Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jamaican dancehall kufiyas

I'm lucky to have a few readers who kufiyaspot for me. Thanks to Wayne (of the invaluable wayne&wax) who alerted me to this one--from Jamaica, with Wacky French Prince and Ding Dong introducing new dance moves, Nuh Linga and Ho mi look. You can't miss the kufiyas on a couple of the dancers. The kufiya presence can't simply be read as Jamaicans slavishly borrowing from US hipsters, although US rappers might be a source. But it's just as, and maybe even more, likely that thirdworldist solidarity with the Palestinians could be a motivation. Read wayne's post on this, and other dance move videos. He notes that this one bears a marked resemblance to voguing.

This makes me nostalgic for the good old days of the b-boys in South Bronx in the seventies. (Not that I was there, by any means.) And it calls to mind the heavy Caribbean influence on the foundational hip-hop scene. The three most important early hip-hop DJs all had a Caribbean foundation. DJ Kool Herc, who essentially invented sratching, immigrated to the US from Jamaica in 1967. (And Herc hung around with the Five Percenters.) Afrika Bambaata's parents were from the West Indies, and Grandmaster Flash's parents were from Barbados.

Monday, September 29, 2008

koffee-yehs! take that, dunkin' donuts!

I love it. I only recently heard about this campaign, which involves photos from all over the country of people drinking (their last cup of) dunkin' donuts coffee in a kufiya, in protest over the Rachael Ray debacle. (Thanks, Nadia.) Check the blog out for more photos like this one, which is from New Orleans. The big easy!

See, kufiyas still have their uses. Take that, hipsters.

And here's the campaign video:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More kufiya hipster fashion, that Verena Von Pfetten loves to hate

My friend Theresa told me about this recent (Sept. 26) Huffington Post column by Verena Von Pfetten, entitled "7 Hipster Fashions We Love to Hate." It's fall, she says, and time to say goodbye to old trends and embrace the new ones. But--the hipsters need extra encouragement in this regard because, she says,

...no one group of people have ever so succumbed, so embraced, so clutched on to trends for dear life with cold, pale, smoke-yellowed fingers as that so-called creative counter-culture: The Hipster.

"From what I can tell," Von Pfetten continues,

the hipster depends, nay, thrives on irony, but the problem is that in doing so, they've a) diluted and deserted any formal definition that irony may or may not have once had and b) they've only served to create a fashion version of The Blob in which once they adopt a "trend" -- usually historical and always ironically, of course -- it feeds on itself, and it grows and grows until frat guys are wearing it and the cast of "The Hills" are designing it, and then someday Rachel Ray will star in a Dunkin Donuts commercial while wrapped in it. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Interesting, isn't it, that it's the hipster kufiya that's the iconic villain of this piece, the viral hipster fashion accessory? And that it's dead when frat boys and Rachael wear it--the archetypes of un-coolness?

And then there's Von Pfetten's point c):

...though they initially drench themselves in these sartorial affectations in a (soon-to-be proven misguided) attempt to show how very unconcerned they are with what exactly it is they wear and though it would seem that their entire image hinged upon the sheer disinterest they have in other people's opinions and the exquisitely cultivated and the desperately disdainful, "What, this? I picked it up off the floor and pulled this out of the garbage and stole this from my myopic maternal grandmother!," the very act itself is contradictory. In attempting to embrace something so patently unflattering so as to prove how patently unimportant such flattery is, they are -- in fact -- acknowledging their concern, and therefore, their endorsement.

And then:

To put it simply: these trends, these [seven] accoutrements, these god-awful outfits are fugly. And yet, they are everywhere. And somehow they just never seem to go away.

And then there's the slideshow, with a slide of Rachael Ray in kufiya, and the comment: If Rachel [Rachael] Ray is wearing something in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial, it's most definitely no longer cool. It's done. It's dead. Get over it. And a slide of Kirsten Dunst in brown-and-black "global chic scarf," with the comment: And while I'm a personal fan of Kirsten Dunst, this wasn't cool then, and it sure as heck isn't now.

Will Von Pfetten help kill this trend off? Will it revert back to the politicos?

I don't know. Fayetteville, Arkansas is certainly no bellwether of fashion. But now that the weather has cooled off, you do see the odd kufiya around. I have at least three students who wear them, who are both rather fashionable, and pro-Palestinian.

The saga continues...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

back on the kufiyaspotting tip: "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization"

Yes, clearly I've not been blogging much lately. I have to attribute it to what seem like the very high demands of teaching this semester. But I've been collecting kufiya info, and it's time to start reporting. So here is the first of several posts which I hope to spit out over the next couple days.

One of my undergraduate students turned me on to this article yesterday,"Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization," by Douglas Haddow, from the latest issue (79) of Adbusters.

