Friday, September 26, 2014

John Legend in kufiya

I am so not a fan of John Legend, primarily because he is a prominent supporter of "education reform," which is destroying public education. And serving up huge profits for venture capitalism.

And even if he has spoken up, just a bit, on behalf of the Palestinians, and even though he has appeared in concert in a kufiya (I don't know when exactly where the photo was taken)...

I'm still not a fan.

Added October 29: thanks to Susanna O for supplying this. One of her friends took it at a JL concert.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cheikha Rahma Labassia (Rai)

I don't know why Cheikha Rahma Labassia doesn't get more attention. Check out this absolutely slamming song of hers, "Maniche Mana," courtesy ShellacHead. Recorded, it seems, in the 1960s.

And then there is the fact that it was Cheikha Rahma who did the original version of "Sa'ida Ba'ida," also recorded by Cheb Mami, Cheb Khaled and Cheikha Rimitti. It is so brilliant, no wonder these artists wanted to cover it. 

Here is live footage from Cheikha Rahma, apparently from 2012:

Here's another great track from her, "Haya Neghdou":

And this: "Ya Chira." 

Here she is doing "Dane Dane Dan."

Her name means she is from Sidi Bel Abbès. Sidi Bel Abbès is considered to be one of the places where rai originated (it wasn't just Oran), and it has been the home of Algeria's national rai festival since 2008.

I really wish I knew more about this fabulous singer.

Turban alert: TM Mike Love (Beach Boys)

I came across these images of Mike Love from a post on the super super music blog Aquarium Drunkard. It presents and discusses a video of The Beach Boys singing with the Alexander Hamilton Double Rock Baptist Choir. The song, "That Same Song," is, well, vintage Beach Boys + gospel. It was released on their album 15 Big Ones in 1976.

One of the things that struck me was Mike Love in turban (the second photo shows him with Al Jardine.)

Mike had gone to Rishikesh, India, as part of a group of sixty, organized by The Beatles and including also Donovan and Paul Horn, in February. There they studied Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I guess this is evidence that Mike was still fully in to TM in the mid-seventies.

While they were all there, The Beatles wrote and recorded a lot of music, that would show up on the White Album and Abbey Road.

And they recorded this, which never appeared on record: the very very BeachBoysesque "Spiritual Regeneration/Happy Birthday Mike Love," on the occasion of Mike's birthday.

I guess the most Beach Boys-sounding Beatles song ever recorded is "Back in the USSR," penned by Paul McCartney. Mike Love has stated that he encouraged McCartney to "talk about the girls all around Russia, the Ukraine and Georgia" to make the song sound more Beach Boys.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jewish Algerian Mixtape

Jewish Morocco's Chris Silver is in Algeria. He prepared this terrific guest mixtape for Afropop Worldwide. Please listen: you will immediately be sucked in by the amazing vocalizing of Salim Halali on the first track, "Layali Maghrabi." Beautiful.

Here's the link to the posting on Afropop Worldwide.

And Silver's longer discussion, plus the track listing, at Jewish Morocco.

Or, just go right to the music (which you can also download for free):

Monday, September 15, 2014

Revolutionary rap from Egypt: Katiba (Batallion) 101

A friend passed this on to me awhile back and I want to recommend it to you. It's from Egyptian rap group Katiba ("Batallion") 101. The title is "Shaytan wa Malak" (Demon and Angel). It proposes that the battle in Egypt is between the good or angelic forces, the forces of the revolution, and the demonic force of the authorities. According to the notes on youtube, the song was recorded two years ago (summer 2012), and is only now released.

I hope someone with better translation skills could translate the Arabic. The lyrics are there, on the youtube notes, so have at it. Katiba 101 also rap in English, and make a pretty good go of it. And it is really a slamming track. Have a listen. And I will try to learn more.

Essential resources on Palestine from B'Tselem

The Israeli human rights outfit B'Tselem has just won the 2014 Stockholm Human Rights Award.

In my opinion, part of the reason it deserves the reward is for its massive and careful documentation effort. Check out, for instance, this amazing interactive map of the West Bank, delineating Areas A, B and C, checkpoints, settlements, barriers, tunnel entrances, and so on.

And then there is this pie chart of Area C, which I found at B'Tselem's report on Israel's latest West Bank land grab, of 380 hectares. Absolutely essential for making sense of what is happening in Area C. Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its ongoing colonization is all about creating facts on the ground. B'Tselem is scrupulously documenting them, item by item.

Check out all B'Tselem's resources here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Massive Attack: Gaza/Palestinians/Syria

I know, I'm not up to date at all. Catching up on items that I saved and didn't post about because I spent 7 weeks or so following the awful events in Gaza and not doing much else.

The great band Massive Attack however did do something.

First, when they headlined at the Longitude Festival late July, they sent messages to their audience about Gaza. 

For more, read this article in The Independent.

Second, also in late July (28), two members of Massive Attack, Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall, toured the Al Naqab Center at Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon. The center offers remedial classes, a meeting place for active youth and other social activities, primarily  for Palestinians recently arrived from Syria. On the 29th, they staged a concert to benefit the Al Naqab Center, organized by the Hoping Foundation. The money also went to fund building a new public library in a camp in the north of Lebanon and to supporting the ambulance service in Gaza. Read more here, also from The Independent.

Massive Attack at Burj al-Barajneh, wearing kufiya scarves. 
Robert Del Naja is in front, Grant Marshall in back

Here's a short AFP report on the concert in Lebanon, and here is some amateur footage.

Finally, here's a post I did back in 2010 on Massive Attack and Palestine.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nation of Islam Hip-Hop Again?

