Saturday, December 21, 2019

Monday, December 16, 2019

Early Um Kalthoum Publicity Photo

Um Kalthum, early in her career. 
Publicity photo from Odeon. 
Courtesy Akassah, Center for Photography, NYU Abu Dhabi.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Raïna Raï at SOB's in New York City, February 1991

I had not known until yesterday that the rai band Raïna Raï had toured the US. (I found this posted on a FaceBook group I belong to.) According to wikipedia, this was in 1991.

The ad is somewhat curious, I'd never heard of the band described as the "sultans" of rai. Plus the claim that they were "direct from Algeria" is somewhat misleading. The members of the band were originally from the Algerian city of Sidi Bel-Abbès, but the band was started in Paris in 1980, where it has been based ever since. The most prominent member was guitarist and leader Lotfi Attar, and what was distinctive about their music in the eighties was the strong guitar element. The band is apparently still active.

On the other hand, they may have arrived in New York "direct from Algeria," as they did do concerts in Algeria. They appeared, for instance, at the first rai festival organized in Algeria, in Oran in 1985, and their performance there can be heard on the album Le Raï Dans Tous Ses Etats, released in 1986 (and very expensive used!).

Raïna Raï is probably best remembered for their 1985 track "Ya Zina," based on the song "Ya Zghida,"
-->originally recorded by Boutaïba Sghir and Messaoud Bellemou. Check out their official "Ya Zina" video below, featuring Lotfi Attar's very strong and distinctive guitar work, and at the end, percussion from qaraqeb, borrowed from the Gnawa (Diwane as it's known in Algeria) tradition. [added 7/9/21 and, thanks to John Schaefer's keen eye, someone from the Diwane milieu playing tbel.]

You can check out Boutaïba's "Ya Zghida" here.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cheikh Raymond, Mustapha Skandrani, Meriem Abed, opening of television station, Constantine, 1959/1960

My apologies to whomever I grabbed this from off the web. It was over a year and a half ago and I can't remember where I got it from.

According to the post, this is who is in the photo:

First row, left to right: Abdelhak Benabbes (known as Tcheka), who played naghrat (percussion) in Cheikh Raymond's group 
Cheikh Raymond Leyris
Mustapha Skandrani (the great pianist who accompanied Reinette L'Oranaise, Hadj El Anka, Amar Ezzahi, and El Hachemi Guerouabi, among others)
Sylvain Ghrenassia (violinist in Raymond's group and father of Enrico Macias)
Alexandre "Judas" Nakkache (Jewish Algerian singer from Constantine)
Second row left to: Haddad Djillali (composer and conductor who worked with Meriem Abed, Rabah Driassa, Fadila Dziria, Leila El Djazairia, and Latifa, among others)
Meriem Abed (singer, active in 50s and 60s)
Hadjira Bali (singer from Oran, 1928-60)
Saim El Hadj (maybe; composer and playwright from Oran)
Khelifi Ahmed (singer, noted for Bedouin songs)
Nadjat (maybe; singer)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

October 17, 1961

It's the anniversary of the Paris police massacre of two to three hundred Algerians. Great article in The Funambulist on the event, and the efforts of female activists to inscribe Paris with reminders of this horrific event.

"On October 17, 1961, a few months before the final victory of the Algerian Revolution, the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in France organized a massive pacific march in Paris to show their determination against the curfew that the Prefect of police, the infamous Maurice Papon, in agreement with the French government, had taken against their sole persons a few days earlier — during the 1961-1963 state of emergency in France. 20,000 Algerians joined the march which was met with systematic and deadly violence by the Paris police. Between 200 and 300 Algerians were killed by being shot, beaten to death, or thrown into the Seine river; 10,000 were arrested and detained for several days; hundreds were deported to Algeria — some of these deportations were used to hide the deaths."

"Last night, a few hours of the commemoration of the 58th anniversary of the massacre, a small group of female activists visited several of these spaces to graffiti or glue the names of some of the Algerians who were killed that night. In a particularly intense policed and fascist militant environment, they succeeded in paying an homage to the history of Algerian resistance (one that continues today through the antiracist and anticolonial activism) that goes beyond the authorized (yet very important, of course) setting of the 6PM annual gathering on the Saint-Michel bridge. This is crucial as the very discreet official efforts of acknowledgment of the massacre from the Paris municipality and the French state never target those who are responsible for it (Papon, of course, but also the De Gaulle-Debré government, and the police officers themselves)."

