Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kufiya'd protester in Lebanon: Down with Bashar

Via The Middle East Channel, August 16, 2011, this photo:

with this caption: A woman wearing a mask and an Arab Keffiyeh head dress uses her mobile photo to record a protest in the Lebanese capital Beirut in support of the five month uprising in neighboring Syria, on August 15, 2011, as Syrian troops clamp down on flash point towns and cities (ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images).

I'm not sure whether this is supposed to be an Arafat mask. My guess is that the woman is wearing a mask not so much to identify with Arafat as to disguise herself, since demonstrators in Lebanon who have come out in support of the democracy movement have, on occasion, been attacked by local agents of Syrian intelligence, to wit, the local branch of the Ba'ath Party that is affiliated with Syria and by members of the SSNP (Syrian Social Nationalist Party, ex-PPS).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

British Urban Music and the Riots

This is probably the most interesting commentary on the riots in England that I've seen, primarily because you hear the voices of the artists who, collectively, are being blamed for the 'disturbances.' ("Rap responds to the riots: 'They have to take us seriously'" by Dan Hancox, The Guardian, August 12, 2011.)

The artists are so incisive, so smart, and their music is so brilliant. Professor Green, Lethal Bizzle, and Wiley. Mostly "grime" artists, not "rap." Please read, and please watch the vids. Here's a particularly terrific one, Lethal Bizzle's "Babylon's Burning the Ghetto," from 2007. Prophetic, no?

If all those pundits and talking heads in England who are blaming "rap" for the riots really knew something, or anything, about the history of rap, they would know this: after the LA Rodney King riots of 1992, rappers were widely blamed. In fact, if one had been following the rap of artists like Ice Cube, NWA or Ice-T, one could have predicted that LA was headed for a blow-up, and one could have understood the sources of the rage that boiled over in the wake of the acquittal of the officers charged with beating King. Ditto: grime, UK hip-hop and road rap, as this article makes clear.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Tahrir in Tel Aviv (traces, at least): Irhal!

"Irhal" or "Leave!" was the slogan of the Egyptian revolution. And he (Mubarak) did leave. Let's hope for an early exit of Bibi too. The photo is from the progressive Israeli blog +972. The banner says "Irhal" in Arabic, and in Hebrew, "Egypt is here!" It was taken at today's demo in Tel Aviv, which numbered an estimated 200,000, in favor of social justice, and in particular, focusing on the housing crisis.

According to +972, among those who addressed the rally in Tel Aviv was Palestinian author Uda Basharat, who stated: ”It’s about time this protest will be become the protest for all those exploited, Jews and Arabs.”

Connections between Israel's housing movement and the so-called Arab Spring have been, on occasion, raised explicitly. Joel Beinin reports in an absolutely essential piece on the connections between today's social struggles in Israel and the Arab Spring (published by Middle East Report Online) that: 'During the first week of the protest one Rothschild Boulevard demonstrator interviewed on Israeli radio’s Channel 2 told a reporter, “We have to do what they did in Egypt. Yalla, tahrir, jihad.” The fact that a middle-class Israeli suggested, even if it was only rhetorical excess, that this Israeli movement had anything to learn from an Arab political phenomenon is astonishing and unprecedented, to say nothing of the use of the hyper-provocative word jihad.' Beinin also underlines the important obstacles to the explicit making of such connections.

Note too this excellent report from The Real News, which shows large numbers of protesting Israelis last week chanting, "Mubarak, Asad, Bibi Netanyahu!"

The best slogan to come out of Tel Aviv would be one, however, where "irhal" referred not to the departure of Bibi from politics but the departure of Israeli troops from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

El Tanbura Live, "Old Port Said"

One of the most fabulous things I did while in Cairo in late March was go to see the group El Tanbura perform on March 24, at El Tanbura Hall in Abdeen. El Tanbura perform Egyptian "folk" music from the city of Port Said. Port Said's music is famous for being driven by an instrument known as the simsimiyya, the lyre. (I've posted on El Tanbura previously here.) El Tanbura was actively involved in the protests at Tahrir from January 25-February 11 (see this video), as were other groups affiliated with the El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music, established by Zakaria Ahmed, who performs with El Tanbura.

I was told that a song or two of El Tanbura's revolutionary repertoire were quite popular among the crowd at Tahrir. This is one of them. I've been unable to identify an Arabic title for the song. In English it's "Old Port Said." It's a nationalist song, about the Suez Crisis of 1956, when Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, and was attacked by Israel, France and Great Britain. CNN recently published a report on Egypt's revolutionary music on the occasion of the performance of Egyptian musicians (including El Tanbura and Ramy Essam) at the Barbican in London. It discusses El Tanbura and has a link to a recording of "Old Port Said." You can also read more about El Tanbura here.

(I filmed El Tanbura with Zakaria Ahmed's permission. Zakaria is the one who introduces the song.)