Monday, October 31, 2011

Autotuned Egyptronica Sha'abi

I have no idea if that name is really appropriate. And I don't quite know what to make of these vids, and the music, that I've been running across, coming out of Egypt.

Check out this one.

The author of this piece is known as DJ Vigo. The title also indicates that this is a video from a wedding celebration. It certainly looks like farah, a wedding party, in a popular quarter of Cairo or some other Egyptian urban center. And it is the kind of dancing that you might see at a wedding party in a popular quarter (mantiqa sha'biya), with young women dancing together. What is a bit disconcerting is that the camera is fetishizing the body and movement of a young woman belly dancing, in a way that is perfectly appropriate in all-women company, but rather provocative when it is filmed and taken out of that context. As for the way the young woman is dressed, in higab (head-covering), t-shirt and rather tight jeans -- I've seen such outfits over a period of twenty years in Egypt. Even the t-shirt, which says "Let's Bring It On," is not completely surprising. I don't have time or the chops, really, to work through the lyrics right now, but there are references to smoking and hashish...The music (vocals and beats and instrumentation) are rather rudimentary, but they allow the singer to declaim whatever he wants. (Just as the much more famous Sha'bola does.) You will find a number of videos in this vein from DJ Vigo فىجو, some with as many as 20,000+ views.

Then there is this:

Advertised as a song from the Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir School for Girls, it features girls singing, lots of autotune, the occasional interjection of a mail voice, hot beats, and a video that consists entirely of teenaged girls (who seem to be both Egyptian and non-Egyptian). As of this writing, the song has over 270,000 hits, which is quite substantial. The comments, as far as I can tell, are entirely in Arabic. The music is much more interesting than the first, but more or less in the same vein. Other youtube subscribers have taken the same song (provenance: unknown to me as of now) and put other images of young girls to the music. This one has over 666,000 views to day; this one (with bawdier photos), over 182,000 hits.

Clearly this is a mass phenomenon, very sha'abi, in the sense that it no doubt is the object of scorn from the part of the educated and the mandarins, and very popular, with young people, especially in the popular quarters, the homes of the working classes, the lower middle classes, and the workers and entrepreneurs in the informal sector. This is, of course, just an educated guess. I hope this serves as a provocation to someone to find out more and tell us.

They're everywhere...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ramy Essam, voice of the Egyptian uprising, is the 2011 Freemuse Award winner

Congratulations to Ramy Essam, winner of the 2011 Freemuse Award. Ramy, of course, was the author of the famous, unforgettable Tahrir song, "Erhal" (Leave).

And many other songs. Not only did Ramy sing for the revolution, he fought for the revolution. He was wounded fighting off the baltagiya, the regime thugs, on the night of February 4-5.

And he was arrested and tortured by soldiers, who dragged him and other Tahrir occupiers off the square, on March 9. The story was reported widely, most memorably (in my opinion) in this account by Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio, who visited Ramy in his home. I loved this part of the report:

We ask if, when he got hurt, his mother said, "I told you so."

They [Ramy and his brother Shady] laugh and say yes. Even in pain, Ramy Essam smiles.

Ramy continues to be active in support of the struggle, and especially, against the SCAF, the junta that continues to rule Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Presumably it was due to this that the Dean of Cairo University's Medical School shut down a concert, in mid-performance, that Ramy was performing there on October 26. Read about it here.

FREEMUSE, The World Forum on Music and censorship, is an independent international organization, whose secretariat is based in Copenhagen, which advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. Pete Seeger was the Freemuse Award winner in 2009.

Mabrouk, ya Ramey. Why don't you learn this song from Pete Seeger and sing it in solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet when you go to Copenhagen Stockholm to receive your award on November 21?

