Sunday, April 08, 2018


I think this photo, by Mohammed Salem of Reuters, is the best I've seen from the recent Gaza events, the state-sponsored mass shootings in response to Palestinian protests. Click on it, fill your screen with it. I posted the photo on Facebook and one of my friends observed that it was like a Delacroix painting. It's from Friday, April 6, the second big day of the weekly rallies of the Great March of Return, when protesters burned tires to try to hinder the Israeli snipers posted at the border, who killed at least 20 people and wounded hundreds on the previous Friday. They were only partially successful: the snipers took out 9 more on the 6th.

The photo, I think, shows the indomitable spirit of the Gaza Palestinians who live in a huge open air prison, with very limited access to the outside world, whether coming or going, with massive unemployment, very degraded water resources, etc. Note that these protesters are unarmed. Note their youth, And note, of course, the inevitable kufiyas. Long Live Palestine.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

One of Mohamed Mounir's best: 'Ad wa 'Ad ( قد وقد)

One of my favorite tracks by the legendary Egyptian star Mohamed Mounir. From his 1981 album, Shababeek. Lyrics by Sayed Higab; melody, Yahya Khalil. Backing Mounir are: on drums, the legendary Egyptian drummer Yahya Khalil; keyboards, Fathy Salama; guitar, Aziz al-Nassir; bass, Michael Cokis. Produced by Yahya Khalil.

Yahya Khalil is one of Egypt's most celebrated jazz drummers. Fathy Salama has recorded several albums with the group Sharkiat. One of my fave recordings he was involved with is Roman Bunka's Color Me Cairo (1995).

Sorry that this recording is not complete, I grabbed it from YouTube. You can hear the complete song here.

You may still be able to find this recording on cassette tape, although when I was in Egypt recently it was hard to find shops selling cassettes. Everything, alas, has gone digital.

Tunisian singer Flifla does a song about the death of Hbiba Messika

This, from Chris Silver's essential blog Gharamaphone. Essential listening and essential reading. The Tunisian Jew, Flifla Chamia, reportedly the greatest dancer of her generation (interwar period), an actress, and an accomplished singer. The recording is from c. 1930, and treats the scandalous murder of the superstar Tunisian Jewish singer, Habiba Messika, who I've blogged about briefly here.

Flifla Chamia, from the 1937 film Le Fou de Kairouan.

Highly recommended listening: Bachir Sahraoui

A friend recently posted a link to my blog, which prompted me to think that I should put up some new content. Resolution to self: more blog content! Resolution #2: be satisfied with short posts!

The highly recommended music blog Wallahi Le Zein! recently posted this, a tribute to the Algerian singer Bashir Sahraoui, and a link to mp3 tracks of one of his cassettes. I was not familiar with Bashir, who was born in the Algerian Sahara, fought with POLISARIO against the Spanish occupiers of Spanish Sahara, and then turned to a musical career. He does music in the Bedouin style, backed only by reed flutes (gasbas). It is beautiful, gorgeous music. Do download it. And watch this.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Kufiyaspotting: Asia Argenta at the Women's March in Rome, January 21, 2018

This is the photo of actress and director Asia Argento that appeared in the New York Times report on the millions who demonstrated in the Women's Marches around the globe, on January 20 and 21, 2018.

Argento is one of many actresses who have complained about being sexually assaulted by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Her complaints have not been well received by the Italian mainstream, but the New York Times reports that Argento was welcomed enthusiastically by the women at the Rome demonstration.

I don't know anything about Argento's politics, but her current boyfriend is Anthony Bourdain, who did a segment of his TV series Parts Unknown in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2013. In 2014 he expressed public criticism over Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip. I assume Argento isn't wearing a kufiya just to be "stylish."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ramy Essam in Fayetteville, AR (Jan 22)

Ramy Essam was at the University of Arkansas campus on January 22, courtesy The House of Songs Ozarks (based in Bentonville). He did a jam and Q&A session with students, a lecture/Q&A, and a concert in the evening. I had the pleasure of running the lecture/Q&A session with Ramy. I spent about 9 days in Egypt in December, where I purchased the red hat, which has the logo of the Ahly Football Club. I guessed Ramy might be an Ahly fan, and I was right!

More on the visit later, inshallah.

Friday, January 12, 2018

More pop-rai with Hamani Hadjoum Tmouchenti & Messaoud Bellemou, courtesy toukadime

Check out Toukadime's latest broadcast here, which features a track from this Hamani record, also featuring of course, Messaoud Bellemou.

Please see my very long post on pop-rai, here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Kufiya spotting: Narcos, Season 3

In the latest season (#3) of the Netflix series Narcos, "CIA Bill," the CIA station chief in Colombia, shows up on occasion to confound DEA agent Peña, to explain to him that things are more complicated than he imagines, to frustrate his efforts, etc. I can't remember which episode this is, but what is remarkable is that Bill shows up wearing a kufiya.

Here's how I make sense of this. In the show, Peña is depicted as a straight-ahead guy who goes after the drug dealers with all he's got. CIA Bill, on the other hand, is entangled in complicated, realpolitik arrangements, willing to make alliances with whatever political forces that are on-hand, to further the larger strategic interests of the United States. If that means strategic alliance with one drug cartel to wipe out another, fine. If that means supporting murderous and psychotic anti-communist militias and death squads, fine. To the extent that Narcos brings to bear any criticism of US government policies in Colombia, CIA Bill is the murky, powerful presence who represents the "bad" elements of US actions. Peña on the other hand is the straight arrow.

I think the kufiya is used here to mark that distinction, the fact that CIA Bill is a kind of "rogue" element (not rogue in terms of US official policy, but rogue from the perspective of the show, where the higher morality is to stop the drug trade). The kufiya is, I think, an anachronism, and an unusual one for a show that tries its best to depict Colombia in the 90s with verisimilitude.

The best example of the kufiya as a sign of the roguish tendency in US foreign policy can be seen in The Hurt Locker, where Ralph Fiennes, who plays the Contractor Team Leader, is shown in kufiya. He's not regular military, he and his band at first look like "hajis" to the bomb squad that encounters them. Fiennes' group is not on a regular, scripted mission, they don't play by the normal rules of engagement, and so on. (I've discussed this a bit previously here, and you can see photos here.) And I discuss the emergence of the kufiya as an item worn by US soldiers, especially post-Iraq invasion, and the related phenomenon of it being worn by tough guys on counter-terror or other missions (see: John Travolta in From Paris with Love) here.

There is more to be said, more to work through, but that is it for now.


And a few reminders of why Egyptians love Dalida (born in Shubra, Cairo, in 1933, so much):

Dalida in Sigara wa kass (1954)