Zaheer Ali wonders whether a hip-hop/Nation of Islam connection might be on the horizon again, in The Root. He is inspired to speculate in this regard by Jay Electronica's performance at the recent Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, where he appeared with a phalanx of NOI Fruit of Islam guards as he arrived. And performed in his own Fruit of Islam garb. (Jay is in the center in the photo below.)

Frankly, I wonder whether NOI rap will really become a trend, but it's an interesting thought, and I urge you to read about it here.

I blogged about Jay Electronica back in 2012, when I spotted him in kufiya. I concluded at the time, based on his lyrics, that he was a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percenters). I may have been right, that at the time, he was. He now seems to have more clearly aligned to the NOI.

Gnawa NYC

Yep, there is now a Gnawa zawiya in the South Bronx.

The photo is courtesy Samir LanGus via Facebook. LanGus is the guy in green clanging the kerakeb in the photo above. He is part of the South Bronx-based Gnawa troupe Innove, who, amazingly, were selected in May by the MTA to be part of their Music Under New York program, meaning they would get perform in “prime subway station spots.”

 Innove Gnawa Band

And here is a vid of them playing "Merhaba" (a song that welcomes the mluk, the "spirits" that the Gnawa cult propitiates), on September 7, at the 34th St Herald Square station (on the BMT Broadway Line and the IND Sixth Avenue Line of the New York City Subway), the third busiest station in the system.

For more on how Gnawa music can now be seen commonly in New York City, please read the fantastic article in the New Yorker (September 2) by my friend and colleague Hisham Aidi, entitled "Claude McKay and the Gnawa Scene." And yes, McKay first saw the Gnawa in 1928, in Casablanca.

And Innove isn't the only Gnawa group in the city. As Aidi informs us, there is also Gnawa Boussou and Nass Gnawa.

Nass Gnawa (which includes the great Brahim Fribgane) live:

And Gnawa Boussou (also featuring Brahim Fribgane):

I went to several Gnawa lilas when I was in Morocco in summer 1999. I hope I get to go to one in NYC, sometime soon! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

A plug for some "experimental Arab music": Radio Tashweesh #11 and Annihaya Records

I really like the latest (well, four months old) mix on Soundcloud from Algeria's Radio Tashweesh. Very nice, very experimental stuff from the Arab world, from the likes of Land of Kush (one of Sam Shalabi's many projects), Mahmoud El-Kholy, who 'wrecks' Umm Kalthoum's famous 1969 song "Asbaha ‘andi al-an banduqiya" (Now I've got a rifle), Zeid Hamdan with Miryam Saleh, Kamilya Jubran, and more. Plus, the photo that accompanies the mix (reproduced above) is just perfect to describe my mood at the moment. (Sorry, you really have to know Arabic to get it.)

And I also just noticed that Radio Tashweesh has produced a more recent mix in tribute to Ahmed Basiony, the multi-talented artist who was a martyr of the 2011 Egyptian uprising.

And then there is Annihaya Records on Soundcloud. Out of Lebanon, they are 'a conceptual music label that specializes in the displacement, deconstruction and 'recycling' of popular or folkloric musical cultures.' I recommend checking out all that they have, but I particularly liked the tracks "Najwa (Malayeen 2013)" by Malayeen:

and Raed Yassin's "Naima":


Listening again while writing this, my mood is improved. But I still think the photo at the top is an accurate assessment of what's going on in much of the Arab world today. At least there is some good music being produced.

Added September 20, 2014: according to the comment posted by Redha, the photograph is by Nadia Elissa, from Alexandria. I've not been able to find any internet link to her.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Palestinian music: sources

Re: Palestinian music: I just wanted to give a plug to two fairly new books and one quite new posting.

First, Palestinian Music and Song: Expression and Resistance Since 1900, Moslih Kanaaneh, Stig-Magnus Thorsén, Heather Bursheh, and David A. McDonald, eds, 2013. It's in the Indiana University book series that I co-edit, Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. Shayna Silverstein just published a very smart review of it in Journal of Folklore Research, which you can read here.

Then there is David McDonald's, My Voice Is My Weapon: Music, Nationalism, and the Poetics of Palestinian Resistance (Duke, 2013). I'm one of the folks who blurbed it, and I said the following: "David A. McDonald has written a singular, ambitious, and much-needed book that explores a very important dimension of the Palestinian-Israeli question. He provides an invaluable historical overview of Palestinian resistance music since the 1930s and an ethnography of music and musicians during the Second Intifada and its aftermath." I used the book in class last semester, and I highly recommend it for teaching.

Finally, if you are going to teach about Palestinian music, and use these books, then you should grab the following:

The album came out in 1989, from Virgin Records, but I've never seen it before, and I'm pretty sure it would be hard to track down a copy. But thanks to the estimable music tumblr naksh al sanadeeq, you can download it here.

When I taught McDonald's book I was able to find a lot of the music he discusses on Youtube. But it helps to know Arabic in order to track it down. Perhaps I'll do a follow-up.

In sum: we are now much more blessed with excellent materials, recorded and academic, on Palestinian music.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

and in South Africa kufiya news...

At the World Debating Championships in Thailand in early August, the South African team put on kufiya scarves, as well as badges in the form of Palestinian flags, at the opening ceremony, in protest of Israeli human rights violations against the people of Gaza. And they took a photo, posted on Facebook on August 6. 

As a result, a petition was circulated calling for the team captain, Joshua Broomberg (on far right in the photo), who is also deputy head boy of the King David Victory Park High School, a Jewish day school, to be removed as deputy head boy. The petition picked up 2,000 signatures; a petition opposing his removal garnered 4,000, according to the Times of Israel.

Yoni Bass, writing for 972, explains that the uproar over the incident is symptomatic of a strong and perhaps growing conservative trend in South Africa's Jewish community. Read more here.