Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's so mainstream: kufiyas at Marshall's in Illinois

for w&w, marshall's in IL
Originally uploaded by k_hargrav

No comment needed. Thanks to Wayne for alerting me to this. Keep up the kufiyaspotting, comrades!

(Photo taken on December 20, 2009).

Kufiyaspotting #45: Elephant Man, "Nuh Linga"

Please check out this video from dancehall musician Elephant Man. I shot the photo off of my computer screen--it doesn't look so good but you get the idea. Note that the guys in kufiyas are wearing them on their heads. As Wayne, who alerted me to this, suggests, this probably indicates a more overt identification with the Palestinian struggle than the more "stylish" fashion of wearing the kufiya around the neck. (Thanks, comrade!)

And "Nuh Linga" is a damned good song.

(And yes, Elephant Man has been criticized--rightly--for his anti-gay lyrics.)

The Kominas in Brooklyn, Last Night (Taqwacore!)

Thanks to Carolina Gonzalez for sending along these photos, shot by Siddhartha Mitter, on Carolina's camera. (Carolina covers music for the New York Daily News.) The Kominas played at Goodbye Blue Monday, and according to Carolina, are as good in concert as they are on record. (I have yet to see The Kominas. I missed the SXSW gig. Apparently I could have just showed up, without the $400+ pass. But I didn't know.)

More hawgblawg Kominas posts here.

This is Shahjehan Khan. Note that he is wearing a sweatshirt with a Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percenters) emblem. I suspect the influence of Michael Muhammad Knight.

Arjun Ray, Shahjehan Khan, Basim Usmani (l to r)

Arjun Ray, Shahjehan Khan (l to r)

Basim Usmani

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Liberation Hiphop: Palestinian rap in New Orleans

There seems to be a real upsurge of such events. I really wish I could go. I just came across this announcement:

Liberation Hiphop showcase!! In conjunction with the 6th Annual PATOIS New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival. The sound of liberation, from New Orleans to Detroit to New York to Gaza. Featuring: Wise Intelligent (from the legendary hiphop pioneers Poor Righteous Teachers), Invincible (Detroit hiphop star and Jewish pro-Palestine activist), Mohammad Al-Farra (From Gaza's first hiphop group Palestine Rappers), Sabreena Da Witch (The First Palestinian R&B Singer), Truth Universal (Trinidad born, New Orleans based, Afrikan liberation), Dee-1 (New Orleans conscious hiphop), and DJ EF Cuttin, plus films and guest speakers.

Friday, March 27, 2009 at 9:30pm
2106 Chartres (and Frenchman)
New Orleans, LA
Tickets: $10 (what a great deal!)

I'm very impressed, and heartened, that one of the premier rappers belonging to the Nation of Gods and Earths, Wise Intelligent, who belonged to the great "conscious rap" group, Poor Righteous Teachers, is appearing on the same bill as Palestinian rapper Mohammad Al-Farra and Palestinian singer Sabreena Da Witch. Plus the awesome Invincible. Read more about the artists here.

I'm also pleased to see that the Patois Human Rights Film Festival is so Palestine-positive. It includes an art exhibit, Expressions of Nakba, devoted the disaster of 1948, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New video from DAM: Palestinian rap

Brand new video from Palestinian rap group DAM: "From Alef to Ya" (or, from A to Z).

Warning: kufiya content.

Kufiyaspotting #44: "Taking the Stage" (new MTV show)

Thanks to Lauren, who alerted me to this. It's an ad for the new MTV show, "Taking the Stage," which first aired on March 19. Kufiyas, fashionable, faux and not so faux, are all over this ad. Lauren says there are a couple other ads for the show that are airing on TV that are also kufiya-laden.

"Taking the Stage" is a reality show about Cincinnati youths at a performing arts school. Is this evidence that urban youth in the US are all about kufiyas? Or have fashion designers placed all the kufiyas in the ad in order to appeal to hip young viewers of MTV who are into kufiyas? Are Cincinnati youths incredibly stylish? Lagging far behind fashion trends? Palestinian symps?

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Slingshot HipHop": Finally, I See It

I've been putting up posts about Slingshot HipHop, Jackie Salloum's documentary about Palestinian rap, for three years, and finally, last night, I got to view it myself. (Thanks, Alannah!) It has been showing on the Sundance network, if you've got that one (alas, I don't).

