Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Middle Eastern Music Mixes for Your New Years: Old School North African and New Skool Mahraganat

 1. This isn't a new one but I just came across it. Krimau, one of the two dj's of Toukadime, did a mix back in 2012 for the website 716. It features the likes of Mazouni, Rabah Driassa, Boujemaa el-Ankiss, Cheikha Mangala Relizania and more. Grab it here.

2. And, a brand new mahraganat mixtape, courtesy Philip Battiekh, called El Battiekhawya meets Islam Chipsy in the Diaspora of Sha3besque Rhythm. With the likes of Islam Chipsy, al-Madfa3geya, Amr 7a7a, Sadat and Fifty, Battiekh, and other knowns and some unknowns. Really brilliant.

Yasmine Hamdan's "Hal" is in the running for an Oscar

I've blogged about this song previously. It's from the final scene of Jim Jarmusch's 2014 film, Only Lovers Left Alive, where the aging, world-weary vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) come across Yasmine Hamdan performing in a club in Tangier, Morocco. The scene is riveting, although the song is not, I have to admit, one of my favorite Yasmine Hamdan songs. I suppose we should not get too excited about the chances that "Hal" will win. There are a reported 79 songs in the running for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards. We'll know whether it is actually nominated on January 15, 2015.

Here's the scene from the film:

And here is Yasmine Hamdan performing for one of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts, in May 2014:

One of the songs she performs is one of my favorites, "Beirut." I posted about this song previously -- check it out here. Lyrics in Arabic and English are provided.

Best Original Song
Best Original Song

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

recommended Middle Eastern music for your hols: Syria, North Africa, El Ghorba

More great stuff I've come across:

1. Sabri Mudallal (Moudallal), live in concert in Cologne (1988) and studio recordings (1989).

This two CD set is available to download here, courtesy the music blog Oriental Traditional Music from LPs & Cassettes. Sabri Moudallal (1918-2006) was one of the twentieth centuries most renowned singers hailing from Aleppo, Syria. He was both a muezzin and a singer of the distinctive Aleppo genre of music, the wasla 'suite.' He is probably best known outside of Syria as a vocalist with the al-Kindi Ensemble. Essential reading on Aleppo's music scene, including a discussion of Moudallal, is Jonathan Shannon's Among the Jasmine Trees Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria.

2. A collection of recordings, courtesy the music blog Arab Tunes, by Cheikha Habiba Saghira dating from the seventies and eighties. Habiba Saghira is one of the great rai cheikhas. The set commences with the song "Nebghi Nechreb" (I want to drink). It concludes with "Yasker Ou Yebki" (He drinks and cries). You get the idea. I posted photos of a couple Habiba Saghira record jackets awhile back, here

3. Courtesy the music blog Phono Mundial, a mixtape of music of El Ghorba or exile, a "cassette" composed of two "sides" of Maghrebi music. Side A is a set of music, produced mostly in France, dating from post Algerian independence. Great tracks from the likes of Abranis, Doukkali and Mazouni. Side B is a bit more contemporary than Side B, with some great twist, yé-yé, rock'n'roll and Kabyle fusion, from the likes of Karoudji, Mazouni (again), and Rachid et Fathi. It also includes a song very dear to my heart, Bellemou's "Zerga ou Mesrara," with vocals from Hamani Tmouchenti, one of the original pop-rai songs. I've written about it previously here and here. (Phono Mundial claims the recording of this Bellemou track was done in Marseille. I wonder...) [Correction, December 30, 2014: apologies to Phono Mundial, who say the track was issued in Marseille, and not recorded there. So cool that it was issued there!]

4. Courtesy Jewish Morocco, a mixtape for Hanukkah (or any other holiday you like, in fact), titled "Mazal Haï Mazal: Eight North African Tracks to Light Your Soul On Fire." It is not free, it's $5, or more, if you'd care to donate to Jewish Morocco's digitalization project. You won't find these rare tracks elsewhere, by such renowned artists as Albert Suissa, Reinette l'Oranaise, and Zohra El Fassia. I'm particularly excited about getting my hands on a recording of  Blond-Blond's "La Bombe Atomique." Read more about this collection here.

Happy holiday listening!

kufiya harem pants (sirwal) and other possible kufiya-themed xmas gifts

A friend turned me on to the etsy site of Fadila A Alouchi, based in Châtelet, Belgium. It's full of kufiya items. You'll have to check it out.
Here are a couple samples. They are way, in my opinion, over the top.

Harem pants, known in Arabic as sirwal. $111.33.

Fur hat. $93.82.

Hair Bow. $31.15

shop away!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

More kufiya fashion

I've not been paying that much attention to the kufiya fashion front, but occasionally I get notification of interesting new developments, via Pinterest (where I have a kufiya board, which I add to infrequently.) I recently came across some new items which I feel I must share.

These are described as Givenchy kufiyyeh platforms (source). I've been unable to confirm whether Givenchy really sells or sold such an item. But pretty amazing, eh?

I found these items at the Dusty-Reykjavik blog. These are all by the Danish designer Cecilie JØrgensen, who has lots of kufiya fashion items. And here are some more:

This is via Cover, where you can see even more Cecilie JØrgensen kufiya fashion.