Saturday, September 28, 2019

#kufiyaspotting: Henry Kissinger

h/t Darryl Li. I'm not sure of the date of this but no doubt early seventies.
(update, 9/7/20: the source is Merip Reports #36, 1975, p. 19)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Old reviews for PopMatters: dZihan & Kamien, Refreaked

Another one from 2001.

dZihan & Kamien
(Six Degrees)

by Ted Swedenburg
PopMatters Music Critic

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Refreaked is a collection of remixes of tracks from dZihan & Kamien's successful Freaks & Icons from last year. The remixes, mostly by artists who are personal friends of dZihan & Kamien, do not range too far from the originals. But even if you've already got the original, it is still worth your while to get re-freaked. 

Based in Vienna, dZihan & Kamien produce a brand of Eurodance that is chilled-out, down-tempo, and very easy on the ears. For the most part, the tracks on Refreaked will work just fine as velvety background music. But repeated close listenings reveal a level of complexity, and even subversiveness, beneath an apparently glossy sheen. 

A large portion of both the intricacies and the understated resistance of Refreaked can be traced to dZihan and Kamien's intense interest in Middle Eastern, and particularly Turkish, music. Vlado dZihan hails from Sarajevo in Bosnia, home to a substantial Muslim population, while Mario Kamien, raised in Switzerland, has a Turkish girlfriend. For several years the duo have been recording percussion tracks from musician friends in Turkey, and many of these were used to construct Freaks and Icons. Once they had composed the basic tracks of Freaks and Icons, they then went to Turkey to record live musicians on top. The remixed versions on Refreaked manage to preserve the Middle Eastern feel of the originals. 

But what is truly impressive is how these songs are so subtly given an "Eastern" tinge. Unlike so many "East-West" musical hybrids, where you can immediately hear the discrete "Eastern" and "Western" elements working, and often grating, together, on Refreaked the Turkish drumbeats and Oriental flutes blend together seamlessly with all the other musical ingredients, to create a lush, integrated texture. You really have to listen carefully to hear those "foreign" components.
Take, for instance, "Homebase", a tribute to dZihan's natal home of Sarajevo, the scene of obscene (and for the most part, anti-Muslim and anti-multicultural) violence in the '90s. Remixed by UFO, it opens with a vaguely Eastern-sounding, moaning sample, which is later joined by a simple and melancholic "Western" keyboard riff, repeated over and over. The song builds slowly, adding bass, and then the rhythms of the Middle Eastern derbouka. It continues for over eight minutes, achieving a kind of chilled intensity, as other samples, some recognizably Eastern, others Western, others unidentifiable, weave in and out. All in all, a very low-key yet effective tribute to Sarajevo's multi-ethnic, Euro-Levantine heritage, and an understated lament for the heavy blows it has suffered. "Carta de Condução", as remixed by Butterkeks, is another standout. Opening with a lush and dreamy keyboard sequence, it commences to kick ass with a funky, fuzzy bass and drum riff. A couple of minutes in, the bass and drum are joined by the Eastern derbouka, and then those dreamy keyboards chime in. Then it's chill-out time, no percussion, a moment of repose with bubbly, reverie-inducing keyboards. The bass-and-derbouka kick up another storm, and the number ends with those soft, dreamy keyboards. 

What makes this all so subversive is that dZihan & Kamien simply insinuate all these Eastern elements into downtempo Eurodance without you hardly noticing. It's an insistent, insidious infiltration of the Levant, a resurrection of the spirit of Sarajevo. Coming from a country where an ultra-right, racist, fascistic-leaning and anti-immigrant party (Jörg Haider's Freedom Party) is a partner in the national government, dZihan and Kamien offer an alternative vision of a tolerant, cosmopolitan Europe, one that honors rather than vilifies its Islamic and Levantine elements. And it goes down smooth, like the perfect martini. 

Time to get re-freaked!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Old reviews for PopMatters: Steve Earle in concert, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 2001

(The reviews I did for PopMatters have disappeared from their website, so I'm using Wayback Machine to recover them. I think this is the only concert review I ever wrote that was published elsewhere than on this blog.)

Steve Earle / Stacey Earle
20 March 2001: Dave's on Dickson — Fayetteville, Arkansas

by Ted Swedenburg
PopMatters Music Critic

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My hometown, Fayetteville, Arkansas, has been in a drought of sorts for the last couple years, at least as far as decent touring music acts. But we truly lucked out on March 20, when Steve Earle decided to make our town his last stop on what he told us was a seven-month tour, to support his last release, Transcendental Blues

The audience was large and adoring. We love Steve because he writes such great songs; because he is a quintessential survivor, has been to hell and back; because his music cannot be pigeonholed or easily labeled and he refuses to be constrained by musical categories; because he's a bohemian-outsider-hillbilly; and because his political stands are brave and uncompromising. And he's been coming to Fayetteville ever since the late '70s, when he first played at the Swinging Door along with Guy Clark. For all these reasons, the crowd included a much wider range of age groups than you normally see at rock events. And more women than usual. Lots of twenty-somethings, and lots of geezers like me. In fact, all the folks I saw Steve with are over 50, and we did not feel out of place at all. 