Here's the last paragraph of the article, which sums up the thesis and conveys the mood of the piece:

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.

The article contains a couple of kufiya (keffiyeh) references--kufiyas, according to Haddow, are one of the key distinguishing signifiers of today's hipsters, as well as being symptomatic of the emptiness and meaninglessness that typifies the hipster subculture.

Here's how Haddow describes hipsters:

Take a stroll down the street in any major North American or European city and you’ll be sure to see a speckle of fashion-conscious twentysomethings hanging about and sporting a number of predictable stylistic trademarks: skinny jeans, cotton spandex leggings, fixed-gear bikes, vintage flannel, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh – initially sported by Jewish students and Western protesters to express solidarity with Palestinians, the keffiyeh has become a completely meaningless hipster cliché fashion accessory.

The kufiya: the quintessential sign of the vacant character of contemporary youth culture!

The kufiya comes up again, at the end of Haddow's article, in his description of a bunch of urban hipsters making their way home at dawn, after the after-parties:

The half-built condos tower above us like foreboding monoliths of our yuppie futures. I take a look at one of the girls wearing a bright pink keffiyah and carrying a Polaroid camera and think, “If only we carried rocks instead of cameras, we’d look like revolutionaries.” But instead we ignore the weapons that lie at our feet – oblivious to our own impending demise.

Hmmm...you'd look like revolutionaries whay exactly? Because of the kufiya and the rocks? Like this kind of revolutionary? (A young Palestinian confronting the army of occupation.) Who would hipsters be throwing rocks at? Who would be driving the tank? Or would you just be throwing rocks at your "yuppie futures"? Maybe it would be better to forget imagining that one could look like a revolutionary, and join demonstrations against the $700 billion dollar bail-out or send money to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

I'm not sure that the kufiya hipster signifies the end of Western civ either. Hipsters or bohos or whatever you want to call them were wearing kufiyas for style reasons back in the early to mid-eighties. And hip youth culture as now being about "consuming cool rather that creating it" (Haddow)--this isn't particularly new either. It's all well and good to critique hipsters wearing uniforms, not knowing the provenance or politics of their kufiya gear, and fooling themselves about the subversiveness of their style and attitude. But it's not the end of the world.

(Excellent hipster kufiya photos are to be viewed at Hipster Intifada.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Peaches and Tone-Loc: "Wild Thing"

Peaches has remixed Tone Loc's "Wild Thing," and performs on the new version. I just heard about it. It's the twentieth anniversary of the release of the original. Makes me feel old.

Nonetheless, it's made me smile, and I've been listening over and over. See whether it does the same for you:

And then there's the video for Peaches' song, "Get It." Hilarious!

Keep up with Peaches at her website, peachesrocks.com.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Andalousies Atlantiques Festival in Essaouira, Morocco, Oct. 30-Nov. 1: Tribute to Judaeo-Arab singers Sami El Maghribi and Lili Boniche

I just received this announcement. I encourage anyone who reads this blog to both circulate this information and to try their best to go. I attended last year's festival, and it was splendid, both as a musical event, and as a tribute to the critical importance of Jews to modern Arab musical culture. Among last year's featured performers were the great Moroccan Jewish singer Haim Louk and the Algerian-Jewish pianist and vocalist Maurice El Medioni. Medioni will be there again this year, with the El Gusto Orchestra, a chaabi ensemble led by Abdel Hadi Halo. And other huge stars, the Judaeo-Arab singers Luc Perez and Luc Cherki, and Jil Jilala! I've posted a few photos from last year's event, which can be accessed here.

Haim Louk with Thami Harrak and his ensemble (photo: T. Swedenburg)

Dear All,

We would like to invite you to this year's Andalousies Atlantiques Festival, celebrating the prodigious musical heritage of al-Andalus. This year's event will take place in Essaouira from October 30 to November 1, 2008 and will pay tribute to two giants of Judeo-Arabic music who passed away earlier this year - the Moroccan Sami El Maghribi and the Algerian Lili Boniche.
Among the groups performing are El Gusto, a 50-person ensemble that reunites veteran chaabi musicians who performed together in the casbah of Algiers in the 1950s - including Maurice El Medioni, Ahmed Bernaoui, Rene Perez, and Luc Cherki under the leadership of Abdelhadi Halo; Maxime Karouchi, a young Moroccan-born vocalist who performs Andalusian nuba, and Sami El Maghribi's melhoun and chaabi repertoire; Mohamed Briouel and the Orchestre Andalous de Fes - Briouel directs the Music Conservatory of Fez, and won the Prix du Maroc for his book
Moroccan Andalusian Music: Nouba Gharibat Al Husayn; and the group Jil Jilala, who fuse the rhythms of Issawa and Gnawa with melhoun, and whose songs of protest of the 1970s and 1980s have become classics.

