Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gaza surfers

 Very nice piece by Matt Olsen on the Gaza Surf Club, from Surfer Magazine.  

Only a few miles offshore, Israeli patrol boats run up and down the coast, preventing boats from venturing more than a few miles out to sea. Watch the sky long enough and you’ll spot the occasional Israeli Air Force drone, called Zanana (“mosquito” in Arabic, because of the buzz that they omit). Still, the beach is probably the safest place in Gaza—as far away as possible from the border areas where most of the fighting takes place. As it turns out, the main threats to Gaza’s surfers have come not from the conflict that characterizes the region, but from inside Gaza, from greedy hands looking to benefit from this new and exciting sport.
Most assume that the Hamas government in Gaza would pose the greatest obstacle to the cultivation of this “Western” sport. In reality, the Hamas government has been mostly cooperative in allowing the development of surfing and the local surfing community. Instead, the challenges facing the surfers have come from local, well-connected “charitable organizations” that see dollar signs in this media-friendly sport and try to demand exclusive control over surf equipment, hoping to dictate when and where people can surf.

stylish kufiya, via pinterest

I have a new kufiyaspotting source. Result # 1:

kufiya prezi

Organizing for Justice Workshop - Kaffiyeh
by Ghaida Moussa on 21 November 2011

Leila Fadel of NPR on mahragan

I missed it, she covered mahragan (which she calls electro shaabi), as well as rocker Ramy Essam and graffiti artist Ganzeer, on September 4, 2012. She mentions Alaa Fifty, Amr Haha (7a7a) and Ahmed Vigo [the NPR transcript says: "Achmed (unintelligible)"]. It's a very short report, it doesn't tell us much we don't already know (other than the fact that mahragan vocalists are called "mike men" -- I need to check this), but it's basically on target.

And folks, there is more mainstream media coverage of mahragan in the offing. I can feel it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Levantine vs. Mandatory

I thought Avishai Margalit's review of Hadara Lazar's Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel in the NYRB was entirely too soft on the British mandate in Palestine. But I thought Margalit's recollection of post-Mandate, post-1948 and what "Levantine" and "Mandatory" meant was very interesting:

After the war we moved to a neighborhood that used to be the stronghold of the British civil administration. Our next-door neighbors looked familiar, in their shorts, blue shirts, open sandals, and deep suntans. They were part of a commune of kibbutz members serving as “missionaries” in one of the socialist youth movements at the time. But the Jewish neighbor next to them looked different, utterly different. He wore a suit and a tie even on the hottest days of the year and his collection of suits was wide and varied, but his collection of gloves was even more astonishing. One day I overheard two of the kibbutzniks nattering about our exceptionally well groomed neighbor. He is a “Mandatory type,” said one. Yes, yes, totally “Levantine,” said the other. 

I rushed to my mother for a social gloss. She gave a sanitized account of these two expressions. Well, she said, he is from Halab (Aleppo) and Halab is, so to speak, the northern capital of the Levant so that’s why he speaks such good French and, needless to say, Arabic. So much for the “Levantine.” As for the “Mandatory type,” she added, on top of French and Arabic he speaks English fluently, and already worked as a chief receptionist at the King David Hotel during the Mandate. This explains the way he dresses. Finally, she said, the kibbutzniks probably meant that he is not an Undzerer. My mother could never refrain from inserting into her Hebrew this Yiddish expression, which means: he is “not one of us.” From very early on, therefore, I had to grasp that “Mandatory type” is, in the exasperating cliché of today, “The Other.” 

Of course, as Jacqueline Kahanoff and Gil Hochberg among others have shown, a "Levantine" in Israel (especially one who spoke Arabic), was not Undzerer either. It wasn't so much a matter of a suit, tie and gloves.

Maurice El Medioni channel

The Jewish-Algerian pianist from Oran, Maurice El Medioni, has a Youtube channel that I just discovered. There are many gems here: Maurice in concert, Maurice backing Lili Boniche, Blond-Blond, Line Monty, and Reinette L'Oranaise, live footage of Sami El Maghrabi, TV footage of Salim Halali. More to come, no doubt.

