due out on July 29. Download it here.

It's really an excellent mixtape. I've not listened to it enough to give it any kind of review, but I'm really partial to the Outlawz track.

Please note the blunt-smoking young man on the cover, decked out in a cap with "rasta" colors and a kufiya.

Moreover, Junior Kelly opens the track "Freedom" by saying, “Freedom in Iraq, freedom in Palestine, freedom in Cuba, freedom in Ethiopia.” And K-Salaam (I think) opens Outlawz's track, "We Want In," with the shout "Free Palestine!"

So we can tell that the kufiya on the cover isn't just another instance of "fashion."

Moreover, on the K-Salaam and Beatnick myspace page, K-Salaam writes the following, regarding the forthcoming Whose World is This?

I would also like to dedicate this album to all people who have had their land stolen from them, from New Orleans to Palestine. We must take it upon ourselves to learn about what is really happening around the world, rather than watching the news because we are not going to get any type of truth from watching a media broadcast that is funded by vampires. Believe it or not, what goes on in places like Iran and Palestine has a direct effect on what goes on to working people and people of color everywhere. If you stand up and demand justice for people somewhere else, then there is a greater chance that you will live in justice in your neck of the woods. Otherwise, what is going to stop these major corporations and imperialist powers from continuing to seize land without hesitation; then destroying it, and rebuilding it to their own liking; just as they are doing to Brown people in Palestine, and Black people in New Orleans; just as they did to the Indigenous people in the United States and everywhere else. There can never really be justice on stolen land.

It's a pleasure to report on an instance of hip-hop kufiya fashion that is actually connected to some informed politics.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Palestine Kufiyas

Kufiyas, Jerusalem
Originally uploaded by tsweden
As of Friday, I'm in the land of the (Palestinian) kufiyas. Kufiyas are for sale (mostly to tourists) all over the Old City of Jerusalem. My photo shows a typical display. Unfortunately for local producers, almost all the kufiyas you see for sale are made in China. As per an earlier post, there is only one remaining kufiya manufacturer in Palestine, in the city of Hebron. I hope to visit the factory sometime in the next couple of weeks.

As it's summer, you don't see many Palestinians wearing kufiyas, just older men, presumably from the villages, who wear them in the traditional way, as headgear. I did spot one woman in Islamic dress, who was wearing a kufiya as a scarf. A friend of mine tells me that young Palestinian don't in fact wear them as scarves or headgear anymore. He claims that they've adopted US style baseball caps (in Texas we used to call them 'gimme caps') that say things like UCLA or NY Yankees.

For more of my photos of tourist kufiyas go here, here, and here.

To see more of my photos from my Palestine trip, go here, or click on my flickr site in the right hand column.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Afrita (Frida)

Afrita (Frieda)
Originally uploaded by No Logos

I'm in Jerusalem, and our dog Frida, a catahoula, who is back in Arkansas, is very sick. It seems like it's touch and go. We rescued her from being put down in January 2006. Please, anyone who reads this, send some good thoughts Frida's way.

Frida, get well. I'm thinking of you.



More Invincible: "People Not Places" + Mutamassik mp3 and Kufiyaspotting (#36)

Thanks to a comment by Invincible on my previous post, I now know about her song, "People Not Places." You can hear it and read the lyrics here. It's part of Expressions of Nakba, an international virtual art exhibit put together on the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe that created roughly 750,000 Palestinian refugees.

The song describes a "birthright" tour through Israel, that reveals the hidden traces of Palestine at various Israeli tour sites.

Blue white flags
For the birthright Tour I’m on
Never mention 3 villages the airport is on
recent history buried but it speaks thru the sand
all jews- law of return-I don’t seem to understand
a land without a people for people without a land? But
I see a man standing with a key and a deed in his hand

Invincible writes: "One of my main aims is to destroy the myth of a 'Jewish birthright' to a land Palestinians are denied the Right of Return to." (Check out Birthright Unplugged.)

Check out Invincible's blog where she gives an account of playing a show in Leipzig, and how promoters were uneasy about her kufiya, because they're often worn by neo-Nazis in Germany.

Plus: Awhile back I received an announcement of a new track from Mutamassik, posted on the Rough Americana website. It's called "B. Shebang (Bastille Mix)," and I highly recommend it. But also check out the other free downloads there, from Mutamassik and her husband, Morgan Craft. I'm really looking forward to the release of Mutamassik's new album, "That Which Death Cannot Destroy." For my review of Mutamassik's last release, go here.

I posted this photo of Mutamassik almost three years ago, before I was "kufiyaspotting" in a focused way. (It used to be up on the Rough Americana website, and was taken by Arthur Jaffa.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Kufiyaspotting #35: Rappers Invincible and Finale on Gentrification in Detroit

Here's some "conscious" rap from Detroit rapper Invincible, with guest Finale, performing their song "Locust," which critiques the processes of gentrification in Detroit. It's part of a longer documentary on the displacement and the "predatory planning" going on in Detroit, and shows folks who are attempting to develop sustainable development alternatives.