Steve's sister Stacey Earle, who's promoting her second album, Dancin' With Them That Brung Me, opened the show. Stacey performed solo, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, and quickly won over a boisterous crowd that was dying for Steve to take the stage with her goofy mannerisms, peppiness, smart songs, and outstanding vocal phrasings. She reminds me a bit of Ricky Lee Jones. Particularly noteworthy was a song that she performed for the first time, about being lonely on tour in New York City, and her secret love affair with the Man in the Moon. 

Steve and his band stormed onstage soon after Stacey left, opening with the first three cuts off of Transcendental Blues — the title cut, and then "Everybody Loves Me", where Earle & the Dukes sound like the Beatles, and then "Another Town". A great way to open, songs faithful to the album but with more distortion on the guitars, and played with great intensity. Steve has slimmed down some, put on a full beard, but the voice is still intense and raggedy and biting. The band proceeded to play for about two and a half hours, performing, in all, 35 songs. Lots of numbers from Transcendental Blues, but also tunes ranging from all over his career, including crowd pleasers like "Copperhead Road" and "I Ain't Ever Satisfied", all played with equal passion and intensity. What's truly amazing is how wide-ranging a set of sounds this little four-man band can produce. Not only have they mastered The Beatles (and the best Beatles, circa Revolver), as on so many of the songs from Transcendental Blues. They can also kick hard-rock ass with the best of them. They can blast out the bittersweet country ballads and the high lonesome bluegrass — as on "Travel and Toil", from The Mountain (recorded with the Del McCoury Band), with Steve playing mandolin. When Steve straps on the harmonica, the group enters Dylanesque folk territory. And even Celtic — "Galway Girl" from Transcendental Blues, with Dan the manager joining the group on pennywhistle. The whole band is outstanding, but at the apex is guitarist Eric Ambel, formerly of the Del-Lords and the Blackhearts, who is forever grinding out smart, spare riffs, fills, power-chords, and solos. 

Steve put his politics out there too, albeit in a low-key manner. The tone was set by the drumset, plastered with a reproduction of that recent cover of The Nation with George W. Bush as Mad Magazine's "What Me Worry?" Alfred E. Neumann. Two years ago when Steve and the Dukes played Fayetteville, they brought an anti-death penalty banner. No banner this time, but the focus was still on the death penalty. Steve did his haunting "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)", from Transcendental Blues, about his experience witnessing the state's execution of his friend Jonathan Noble in Huntsville, Texas. (You can also read about Steve's harrowing and incredibly moving account of this experience in an article he wrote for Tikkun [September 2000]). Introducing "Travel and Toil", Steve made a pitch for union membership, and added, "No matter who you vote for, George Bush is gonna fuck you." 

During the first encore set, Stacey came back to sing harmonies on "When I Fall" from Transcendental Blues. And then Steve and the Dukes showed us they could even do funk psychedelia. Adding Steve's younger brother as a second drummer, they stormed through the Chambers' Brothers "Time Has Come Today", in my opinion, one of the great anthems of the sixties. In the second encore set, Steve made a pitch against the War on Crime. The band ended their night, and the seven-month tour, with a fine cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia", with Steve on mandolin. 

Come back real soon, Steve, and let's magnetize this motherfucker again.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Rescuing my old reviews for PopMatters: Hamid El Gnawi, Saha Koyo

I wrote a number of reviews for PopMatters back in the day, and most of them have now disappeared from the PopMatters website. So I've decided to use the Wayback Machine to try to recover them. Here's the first. More to come. This was published some time in 2001.

Hamid El Gnawi
Saha Koyo
US release date: 16 January 2001

by Ted Swedenburg
PopMatters Music Critic

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Of all the music genres produced in Morocco, it is Gnawa that has gained most circulation in the West. Jazz luminaries like Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders and Don Cherry have recorded with master Gnawa musicians, as have Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, most notably on No Quarter. A stream of albums by gnawa musicians continues to be released; probably the most well known of the lot is the Bill Laswell-produced Night Spirit Masters (1990).
The appeal of the Gnawa is apparent from the first listen. The distinctive sound of the central Gnawa instrument, the three-stringed guimbri, resembles that of the acoustic bass. The music, moreover, is based on a pentatonic (five-note) scale, and hence is more readily accessible to the Western ear than other North African music, mostly based on Other-sounding Oriental modes. Finally, the most important point of attraction is that the Gnawa has the same origins as African-American music, for it is music played by the descendants of slaves from West Africa who began to settle in Morocco in the medieval period. 