During the morning, panels will bring together researchers, journalists and musicians to discuss the music legacy of al-Andalus. Films, documentaries and exhibits will be shown during the afternoon - concerts begin at 6:00pm.

Here is a link to a newsreport on last year's Andalousies Atlantiques festival:

Please join us!

For any questions about the festival, please contact Professor Ted Swedenburg at the University of Arkensas: tsweden@uark.edu (http://swedenburg.blogspot.com/)

Comité des Festivals d'Essaouira

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jeff Halper on the Gaza Boat Trip

I just received this in the mail from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Their Director, Jeff Halper, participated in the recent, successful effort of the Free Gaza Movement to break the Israeli siege of Gaza, sending two boats in with supplies and a team of dedicated volunteers. Jeff was trained as an anthropologist, and participated in a panel at the American Anthropological Association meetings last fall, for which I served as a discussant. Please read Halper's very important observations on the trip, and on Israel and its relations with Gaza.

I've also been receiving communications from Fun'Da'Mental's Aki Nawaz, who also participated in the mission, and I'll be posting those soon.

End of an Odyssey
Jeff Halper
September 1

Now, a few days after my release from jail in the wake of my trip to Gaza, I'm posting a few notes to sum things up.

First, the mission of the Free Gaza Movement to break the Israeli siege proved a success beyond all expectations. Our reaching Gaza and leaving has created a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world. It has done so because it has forced the Israeli government to make a clear policy declaration: that it is not occupying Gaza and therefore will not prevent the free movement of Palestinians in and out (at least by sea). (Israel's security concerns can easily be accommodated by instituting a technical system of checks similar to those of other ports.) Any attempt on the part of Israel to backtrack on this - by preventing ships in the future from entering or leaving Gaza with goods and passengers, including Palestinians - may be immediately interpreted as an assertion of control, and therefore of Occupation, opening Israel to accountability for war crimes before international law, something Israel tries to avoid at all costs. Gone is the obfuscation that has allowed Israel to maintain its control of the Occupied Territories without assuming any responsibility: from now on, Israel is either an Occupying Power accountable for its actions and policies, or Palestinians have every right to enjoy their human right of travelling freely in and out of their country. Israel can no longer have it both ways. Not only did our two little boats force the Israel military and government to give way, then, they also changed fundamentally the status of Israel's control of Gaza.

When we finally arrived in Gaza after a day and a half sail, the welcome we received from 40,000 joyous Gazans was overwhelming and moving. People sought me out in particular, eager it seemed to speak Hebrew with an Israeli after years of closure. The message I received by people of all factions during my three days there was the same: How do we ("we" in the sense of all of us living in their country, not just Palestinians or Israelis) get out of this mess? Where are WE going? The discourse was not even political: what is the solution; one-state, two-state, etc etc. It was just common sense and straightforward, based on the assumption that we will all continue living in the same country and this stupid conflict, with its walls and siege and violence, is bad for everybody. Don't Israelis see that? people would ask me.

(The answer, unfortunately, is "no." To be honest, we Israeli Jews are the problem. The Palestinian years ago accepted our existence in the country as a people and are willing to accept ANY solution -- two states, one state, no state, whatever. It is us who want exclusivity over the "Land of Israel" who cannot conceive of a single country, who cannot accept the national presence of Palestinians (we talk about "Arabs" in our country), and who have eliminated by our settlements even the possibility of the two-state solution in which we take 80% of the land. So it's sad, truly sad, that our "enemies" want peace and co-existence (and tell me that in HEBREW) and we don't. Yeah, we Israeli Jews want "peace," but in the meantime what we have -- almost no attacks, a feeling of security, a "disappeared" Palestinian people, a booming economy, tourism and ever-improving international status -- seems just fine. If "peace" means giving up settlements, land and control, why do it? What's wrong with the status quo? If it's not broken, don't fix it.)

When in Gaza I also managed to see old friends, especially Eyad
al-Sarraj of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, whom I visited in his office. I also received honorary Palestinian citizenship, including a passport, which was very meaningful to me as an Israeli Jew.

When I was in Gaza everyone in Israel -- including the media who interviewed me - warned me to be careful, to watch out for my life. Aren't you scared? they asked. Well, the only time I felt genuine and palpable fear during the entire journey was when I got back to Israel. I went from Gaza through the Erez checkpoint because I wanted to make the point that the siege is not only by sea. On the Israeli side I was immediately arrested, charged with violating a military order prohibiting Israelis from being in Gaza and jailed at the Shikma prison in Ashkelon. In my cell that night, someone recognized from the news. All night I was physically threatened by right-wing Israelis -- and I was sure I wouldn't make it till the morning. Ironically, there were three Palestinians in my cell who kind of protected me, so the danger was from Israelis, not Palestinians, in Gaza as well as in Israel. (One Palestinian from Hebron was in jail for being illegally in Israel; I was in jail for being illegally in Palestine.) As it stands, I'm out on bail. The state will probably press charges in the next few weeks, and I could be jailed for two or so months. I now am a Palestinian in every sense of the word: On Monday I received my Palestinian citizenship, on Tuesday I was already in an Israeli jail.