ADDED October 31:

Ramy will receive his award at the Right! Freedom of Music & Speech conference in Stockholm on November 21. One of the speakers at the conference will be the artist Peaches! (Can you imagine the right-wing and conservative Islamist press having fun with this one?!) Thanks to 'anonymous' whose comment prompted this correction.

kufiya higab in video for No Military Trials for Civilians (in Egypt)

I really love this kufiya higab. The kufiya has been an important sartorial symbol for the Egyptian struggle for democracy. I used to say, Egyptian revolution, but it is clear that it is, as of this date, a revolution in process, an incomplete revolution. One of the major issues confronting Egypt's democracy advocates is the ongoing military trials imposed upon civilians, and the Egyptian revolutionaries continue to mobilize against this great injustice. This video, from the Egyptian campaign called No to Military Trials for Civilians, contains some very compelling testimony from trial victims and their relatives. Please watch! Here is an English link to the organization, and here is the Arabic link.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

#occupy kufiyas

I predicted (to my FB friends) that, as the weather cooled off in the US, we would see more kufiyas in the #occupy movement. Of course I was correct (yeah, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, this prediction). So here is a small sampling.

Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post

This one is from today's events in Occupy Denver, where the police cleared out campers and the crowd, throwing all supplies and tents and food into a garbage truck, arresting 7 demonstrators. I'm sure tomorrow's event will be even bigger.

This is from Occupy Kansas City, posted by my friend and high school classmate Don Maxwell on Facebook today. (Thanks, Don.)

This is from the mother of the #occupies, Occupy Wall Street. It was posted on the Occupy Wall St. Facebook page yesterday, with this note:

SAVE THE DATE: November 17th. This will be big. VERY BiG. On November 17th, we call on all allies and supporters across the nation to put a stop to business as usual and reclaim this country for the 99%. Details to come

Today, at Occupy Wall St., was Existence is Resistance Keffiyeh Day. Here is a video about it -- not really very good quality, but it gives you some idea of what was going on.

The fact that this event happened drove to distraction at least one prominent Islamophobe, Pam Geller, a leading figure in raising the level of racist hysteria against the so-called Ground Zero Mosque and the author of the notorious Atlas Shrugs blog. She claims that the Kufiyeh Day is proof solid that the OWS movement is controlled, or being overrun by, anti-Semites and Nazis and Obama-ite Muslims and proponents of imposing shariah law on the US. She asks, when is it going to be kippah day at OWS. Well, I don't know how many kippahs there were (of course there were some), but between 700 and 1000 Jews participated in an open-air Kol Nidre service on the eve of Yom Kippur, at Occupy Wall Street, on October 7.

Finally, here's a screen shot of an Occupy London demonstrator, from the October 24 edition of Democracy Now! (Thanks, Pritam!)

Keep wearing those kufiyas, folks. It's getting chilly out there. And friends, send me photos, please!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tilda Swinton in UK Vogue (November)

This photo has been passed around heavily by my Palestine-oriented FB friends. It was announced that this photo appeared in the November issue of Vogue. I immediately ran down to my local Barnes & Noble and thumbed through every single page of the November issue. I didn't see it. I deduce that it appears (alas!) in UK Vogue and not in the USA edition. I hope someone will send it to me as a gift. It's pretty amazing, no? For those of you who are not Palestine fanatics, the scarf is in the the colors of the Palestine flag.

(Meanwhile, you have to see Tilda in the film Gloria (2008). Absolutely phenomenal.)

World Book Kufiya

Thanks to Alyssa for sending me this. Unbelievable. And how do you read this: the kufiya subversively penetrating the mainstream? World Book coopting subversion? Or does that kufiya just look damned good? All of the above? Yeah, stunning. (Click on the photo for the full effect.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Levi's kufiya fashion, from last winter

I'm trying to catch up on kufiya fashion logging. I'm way behind. I was sent this photo back in February, by Nirvana. I wish I had bought the shirt for someone.

New York Times math: a growth of 275% is 'more than doubled'

Check out this headline from today's New York Times, reporting on the fact that the top 1% of the US population has seen their income grow by 275% between 1979 and 2007, according to a study by the CBO.

And then check out this one, from today's Huffington Post, reporting on the exact same study.