It is the similar origins of the blues and Gnawa music that have inspired the collaborations between Western and Gnawa artists. When a Gnawa master plays his guimbri, it is fairly easy for blues-trained Westerners to play over him. But only seemingly so. In fact, Randy Weston and Pharoah Sanders' recordings with Gnawa do not really work all that well. Such collaborations frequently turn out to be not a dialogue but extemporaneous playing while the Gnawa do their thing. In effect, the Gnawa provide the "natural" base and the Western musicians provide the (supposedly) "creative" juice. This mode of engagement has become so popular, in fact, that it forms the basis for the annual Essaouira festival, a three-day musical extravaganza held since 1998. Every year the festival in Essaouira attracts more Western and "World" musicians, who jam on stage with the major Gnawa ensembles from around Morocco. I attended in 1999, and found the experience both invigorating and frustrating. By themselves, the Gnawa groups were simply awesome. But when the "guest" musicians jammed with them, the results were, at best, mixed. Great musicians (these included the likes of Archie Shepp, Reggie Workman, Doug Wimbush, and Susan Dayhem) frequently came in over Gnawa vocals, regularized the beat in a way violated the usual Gnawa flow, and sometimes turned the overall sound into a muddy mess. 

On occasion, Gnawa collaborations do work, usually as a result of sustained ensemble practice rather than just jamming. The work of Don Cherry, Adam Rudolph, and Richard Horowitz with Hassan Hakmoun on Gift of the Gnawa is a stellar example, and Plant & Page's collaboration with M'allim Brahim on "City No Cry" from No Quarter is surprisingly satisfying. 

But the singular contribution of Hamid El Gnawi's Saha Koyo is that it shows that the Gnawa don't need outsiders to "help" them develop and modernize their music. Saha Koyo is the result of a collaboration between Gnawa musician Hamid Faraji (a.k.a. El Gnawi), who sings and plays guimbri, and producer and jazz keyboard player Issam-Issam. The result is a kind indigenous Gnawa jazz. Unlike most of the collaborations with Western jazz or rock players, here the fit between the playing of the guimbri and the jazz keyboards is just perfect. The keyboard work is faithful to the spirit of the Gnawa, and yet turns it into something new. Issam-Issam's playing on the organ and the Rhodes piano not only meshes, but also manages to capture the mood of the Gnawa songs, which are sometimes joyful, sometimes redolent with dread. The spirits (known as muluk) the songs are meant to propitiate are capricious, neither wholly good nor evil, and they can bring blessings, or harm. 

The overall sound is rich and full, although produced by only keyboards, guimbri, and the distinctive Gnawa percussion, metal castanets known as qaraqeb. Issam-Issam's playing, especially when he's on the Rhodes piano, reminds me of 1970s Creed Taylor/CTI vintage jazz-only funkier. Hamid Faraji has chosen to sing well-known numbers from the vast Gnawa repertoire, and each one receives a fine treatment. My favorite, however, is "Merhaba", a song that welcomes and calls the spirits to the healing ceremony. (The true function of Gnawa music is to propitiate the spirits at healing rituals.) "Merhaba" demonstrates the funky side of Gnawa, moving at a fast pace, with booming guimbri basslines. The album might seem, on the first few listens, to have a certain sameness, but repeated listenings will reveal the distinct beauty of each of the songs. 

When I visited Essaouira in summer 1999, I found two cassettes from this group (known in Morocco as Saha Koyo and not Hamid El Gnawi), and I heard these cassettes played all over town-in restaurants, shops, on the street. Hamid El Gnawi not the only example of indigenous experimentation with the Gnawa form. Gnawa master Mahmoud El-Guinea (who recorded with Pharoah Sanders) has released some "experimental" Gnawa cassettes in Morocco, and there are other local examples of Gnawa jazz groups. I hope that even more examples of these indigenous experiments will become available here. It's time that the music of the Gnawa stop being treated as raw material for outsiders to play with, and be regarded as dynamic, creative and experimental in its own right.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Jewish Contributions to Middle East Music, March 28-29, University of Arkansas

Our Middle East Center organized a great conference, plus a keynote and a concert, last month at the University of Arkansas.