Finally, kufiya shorts, from Zara. This one found at Carolines Mode blog, from Stockholm.

So I guess kufiya fashion is really going strong in Scandinavia, eh?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Excellent introduction to Mizrahi music

By Leeor Ohayon, published by Stamp the Wax. It's here.

If you've read Amy Horowitz's excellent book, Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic, you will probably know much of this story. But Horowitz's book only takes us up to the early 90s, prior to the mainstreaming of Mizrahi music, the success of artists like Eyal Golan. And it mentions more recent developments, like the Jaffa bar Anna Loulou, and the fabulous singer Neta Elkayam. The article mentions one artist I was not familiar with, a pioneer figure in the movement, Ahuva Ozeri. Check out her song ‘Haikhan ha-Khayal?’ (Where is my soldier?) here.

 Anna-Lulu resident DJ Khen Ohana Elmaleh (photo Leeor Ohayon)
(the photo hanging on the right is of Salim Halali)

I particularly liked Ohayon's summary of what happened to the Jews from the Arab countries who ended up in Israel after 1948:

Mizrahi is the subsequent result of Egyptian Jews befriending Moroccan Jews who married other eastern Jewish communities from Algeria to Dagestan within the ghettos of peripheral Israel, creating the Israeli ‘ethnic other’. Mizrahi is the result of side-lined communities, uprooted, destitute and further victimised in a state that told them not to be ‘too Arab’. A state built on Ashkenazic foundations, under a Eurocentric educative system that sought to pressurise Mizrahi Jewry into leaving their Middle Eastern cultures at the border and adopting a new Ashkenazi-Israeli identity. All this subsequently resulted in a dichotomy that only served to create a form of identity-based schizophrenia amongst Mizrahi Jewry.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Algerian photos: Lazhar Mansouri

One of the brilliant things about sharing stuff on your blog or Facebook or twitter or whatever is that the odd person will share things in return. For example:

I posted on twitter this photo I took, from inside the CD booklet that comes with the recent release from Sublime Frequencies, 1970s Algerian Folk & Pop. I posted about it here.

I just love this photo. First, it shows an Algerian teenage girl in a short skirt. Second, the girl has her arm around the boy, rather than the reverse. Finally, the pose looks so...natural.

Thanks to someone who noticed my twitter post of this photo, I have learned the name of the photographer: Lazhar Mansouri. Mansouri was a photographer who lived in the town of Aïn Beïda, in the Aurés mountains of eastern Algeria. He shot pictures of local townspeople in the studio he set up in the rear of a barbershop, between 1950 and 1980. (The population of Aïn Beïda in 1954 was 18,900; by 1977, 42,600.) 

Curator James Cavello culled a reported 10,000 negatives left by Mansouri and selected 120 of them to print. A collection of 50 (or 55?) photos toured the US in 2007, and it was reviewed in Art in America, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, among other venues. (And the collection has continued to tour elsewhere.) You can read more about Mansouri, see some photos, and read the reviews here. More photos, and a somewhat more interesting set, are here. Below are a couple samples.

Amazing, eh? I wish, however, that the photos were captioned. I have lots of questions, such as, are prostitutes among the subjects?

If you want to dig further, there is a book, which you could borrow on Interlibrary Loan (assuming you are at a university): Lazhar Mansouri: photographe algérien, by Lazhar Mansouri and Gina Abatti (Mazzotta, 2003).

Monday, December 08, 2014

Growing popularity of Fairuz in Israel?

On December 1, 2104, Eyal Sagui Bizawe, one of Ha'aretz's most interesting writers (see what he has written about here) published an article entitled "Lebanese singer Fairuz is 
finally fashionable in Israel." He starts by telling us about traveling to Amman in 1999 to see Fairuz in concert (at that time it was somewhat normal to go to Jordan for such events.)

He goes on to say that Israeli society has "opened up somewhat to Arab music since then," although it still looks down on Mizrahi music. As evidence, he cites, first of all, the fact that Palestinian-Israeli singer Lina Makhoul, the winner of the second season of the Israeli TV program The Voice of Israel, performed a Fairuz song, "Bizakker Bel Kharif" (I remember autumn), at her audition in 2012. The song, set to the tune of "Autumn Leaves," was a great success with the judges as well as the audience.

Bizawe also cites the Israeli band Turquoise (Fairuz means turquoise in Arabic) which recently released a mini-album in tribute to Fairuz. It includes a version of Fairuz's "Sa'louni Al-nas," (The people asked me). 

Turqouise's release has stirred up some controversy, with Abdul Rahman Jasem, a Palestinian writer based in Beirut writing in Al Akhbar that the recording was yet another example of Israeli Zionists stealing Arab culture, as they had done with hummus, felafel and tabbouleh. Turquoise argues however that they are just trying to bring Arab culture to the Israeli public, in the interests of bringing people together. I'm not unsympathetic to that project, but musically, I don't find Turquoise's version very appealing, as it seems to have very much toned down the Arab quality of the original, I guess with the idea of making it acceptable to a wider Israeli audience. Here's the original, you decide.