Which do you think is correct? A growth of 275% is more "nearly tripled" than it is "doubled," no? Is the Times trying to tamp down our anger? (The income of poorest fifth of the population rose only 18% during the same period, while the rise of the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale was just under 40 %.) Is the Times unconsciously biased in favor of the 1%, who own the paper?

kufiyaspotting: on Charlie Ahearn's 'Wild Style The Sampler'

kufiyaspotting by tsweden
kufiyaspotting, a photo by tsweden on Flickr.
gotta get this book! (but not at Amazon, at my local bookstore).

How the New York Times spins the news (misleadingly) on #occupyoakland

Check out this. Here's a screengrab of what is on the New York Times home page right now (10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, October 26, 2011):

If you click on the link right now, you will get to a page that says this:

The blog headline is much more accurate, in fact almost the exact opposite, of what it says on the Times' home page. (I.e., the home page depicts the protesters as the aggressors, the actual report suggests that the police were the aggressors.)

If you read the article, you will note that the headline could in fact be much improved. It should read, "Oakland police fire teargas, rubber bullets, beanbags, and flash grenades at largely peaceful protesters."

This is one for the ombudsman, no? And for journalism students.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grimes (Claire Boucher) Kufiya

How about that for a kufiya? I came across this one thanks to an article by Simon Reynolds (New York Times, October 7) about new women artists with a penchant for synthesizers who are making feminized electronica (that's more or less how Reynolds puts it). They sounded interesting, so I checked some of them out. I found this photo at the website for Arbutus Records, which is Grimes' (the stage name for Claire Bouchard, of Montreal) label. Go here and you can download two Grimes albums (Halfaxa and Geidi Primes). I tried to pay but the site wouldn't let me, so I grabbed them for free. They are definitely worth a listen. I am quite gobsmacked by how Boucher uses the kufiya. She definitely has a unique look.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Arab Traces: Grace Slick in Jefferson Airplane's "The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil"

One of my favorite Jefferson Airplane songs, off of After Bathing at Baxters (1967). There's a lot of melisma in this song from Marty Balin and especially from Grace Slick. It's not the kind of melisma that has become so banal and over-used courtesy of Mariah Carey and American Idol. Check out what Slick does with her voice from around 2:43 to 2:45 on this song. Listening to Arab singers must have been an influence. Umm Kalthum? Bob Dylan did.

It's not just the pot, or the LSD.

The quality of the sound on this vid is pretty lousy, perhaps deliberately so. So go out and buy a decent copy already. Finally, isn't Jack Cassidy's bass solo, starting at 2:08, just to die for?

Other, random, Arab traces in the Airplane. From "White Rabbit," this lyric: "Tell them a hookah smoking caterpillar/Has given you the call."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kufiya'd Keira Knightley in 'Domino' (2005)

I'm surprised that none of my more avid movie-watching friends spotted this before me. Kiera Knightley plays Domino, a hard-assed bounty hunter in Domino (2005), alongside Mickey O'Rourke (who turns in a creditable performance as Ed) and Edgar Ramirez (as Choco). I found the film pretty enjoyable, although the effects, courtesy director Tony Scott, are sometimes too over-the-top for my tastes, and the plot makes little sense. (But neither for that matter did that of The Big Lebowski.)

Knightley as Domino appears garbed in the purple kufiya pictured here several times. I intend/hope in future to get hold of the DVD and take some photos of all the scenes (which occur at about 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour and 1:15, for those who need to know) when I have the chance. These shots were what I could pull off the web. Domino (the film is based very loosely on the real-life story of Domino Harvey, daughter of actor Laurence Harvey) as played by Knightley is a tough, reckless, gorgeous young woman who can handle guns and nunchucks (shown above) expertly and can tangle with the best of them. No doubt the kufiya, along with the leather jacket that she also wears frequently, is here to contribute to her tough-bitch image.

In terms of the history of kufiya craze in the West during the aughts, the appearance of the kufiya in Domino precedes, by just a bit, the full blown kufiya explosion of 2006-2007 (quite a bit of which was documented here, on hawgblawg).

As for the film, it received a lot of bad reviews. But the New York Times' Manohla Dargis rather liked it.