It featured (1) a keynote by Jonathan Glasser, College of William & Mary, entitled '“More Than Friends?” On Muslim-Jewish Musical Intimacy in Algeria and Beyond'; (2) a concert performance by Galeet Dardashit and band called Monajat; and (3) a full-day's conference, with presentations from Joel Beinin, Galeet Dardashti, Sara Monasseh, Edwin Seroussi, Vanessa Paloma Elbaz, Hisham Aidi, Jonathan Glasser, and Chris Silver. The titles of the talks plus abstracts are here; bios of the speakers are here. Special thanks goes to Nani Verzon, program manager of the Center, for all her hard work.

I was somewhat remiss about remembering to take photos, but here are two:

This is Galeet Dardashti performing Monajat, and her percussionist, Philip Mayer, who took a break from his regular job as percussionist for the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, The Band's Visit, to be with us.

And Chris Silver, talking about the great Algerian Jewish musician and scholar, Edmond Nathan Yafil.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Report on American Research Center in Egypt conference, "Egyptian Soundscapes: Music Sound and Built Environments"

 I gave a paper at the conference last December, and posted last month a bit from my paper, about Khidr and his song, "Ismi Hunak."

Here is a report on the conference from the online Cairene culture magazine Scene/Noise. It was posted in January, but I just now ran across it. There were many excellent papers presented at the conference, but the author, Tucker McGee, who I met, chose to provide summaries of just three papers: mine, Mark LeVine's and Michael Frishkopf's. Too bad he didn't cover more.

One small error in his report on my paper: I never saw Hamza El Din at Cairo's General Nubian Club, but I did see him perform at the Opera. (And I met him several times in the US, after I left Cairo.)

Monday, March 18, 2019

RIP Dick Dale/Richard Mansour (and Dale & Stevie Ray Vaughan)

Here he is doing a fabulous medley of "Misirlou" and "Malaguena" in 1963. For more on Dale, check out my earlier post on "Misirlou." I don't know if this version actually exists anywhere on record.

And, I only just found this out, Dick recorded "Pipeline" with Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1987!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Nubian songs of the bitter migration: Khidr al-'Attar

Khidr al-'Attar

When I lived in Cairo (1992-96), and once work on my book on Palestine was wrapping up, I started doing research on Nubian music. This involved hanging out at the General Nubian Club, conveniently located right off of Tahrir Square, and right across from the campus of AUC, where I taught at the time. The friends I developed at the Nubian Club were all very engaged in Nubian culture, some were musicians themselves or belonged to folkloric troupes, and they invited me to lots of weddings, which always featured live music from Nubian (and sometimes Sudanese) performers. I also made one trip to New Nubia, near Kom Ombo, the area where Nubians were resettled when the High Dam completely flooded their villages, in 1963-64. And I returned to Cairo for more research on Nubian music, in the summers of 1997, 1998 and 2000. 

Then I stopped going to Cairo, not returning until March 2011, for a very short visit. I was back again in Decembers 2017 and 2018, again for very short visits. There was not time to pick up my Nubian research during those very short visits, but on my last trip I did make a presentation on Nubian music, based chiefly on my research during the nineties, at a conference, “Egyptian Soundscapes: Music, Sound, and Built Environment” put on by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). (You can see a report on three of the presentations at the conference, by me and Michael Frishkopf and Mark Levine, here.)

One of the musicians I discussed in my talk was the late Khidr al-‘Attar, who passed away in 2014. I saw him perform at several weddings, and here is a photo from one of them, probably taken in 1995.

Khidr was born in 1962 in the village of Ibrīm, in Old Nubia, and one or two reports I’ve read report that he lived there until age five. (Frankly, this doesn’t seem quite right, as his village would have been re-located in 1963 or 1964.) He was a Fadikka speaker, but he sang in both Fadikka and Kenuz (Faddika and Kenuz are the two Nubian languages.) He was a great artist, who released lots of cassettes, and I collected most of them when I lived in Cairo. (Nubian musicians released many, many cassette recordings between the 1970s and the 1990s, and this was an important means by which their music, which for the most part did not get aired on TV or radio, could be circulated and disseminated.) (Three of his cassettes are listed at; and you can also hear him on that great, 1999 world music collection of Egyptian popular music, Yalla - Hitlist Egypt).

The music played at weddings was for the sake of entertainment, for dancing. Songs for the bride and groom, popular songs dealing with themes of love, and so on. At the same time, the practice of music on such occasions was a time for the celebration of Nubian culture – modernized, for modern times – and Nubian community, as these were gatherings that brought together Nubian Egyptians, and few outsiders – other than invited guests like myself.