I also learned from Bizawe that Fairuz's son Ziad Rahbani is reportedly considering moving to Russia. Or, at least, moving to Russia for a time to work on a TV show. 

Eyal Sagui Bizawe, meanwhile, is of Egyptian Jewish origin, and his grandmother was a cousin of the great Egyptian Jewish actress and singer Leila Murad. Bizawe has made a film, called Arab Movie, about the screening of Egyptian films on Israeli TV. You can see a clip and read about the film here. Bizawe is also a DJ, who spins discs on occasion at the very hip Jaffa bar Anna Loulou, which has a mixed (Palestinian and Jewish) clientele. 

When I posted Bizawe's article on FB, I got varying reactions from FB friends. A Palestinian remarked, "they steal everything." One Israeli said that you couldn't attribute Israeli fans of Fairuz to a right-left split, whereas another Israeli claimed that it was leftists who were into Fairuz.

More research needed. Meanwhile, please follow Bizawe on Ha'aretz.

Coming soon: Gil Hochberg, "Visual Occupations: Violence and Visibility in a Conflict Zone"

UCLA Prof Gil Hochberg's book, Visual Occupations: Violence and Visibility in a Conflict Zone, is out soon (May 2015) from Duke University Press. I blurbed it, so I've read the manuscript, and it is terrific, an essential read.

Here is Ella Shohat's blurb:

"Focusing on the politics of visuality, Visual Occupations engages the Zionist narrative in its various scopic manifestations, while also offering close readings of a wide range of contemporary artistic representations of a conflictual zone. Through such key notions as concealment, surveillance, and witnessing, the book insightfully examines the uneven access to visual rights that divides Israelis and Palestinians. Throughout, Gil Z. Hochberg sharply accentuates the tensions between visibility and invisibility within a context of ongoing war and violence. Visual Occupations makes a vital and informed contribution to the growing field of Israel/Palestine visual culture studies." 

and mine:

"Gil Z. Hochberg's brilliant and lucidly written text provides a vivid analysis of the sharp limits on visibility in Palestine/Israel. The expulsions of Palestinians in 1948 are invisible in Israel, and yet they continue to haunt its citizens and mobilize Palestinian resistance. Palestinians under occupation are hyper-visible, as victims and militants, and they seek both non-spectacular images and a measure of opacity. Through her critical readings of an array of Palestinian and Israeli artistic works, Hochberg offers other ways of looking and being seen, in this vastly unequal field of visibility."

and Duke Press' description:

"In Visual Occupations Gil Z. Hochberg shows how the Israeli Occupation of Palestine is driven by the unequal access to visual rights, or the right to control what can be seen, how, and from which position. Israel maintains this unequal balance by erasing the history and denying the existence of Palestinians, and by carefully concealing its own militarization. Israeli surveillance of Palestinians, combined with the militarized gaze of Israeli soldiers at places like roadside checkpoints, also serve as tools of dominance. Hochberg analyzes various works by Palestinian and Israeli artists, among them Elia Suleiman, Rula Halawani, Sharif Waked, Ari Folman, and Larry Abramson, whose films, art, and photography challenge the inequity of visual rights by altering, queering, and manipulating dominant modes of representing the conflict. These artists' creation of new ways of seeing—such as the refusal of Palestinian filmmakers and photographers to show Palestinian suffering, or the Israeli artists' exposure of state manipulated Israeli blindness—offers a crucial gateway, Hochberg suggests, for overcoming and undoing Israel's militarized dominance and political oppression of Palestinians."

Monday, December 01, 2014

absolute best thing to read about ISIS right now

from Alireza Doostdar, who teaches Islamic Studies and Anthropology of Religion at University of Chicago Divinity School. from the div school's Martin Marty Center. here.

a couple samples:

The emphasis on ISIS’ Salafi worldview has tended to obscure the many grievances that may motivate fighters to join an increasingly efficient militant group that promises to vanquish their oppressors. Do they need to “convert” to ISIS’ worldview to fight with or for them? Do they need to aspire to a caliphate, as does ISIS leadership, in order to join forces with them? These questions are never asked, and “beliefs” are made simply to fill the explanatory void...

ISIS’ brutality did not emerge in a vacuum; rather, it is part of a whole ecology of cruelty spread out over more than a decade.

Perhaps a decapitation is more cruel than blowing a body to bits with a high-caliber machine gun, incinerating it with a remote-controlled drone, or burning and lacerating it with a barrel bomb. But even if we limit ourselves to close-up, low-technology brutality, ISIS beheadings are hardly out of place.

The earliest video-taped decapitation of an American citizen in Iraq was conducted by ISIS’ predecessors in 2004 in response, they claimed, to the photographed and video-recorded torture, rape, and murder of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison [12]. In 2011, it emerged that some American soldiers in Afghanistan had been hunting civilians for sport and collecting their fingers and teeth as souvenirs [13]. In the sectarian bloodshed that engulfed Iraq after the U.S. invasion, beheadings by Sunni insurgents turned into a morbid form of reciprocity with Shi‘a militiamen who bore holes into their victims using power drills [14].