Though the operation was a complete success, the siege will only be genuinely broken if we keep up the movement in and out of Gaza. The boats are scheduled to return in 2-4 weeks and I am now working on getting a boat-load of Israelis.

My only frustration with what was undoubtedly a successful operation was with the fact that Israelis just don't get it - and don't want to get it. The implications of our being the strong party and the fact that the Palestinians are the ones truly seeking peace are too threatening to their hegemony and self-perceived innocence.
What I encountered in perhaps a dozen interviews - and what I read about myself and our trip written by "journalists" who never even attempted to speak to me or the others - was a collective image of Gaza, the Palestinians and our interminable conflict which could only be described as fantasy. Rather than enquire about my experiences, motives or views, my interviewers, especially on the mainstream radio, spent their time forcing upon me their slogans and uniformed prejudices, as if giving me a space to explain myself deal a death blow to their tightly-held conceptions.

Ben Dror Yemini of the popular Ma'ariv newspaper called us a "satanic cult." Another suggested that a prominent contributor to the Free Gaza Movement was a Palestinian-American who had been questioned by the FBI, as if that had to do with anything (the innuendo being we were supported, perhaps even manipulated or worse, by "terrorists"). Others were more explicit: Wasn't it true that we were giving Hamas a PR victory? Why was I siding with Palestinian fishermen-gun smugglers against my own country which sought only to protect its citizens? Some simply yelled at me, like an interviewer on Arutz 99. And when all else failed, my interlocutors could always fall back on good old cynicism: Peace is impossible. Jews and Arabs are different species. You can't trust "them." Or bald assertions: They just want to destroy us. Then there's the paternalism: Well, I guess it's good to have a few idealists like you around...

Nowhere in the many interviews was there a genuine curiosity about what I was doing or what life was like in Gaza. No one interested in a different perspective, especially if it challenged their cherished slogans. No one going beyond the old, tired slogans. Plenty of reference, though, to terrorism, Qassam missiles and Palestinian snubbing our valiant efforts to make peace; none whatsoever to occupation, house demolitions, siege, land expropriation or settlement expansion, not to mention the killing, imprisoning and impoverishment of their civilian population. As if we had nothing to do with the conflict, as if we were just living our normal, innocent lives and bad people decided to throw Qassam rockets. Above all, no sense of our responsibility, or any willingness to accept responsibility for the ongoing violence and conflict. Instead just a thoughtless, automatic appeal to an image of Gaza and "Arabs" (we don't generally use the term "Palestinians") that is diametrically opposed to what I've seen and experienced, a slavish repeating of mindless (and wrong) slogans which serve only to eliminate any possibility of truly grasping the situation. In short, a fantasy Gaza as perceived from within a bubble carefully constructed so as to deflect any uncomfortable reality.

The greatest insight this trip has given me is understanding why Israelis don't "get it:" a media comprised by people who should know better but who possess little critical ability and feel more comfortable inside a box created by self-serving politicians than in trying to do something far more creative: understanding what in the hell is going on here.

Still, I formulated clearly my messages to my fellow Israelis, and that constitutes the main content of my interviews and talks:

(1) Despite what our political leaders say, there is a political solution to the conflict and there are partners for peace. If anything, we of the peace movement must not allow the powers-that-be to mystify the conflict, to present it as a "clash of civilizations." The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political and as such it has a political solution;

(2) The Palestinians are not our enemies. In fact, I urge my fellow Israeli Jews to disassociate from the dead-end politics of our failed political leaders by declaring, in concert with Israeli and Palestinian peace-makers: We refuse to be enemies. And

(3) As the infinitely stronger party in the conflict and the only Occupying Power, we Israelis must accept responsibility for our failed and oppressive policies. Only we can end the conflict.

Let me end by expressing my appreciation to the organizers of this initiative - Paul Larudee and Greta Berlin from the US, Hilary Smith and Bella from the UK, Vaggelis Pissias, a Greek member of the team who provided crucial material and political input, and Jamal al-Khoudri, an independent member of the PLC from Gaza and head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege and others - plus the wonderful group of participants on the boats and the great communication team that stayed ashore. Special appreciation goes to ICAHD's own Angela Godfrey-Goldstein who played a crucial role in Cyprus and Jerusalem in getting the word out. Not to forget our hosts in Gaza (whose names are on the Free Gaza website) and the tens of thousands of Gazans who welcomed us and shared their lives with us. May our peoples finally find the peace and justice they deserve in our common land.

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at: jeff@icahd.org.