I can now highly recommend it. I think the best thing about it (Alannah mentioned this to me first, so I give her credit), is that it shows the contexts out of which Palestinian rap emerges. In particular, you get to see DAM in their hometown of Lyd and get a sense of all its problems, Mahmoud Shalabi in Akka (I love that city), PR in Gaza, and so on. That is, you get a real sense of the specificity of those communities, of what daily life is like for young people there, and why it is that they can identify so much with African-American hip-hop. (Tupac, in particular, has been a major influence.)

Another issue is that the divisions between Palestinian communities are starkly demonstrated. DAM (Lyd, in Israel) and PR in Gaza feel a strong kinship with each other, but due to the restrictions imposed upon them, they cannot meet up in person, but must communicate by phone and over the internet. PR in particular are simply incarcerated in the big ghetto that is Gaza. They have never seen the rest of Palestine, never been to Lyd, Akka, or the West Bank. The film is very effective at showing the human costs of the barriers to commerce and life that the state of Israel imposes on Palestinians, whether they are citizens or living under in occupied/imprisoned Gaza and the West Bank.

What also struck me is how supportive the parents of these rappers are, and in particular, how supportive the parents of the female rappers (Abeer, Arapiyat) are. No "generation gap" here. You also may be struck by how the Palestinian rappers and their fans don't look like the stereotypical Palestinians you are used to seeing on the media. They look like hip-hop kids everywhere. And although you will see the odd female wearing a headscarf, bopping to the music, most of the young women are less "modestly" attired, in t-shirts (and some in sleeveless) and jeans.

And Chuck D (Public Enemy) makes an appearance! Interviewing DAM during one of their NYC visits, for his radio show. Harry Allen, PE's "media assassin," wrote a good piece on Slingshot HipHop that was published in Vibe last March. You can download it at the Slingshot HipHop homepage.

The film is still on the festival circuit, but I look forward to when it goes on sale so that I can show it to my classes. Meanwhile you can now purchase the soundtrack of Slingshot HipHop. (Do it, it's excellent, and you will be supporting the artists who perform in the film.)

P.S. I recently found this article on the rap scene in Gaza, from 2005, published in Qantara. Check it out.

P.P.S. (Sat., March 21): I meant to mention this yesterday. One shortcoming of the film is the absence of rappers from the West Bank. We see the Ramallah Underground for a second, in the scene at the end of the concert in Ramallah, but that's it. We need another film, dealing with the likes of Ramallah Underground and G-Town, who I met last summer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Muslim Cool: Upcoming PBS documentary on POV

Check out this trailer for the forthcoming POV film, "New Muslim Cool," scheduled for broadcast on PBS in June:

And here is the blurb
, courtesy

Puerto Rican American rapper Hamza Pérez ended his life as a drug dealer 12 years ago, and started down a new path as a young Muslim.

Now he’s moved to Pittsburgh’s tough North Side to start a new religious community, rebuild his shattered family, and take his message of faith to other young people through his uncompromising music as part of the hip-hop duo M-Team.

Raising his two kids as a single dad and longing for companionship, Hamza finds love on a Muslim networking website and seizes the chance for happiness in a second marriage.

But when the FBI raids his mosque, Hamza must confront the realities of the post-9/11 world, and challenge himself. He starts reaching for a deeper understanding of his faith, discovering new connections with people from Christian and Jewish communities.

NEW MUSLIM COOL takes viewers on Hamza’s ride through the streets, projects and jail cells of urban America, following his spiritual journey to some surprising places ---where we can all see ourselves reflected in a world that never stops changing.

For more on the rap group M-Team, and most important, to hear what they sound like: check out their myspace page. (I have to say, I HATE the way that myspace looks and works.)

Here's how they describe themselves:

If the word raw manifested itself in physical form, there is a strong possibility it would look, walk, and talk like MTEAM. These brothers view their mics as weapons, their words as ammunition, and the stage as a battle field. True champions of the poor and oppressed, they advance armed with songs of freedom. Born in the jungles of Brooklyn, New York, trained by the sounds of Hector Lavoie, Ishmael Rivera, Kool G. Rap, Public Enemy, and through the blessings of the Most High, their sound was formed. With artillery provided by the likes of BLM, Jihad, O.K., and March the 5th, these brothers have set out on a mission to transform the world with their words, vowing to change it with their hands if words fail them. Sending peace and blessings upon the Prophets and a warning to their enemies, their songs scream resistance and slap oppression in the face. Doc Zhivago and En Sabah Nur are the Young Lords, they are the Black Panthers, they are the Revolution: they are M Team. WAKE time for war!!!

You gotta love it, referencing Hector Lavoie and Ishmael Rivera in the same breath as Kool G. Rap and Public Enemy!