At the same time, everyone gathered together was well aware of the tragedy that had befallen the community of Nubians as a result of the total inundation of their homeland by the Aswan High Dam. One elderly Nubian I met in Cairo described the event as the equivalent, for Nubians, of the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. In the political atmosphere of the time, however, expression of such public sentiments needed to be kept muted, and so, to a great degree, Nubian political issues were to a great degree expressed and kept alive through cultural and musical means.  

 At many of the weddings I attended, a song would come on, which I came to know as “Al-Higra al-Murra” (the bitter migration). It was principally performed by and known as Khidr’s song, but if my memory serves me, other artists performed it as well. At the time, I was never able to find any recordings of it. 

When song would come on, everyone would get up and dance, and chant along with the song, especially the lines, “faradu ‘alayna al-higra al-murra,” or, “they imposed the bitter migration upon us,” referring to the displacement of 50,000 Nubians by the High Dam. The wedding, for the period of the song, would turned into something that resembled a political rally, and often people in the crowd would break into tears. 

Last year, while teaching about Nubia, I came across a video on YouTube of that Khidr song that I used to see performed during the nineties. There are several versions on the web, the first one I found was this one, available here. It's not an "official" video clip for the song, but is an interesting one, full of nostalgia-inducing photos of Old Nubia.

I learned from the YouTube vid that the song is actually called “Ismi Henak” (My name is there). Below are the lyrics (by Khidr, I believe) and the translation, on which Elliott Colla did the bulk of the work. The lyrics are fairly straightforward, but just a couple of observations. Note that Khidr refers to Old Nubia as a “civilization,” not just a bunch of agricultural villages, and the reference to the waterwheel or saqiya, the ancient mode of irrigation used by Nubians, which serves as a key symbol of Old Nubia in contemporary Nubian cultural expression. “Kom Ombo” refers to the space of New Nubia, which the Egyptian regime in the era of Nasser promised to those who were moved would be a “new dawn,” where life would be much improved, with modern housing and electricity.  

O people, they've erased an entire civilization
  شطبوا يا ناس حضارة كاملة

And killed the hopes of a black Nubia [looking at this again, I think the word 'samra' should be translated not as 'black' but as 'chocolate']
واغتالوا اماني النوبة السمرة

The sighing of the waterwheel calls me back
بتنادي عليا انين الساقية

As they've ground up what's left of my forefathers' bones  
    وطحنوا عظام اجدادنا الباقية

My name is there, my homeland is there
اسمي هناك بلدي هناك

I myself am there, and Nubia is there
انا ذاتى هناك والنوبة هناك

Standing witness, O people, behind the dam
    شاهدة يا ناس خلف السد

Come, O Nubian man and woman!
    هيا يا نوبي ويا نوبية

Bang the drums of the coming return
    دقوا طبول العودة الجاية

They imposed the bitter migration upon us
    فرضوا علينا الهجرة المرة  

They said Kom Ombo was the verdant heaven
قالوا كوم امبو الجنة الخضرا  

We’ve lived sad nights there
    وعشنا فيها ليالي حزينة

We've walked for years, and our exile has been long
   مشينا سنين والغربة طويلة

My name is there, I myself am there
    اسمي هناك ذاتي هناك
My homeland is there and Nubia is there
    بلدي هناك والنوبة هناك

I hope in future to post some more bits from the paper I gave in December. Inshallah.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Songs of the Sudanese Uprising: Surrender the Keys to the Country -- Muhammad Wardi, Zoozita

On March 3, NPR's Eyder Peralta reported on the song that is the anthem of the protesters in the current struggle in Sudan, aimed at taking down the regime of Omar Bashir.

The song was recorded by Sudanese singer Zoozita, who is based in the UAE, in January. Here's the video.

The song was composed by the late great Sudanese Nubian singer and composer, Muhammad Wardi. According to Peralta, it was composed in 1997, to perform at the Hague. It just so happens that I saw Wardi perform it on June 14, 1997, at a banquet at the Cairo Hilton, for the Sudan Studies Association banquet. Wardi only performed two songs, the first one about Sudanese living in exile, the second, "Sallim Mufatih al-Balad." I'm not sure exactly why he was only allowed to perform two songs, but my friends suggested that it was due to political sensitivities.

I loved the song at the time but never was able to find it for sale in Cairo. I'm so thrilled to come across it again. Wardi, who passed away in 2012, never recorded it, apparently, but you can find live recordings on YouTube, such as this one.

Here are the lyrics in Arabic, and maybe someday someone will come up with a good translation.