Invincible appears with a purple-and-white kufiya around here neck, Finale, with a black-and-white one. It's a pleasure to write a kufiyaspotting where about folks who are politically progressive, where you can be sure that they wear scarves around their necks nut just because it's hip fashion but in the context of a serious political statement.

Invincible's myspace page is here. Finale's is here.

Violet informed me awhile back about Invincible, and I meant to write about hear earlier, but didn't get around to it. Check out the promo video below for her song "Sledgehammer," which features her in the purple kufiya again, and a good word from Talib Kweli.

And I quote Viola: "Invincible's an amazing activist and performer...she just recently tore it up for NYC's Israeli Apartheid Week show "Pick up the Mic; Break Down the Walls" along with Sabreena Da Witch (Abeer) from Lyd, Rebel Diaz, and more! She's also a member of Detroit Summer and the U.S.-Palestine Youth Solidarity Network, doing hip hop workshops with youth in Detroit and Palestine!"

And there's even more about Invincible here.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Kufiyaspotting #34: Nas

Someone sent me this one. Nas has a new album coming out, as of this date untitled. It was to have been called Nigger, but that title has been abandoned due to the resulting controversy. A couple of tracks have been "leaked," including one called "Be a Nigger Too," along with a poster series, of which this item is one of several. You can listen to the song, and see other posters, here.

Early in his career Nas (given name Nasir Jones) was one of the most prominent rappers who belonged to the Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percenters), but by around 1999 or so, he had left the Gods. Evidence for his departure appears in his song "God Love Us," from Nastradamus, where he raps, "Cause next to Jesus on the cross was the crook niggaz, uhh/but he forgive us." And note the cross he wears on his Independence Day site.

But all this doesn't keep him from following in the footsteps of Kanye, Jigga, and all the others.

Now that the New York Times has covered it, is the "jihadi chic latté" controversy over?

On Friday, the New York Times covered the Rachael Ray/Dunkin' Donuts/Kufiya thing.

What I find interesting about the report is that there was an internet backlash against the backlash spawned by Rachael Ray. As the Times puts it:

"From there, a backlash to the backlash started to take hold.

An item about the controversy had more than 2,300 votes and 830 comments on Digg, a news aggregation site. A YouTube video, “Rachael Ray Is a Terrorist,” poked fun at the situation, with the narrator saying, “Yes, because when I look at Rachael Ray I think 9/11.” That video drew more than 2,300 comments, and a related story on The Huffington Post had more than 1,200 comments."

For the record, The Huffington Post, to date, has FIVE posts dealing with the Dunkin' Donuts terrorist scarf. Here's a list:

1. "Wednesday night on 'Countdown,' Keith Olbermann [MSNBC] declared Dunkin' Donuts his "Worst Person in the World" for caving to the lunatic fringe..." Check out the video.

2. A post from Gershom Gorenberg: "[Daniel] Pipes, Michelle Malkin, [Pam] Geller et al should pay attention: The words alcohol , algebra and algorism are all really Arabic. They are proof of a nefarious Islamic plot to destroy Western society." When Gorenberg first read about the hullabaloo, he thought it was an item from The Onion.

3. From Daoud Kuttab: "Turning a centuries old symbol of a proud people into a claim of terrorism is unacceptable to the millions of people around the world who proudly wear the keffiya."

4. The original post with, to date, 1498 comments.

5. From Erin Kotecki Vest. She calls it Dunkin' Donuts' "Freedom Fries" moment.

Whew! Anyone else tired of this?

But wait, check out the comments on wayneandwax, to a post that linked to my post on Dunkin' Donuts and Grand Theft Auto, and in particular this one, from theantisuck:

"Back in high school, the only kids I knew rocking the keffiyeh were involved w/ or supported the US pro-palistine movement, the kind of kids who would wear similarly slightly controvercial military gear like army jackets and, yes, Che shirts. I knew a lot of radical youngins who wore them, some second generation arab kids and a bunch of white kids too.

Now I think its sort of a popularization of that MIA chic - graffiti/militant/bright colors etc I see it a lot in nyc in day-glo colors by a lot of hipsters & a TON of black youth - that not just fashion. I do think theres an interesting aesthetic and cultural link between gangster rapper and PLO chic glorification / perception of violence in america.

the keffiyeh, not worn across the middle east but very native to the gulf, the heartland, & it has been politicized, not first by westerners but by radicals themselves, why else would say, berber militants choose to wear it when its almost as foreign to see on heads in the streets in Casablanca as it is here. I pity the avereage gulf man who now gets a political association for wearing his normal clothing. But that association was not just made by americans, but mulsims across the world who see it everyday on aljazeera reporting in palistine.

soooo Quadir Habeeb vs. Rachael Ray? Ray’s use almost bothers me more b/c its just simple cultural appropriation. Habeeb’s use is more offensive but more interesting and politicaly engaging."

"Jihadi chic latté"?--courtesy wayneandwax.