M-Team also have a facebook page, and if you become a fan, and then go to 'boxes' (what's up with the 'new' and not-improved FB??), you can listen to the songs from their album, My Enemy's Enemy.

You may be thinking, Puerto Rican Muslims?? The conversion of US Hispanics to Islam is a much bigger phenomenon than you might imagine, and for more information, I refer you to Hisham Aidi's essential article in Middle East Report, "Let Us Be Moors: Islam, Race and "Connected Histories."

The view of 1492 as a tragic date signaling the end of a glorious era, and the related idea that conversion to Islam entails a reclaiming of that past, is common among the Latino Muslim community in the US. That community, estimated in 2000 at 30,000 to 40,000 members, has grown in the past two years, with Latino Muslim centers and da'wa (proselytizing) organizations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Fresno and Houston.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Our Kuffiyyeh in London": Film by Dalia Al Kury

Check it out. It's short, but gives a historical background. Maybe I'll comment more later. Inshallah.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Recommended reading on "Waltz with Bashir" and the other (Sudanese) Bashir

From Middle East Report Online, Ursala Lindsey's review of Waltz with Bashir ("Shooting Film and Crying").

There is a final irony. Waltz with Bashir holds a redemptive message, celebrating the necessity and the ability to confront one’s past. Yet the film and its reception exemplify the strictly enforced boundaries of any debate on Israel’s past and present transgressions.

Also from Middle East Report Online, Khalid Mustafa Medani's analysis of the ICC's indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

By Bashir’s calculation, the ICC decision is not the end of the road. His primary objective is to consolidate the junta’s power by expanding oil production in Darfur and elsewhere. Only a genuinely democratic transition stands in the way of this objective. The ICC’s warrant for Bashir’s arrest will have little effect in resolving the larger problem in Sudan: the lack of participatory politics. Only if this warrant is followed by a concerted effort to support free and fair elections will it fulfill its promise.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Muslims are all over...

Three random indicators:

1. Did you catch this? Snoop Doggy Dog has reportedly joined the Nation of Islam. He appeared this past weekend at the NOI's annual Saviours' Day convention in Chicago, which commemorates the birth of NOI founder and God, Master Fard. According to The Guardian, he explained his actions as follows: "I'm an advocate for peace. I've been in the peace movement ever since I've been making music," he told followers. "My whole thing is not about really trying to push my thing on you. It's just about the way I live, and I live how I'm supposed to live as far as doing what's right and representing what's right. That's why I was here today."

The photo (Charles Rex Arbogast, AP) shows Snoop in suit and tie, greeting Minister Louis Farrakhan.

2. The new season of the TNT show "Saving Grace," starring Holly Hunter, started last night. The premise of the show is that Hunter's character (Grace Hanadarko) is in need of salvation, and that an angel named Earl appears to her all the time, in pursuit of that mission. So, on some level, this is a quintessentially "Christian"--albeit terribly quirky--show. Interesting then that the theme song for this show about salvation is written and performed by Everlast, a devout Muslim (Sunni, not Nation of Islam).

3. And then, to repeat the previous post, The Roots (two Muslims, of sorts), as house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the first show, last night, The Roots sounded very hot, and were featured prominently. (No kufiya, alas, around ?uestlove's neck.) Watch the opening here:

Ubiquitous. Mainstream. Time for more recognition.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Roots: House Band for Jimmy Fallon's Late Night Talk Show (+ ?uestlove in Kufiya)

This really blows me away: The Roots as the house band for "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," which opens tomorrow night (March 2) on NBC. Wow! Check it out, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

As if to confirm how cool The Roots really are, drummer ?uestlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson) appears in a black-and-white kufiya in the video that accompanies the article, which shows the band getting ready for their appearance. (I'm not able to embed it, for some reason.) Or maybe we should deduce that the fact of ?uestlove wearing a kufiya makes it cool. (Thanks, Chris!)

The photo that accompanies the article, however, indicates that ?uestlove will be in a suit, and sans kufiya, on the show itself. At least on night one. I'm gonna try to stay up and tune in to check it out.

It should also be noted that according to a list of the Islamic affiliations of hip-hop artists compiled some years ago, Roots leader and co-founder (along with ?uestlove) Black Thought (Tariq Luqman Trotter) belongs to The Nation of Gods and Earths (the "Five-Percenters"). Malik B., who left the group in 2001, is a Sunni Muslim. (The list also mentions M.A.R.S. of the Roots as a Five-Percenter; I can't figure out who that is.)