عليك الزحف متقدم
وليك الشعب متحزم ومتلملم
يقول سلم
سلم ومابتسلم
رحمت متين عشان ترحم؟
سلم مفاتيح البلد
سلم عباياتنا وملافحنا
مصاحفنا ومسابحنا
جوامعنا وكنايسنا
سلم مفاتيح البلد

تراث أجدادنا سلمنا
عقول أولادنا سلمنا
بنادقنا البتضربنا
الموجهة لي صدورنا
وبرضو حقتنا
سلم مفاتيح البلد

سلمنا الزمان الضاع
ليل الغربة والأوجاع
أحزانا العشناها
مع الوطن العزيز الجاع
سلم مفاتيح البلد

حتهرب وين من الألم الكبير والجوع
من تعليمك المدفوع
ومن شعبا سقاك لبنو سقيتو من الهوان والجوع
يا ساقي سمك المنبوع
سلم مفاتيح البلد

حتهرب وين من الذكرى وعذاباتها
ومن لبن الأمومة ومن حساب الرب
حتهرب وين وانت ايدينك الإتنين ملوثة دم
فصيح الدم ينضم وبتكلم يقول سلم
سلم مفاتيح البلد

I had the chance to meet Wardi in Cairo the following summer, and hope to blog about that meeting in future.

The best report on the current uprising in Sudan was Khalid Madani's February 23 article in Jadaliyya, "Tasqut Bas (Fall, That is All)."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Kufiyas and the Beur movement in France

I have read in a couple sources and also seen photos of kufiyas in the Beur movement in France of the eighties. The term Beur (verlan, a form of French slang that involves the reversal of syllables, for 'arabe') refers to young French Arabs of North African origin, the sons and daughters, or grandsons and granddaughters, of immigrants to France. Their movement was launched in 1983, with the March for Equality and Against Racism, which began in Marseille on October 15, 1983, and involved only 17 persons. It gradually picked up steam, and after 50 days, when it reached Paris on December 3, 1983, its numbers had grown, and tens of thousands rallied in Paris at its conclusion. Its effect was to put the issue of the Beurs and their struggles for recognition and against racism into public awareness. Below is one of the photos I've found (can't recall the source), and I think it is the activist Toumi Djaïdja (see below) who is wearing the kufiya.

Franceinfo INA did a short report on the 35th anniversary of the 1983 march in 2018, and it you can also see kufiyas on a number of the marchers, as in the screen shot below.

Also of interest is that it was not just Beurs wearing kufiyas, but also some of their non-Arab French supporters. There is a short clip of Father Christian Delorme wearing one as well.

Father Delorme is a progressive, activist priest, who served in Minguette, a banlieue of Lyon, home to a significant population of immigrants and their descendants. It was in the wake of a series of violent confrontations between young residents of Minguette and the police, in which a prominent activist named Toumi Djaïdja was badly injured, that the march originated. Delorme was one of the initiators and participants.

And here is the video clip from Franceinfo INA (1983 : La marche des beurs arrivait à Paris) sourced here. Another item of note is that Enrico Macias was one of the celebrities who joined the march when it arrived in Paris, and he is interviewed in this clip.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Woody Guthrie ("Woody ben Khayyám") in Oran, Algiers

Yesterday I read Maurice El Medioni's book, A Memoir: From Oran to Marseilles (1938-1992 (a terrific resource) and learned this fascinating detail from Ben Mandelson's preface, that Woody Guthrie, who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, landed in Oran, Algeria in 1943 or 1944. (El Medioni was 15 years old in '43, and Mandelson's fantasy is that the young man might have run into Woody at some point, as he was doing a lot of business with the US military personnel who were in his city. And also learning a lot about US popular music.)

Here's what I was able to find out, with an online search, about Woody's experiences in Algeria, from Will Kaufman's book, Mapping Woody Guthrie, just out from the University of Oklahoma Press.

Amazing, eh, Woody, as one of the "Seamen Three" (the other two: Cisco Houston and Jim Longhi), organizing a public workshop on the relation of Omar Khayyam to the working class movement. Woody known as "Woody ben Khayyam." Woody's song, recorded in the 40s, "The Rubaiyat (excerpt)." And his friend Ahmed Bashir, an American jazz scat singer. I've requested Kaufman's book and Longhi's memoir, Woody, Cisco and Me, from interlibrary loan, and I hope to report back when I learn more. Apparently the trio grew beards on the way to Oran, so they could mingle more readily with the local population in off-limit places and so avoid the MPs.

Here's a link to "The Rubaiyat (excerpts)" and the song lyrics (from this source), © Copyright 1951, 1956, and 1963 (renewed) and 2008 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc.

Don't give your money, not one penny spend
To learn the secret of your life, my friend
One little hair divides the false and true
And on that little hair, it starts and ends

One hair, I guess, divides the false and true (the false and true)
Find this one hair no matter what you do (what you do)
This hair will lead you to the drinking room
And to the wives of your great landlord too

I rolled in pain down on that sawdust floor (the drinkin' floor)
I prayed to heaven to open its golden door
I groaned and yelled: How long must I here roll? (roll here)
You must roll here till you are you no more (you no more)

I wasted lots of hours in the hot pursuit
Of this and that argument and dispute
Better to kiss the lip with laughin' grapes
Than eating sad or proud or bitter fruit

I'm glad I went off on my big carouse
And took my second wife into my house
Divorced old dried-up reason out of my bed
Took this daughter of the vine to spouse

What is and is not proof I rule in line (I rule in line)
And up and down by logic I define
I guess you thought I was a deep wise man
I never went deep in anything but wine

My drinkin' door eased open late last late (last night late)
I saw a lady with an angel shape (pretty girl)
She handed me a glass of wisdom juice
I drank it down and found the juice was grape

This grapy juice can prove a billion things
Can make our racial haters dance in rings
Can make our seventy-two fightin' priests and princes
Sing sinful songs, and tease my kings and queens (queens and kings both)

If God roiled my good wine, then would he dare (he wouldn't dare)
To make my viney grape a trap an' a snare
I drink my wine and I bless your sweet red mouth
If wine's a curse, well then, who set it there?

Friday, February 22, 2019

The best endorsement for Bernie Sanders...ever?

Khaled Beydoun, the author of American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear, is my new colleague at the University of Arkansas (he teaches in the law school). I hope I get to meet his mom someday!

Gnawa Spirit: The Youngbloods and Orchestre Nationale de Barbès

I just discovered, while looking for used vinyl, that a photo of a Gnawi is featured on the cover of The Youngbloods' 1971 live album, Ride the Wind (other notable songs on it besides the title track are "The Dolphin" and "Get Together," the group's only hit).

The same photo also features on the Orchestre Nationale de Barbès' 1998 concert album. A big difference between the two albums, of course, is that the ONB actually use the Gnawa instrument depicted, the ginbri, in their work.

 I've not been able to find any live footage of the ONB using a ginbri, but here's a clip of them doing one of their many great songs, "Salam."

Monday, February 18, 2019

Noura, "Amirouche" (+ a Scopitone)

Isn't the jacket for this 45 rpm amazing?

The song "Amirouche" (listen here), a tribute to Amirouche Aït Hamouda, a hero of the Algerian war of independence. A lieutenant in the Army of National Liberation (ALN) and head of the Third Wilaya, he was killed in battle with the French colonial forces on March 28, 1959.  Read more about him here. The record was released on the Algerian label La Voix Du Globe -- I'm not sure in what year.

Noura (1942-2014) was one of Algeria's great female artists, who recorded over 500 sides, in Arabic, Berber (Kabyle/Taqbaylit) and French and in a variety of genres, in both France and Algeria, between the fifties and the eighties. Read more here.

And please check out this Scopitone from Noura, "Ammi Belkacem."

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Chris Silver on Mahieddine Bachetarzi, Dalila Taliana, and Cheikha Aicha La Hebrea

Chris Silver is blogging for Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Here he takes up recordings from the thirties by Mahieddine Bachetarzi, Dalila Taliana, and Cheikha Aicha La Hebrea. Remarkable music, great commentary.

On Cheikha Aicha La Hebrea: Cheikha Aicha La Hebrea has left barely an archival trace but a number of her recordings survive on Gallica. What is remarkable about this record is that it reminds that international labels like Pathé were keen to record popular music as much as the Andalusian high art repertoire. In fact, what we have here is one of the many covers of the Algerian Jewish artist Lili Labassi’s wildly popular “Mamak", recorded for Columbia Records in 1930 and which then spread like wildfire across North Africa. Indeed, one French composer at the time noted that every shoeshine boy from Algeria to Morocco was known to sing the tune. Among other things this recording provides us with a sonic glimpse into the North African popular music charts of the 1930s.

one of the best kufiyaspottings ever

This kufiya bib is available from the Palestine Online Store for $13. 
It's also for use with small children, but I really like it on the dog.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

kufiyaspotting: tactical desert scarf

Now, there's a kufiya for ya (found today, somewhat randomly -- Feb. 10, 2019). Another example of what I've called "tough guy kufiyas." Should I expand the notion to be "tough guy/gal kufiyas," or is this woman depicted here as a kind of trophy for the tough guy?