Medioni survived a recent stroke. A friend met him and sent me a photo of Maurice a couple days ago, and he looks good. Hopefully he will get back on tour, inshallah with El Gusto.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

El Général and Shadia Mansour at BAM, March 9

 Yes, the El Général from Tunisia. I have been going on for more than a year about how the role of hip-hop in the Arab Spring has been way overblown. Here, among other places. But if there is one rapper who has been really and truly integral to the Arab Spring, it is El Géneral. In November 2010 he put out the song “Rais Lebled” which fearlessly attacked the problems that Tunisia’s autocratic president (rais) Ben Ali had imposed on his people. “Rais Lebled” appeared on Youtube immediately before the protests that ensued after Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, and it led to El Général’s imprisonment.Demonstrators in Tunisia are said to have chanted the words to “Rais Lebled” as they called for the release of El Général and for the end to Ben Ali's rule. (The blog Revolutionary Arab Rap posted an excellent account of El Général as well as links to vids and lyrics, in Arabic and English.)

So, this is a major occasion, the appearance of El Général at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and it's not to be missed--if tickets are still available.

Palestinian rapper Shadia Mansour has performed several times in the US, but she is well worth seeing too, especially on such a bill. (You may recall that I had my issues--ideological rather than artistic--with her song/video, "The Kufiya Is Arab," but I do admire her work a great deal.)

Also on the bill, Egyptian rapper El Deeb, with whose work I am less familiar, and Malian rapper Amkoullel, about whom I know very little.

Rounding out the bill, advertised as a rap event, is the Moroccan musician Brahim Fribgane. I've seen him over the years playing electric guitar in Hassan Hakmoun's band at the Essaouira Gnawa Festival in 1999; playing 'ud and guitar and doing vocals with La Mar Enfortuna at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music in September 2006; backing up Moroccan jazz singer Malika Zarra at Boom Restaurant in New York City in March 2007; and performing on 'ud with Gnawa artist Majid Bekkas in Fayetteville, Arkansas (yes! my hometown!) in October 2012. Fribgane is an all-around, extremely versatile talent, so you might expect any numbers of musical functions from him at BAM.

Fribgane and Bekkas were here as part of the Fall 2012 Caravanserai program. Caravanserai's artistic director is Zeyba Rahman, and she was here with the musicians in Fall. And she was even interviewed on Ozarks at Large.

It's the same Zeyba who is curating the BAM event. Way to go, Zeyba.

Monday, February 25, 2013

drone life: swarms of insect sized MAVs by 2030

Please read Charlie Booker writing in The Guardian on February 24 on the US Air Force plans to develop bird- and insect-sized micro-drones with flapping wings, known as micro air vehicle or MAV. They can operate in swarms and their purpose is, among other things, to kill. The bird MAVs are planned to go operational in 2015, the insect MAVs by 2030. Be sure to read and then watch the chilling video, from 2009. Our tax dollars at work.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

PBS on hipster hating

yes, it's gone that far: commentary on hipsters that tries to make some sense of the oh-so-popular hipster-hating bloodsport and that also gives us a lesson on Bourdieu and cultural capital. what was missing? no discussion of the mocking of hipsters for their skinny jeans and kufiyas, as i have posted on several times. but maybe that moment has passed?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Old Port Said, New Port Said

National Geographic, as part of its very recent effort to look at the news through its archive, just published this photo of Port Said's "Arab Quarter" in the 1920s, along with an account of recent events.

Port Said, it will be recalled, was chiefly a European city, at the Mediterranean entrance to the Suez Canal. National Geographic tells us that the Port Said soccer team, Al Masry, at the center of the current unrest, was founded in 1920. Prior to that, "Port Said's football clubs were made up mostly of European expats who were part of the city's boom: Scottish canal engineers, French bankers, and Greek tobacconists."

Meanwhile, Erin Cunningham reported on Port Said's ongoing general strike in today's Global Post. She tells us that Port Said's residents have adopted a new, and rather novel, in confronting the state and its security forces: non-violent resistance.

“Attacking the police is a losing game — especially with the lives already lost,” said Port Said resident Mahmoud Naguib, a 23-year-old activist member of April 6, a political movement formed in 2008 to support striking workers in the town of Mahalla. “The state is accustomed to this,” he added. “So civil disobedience is a much better tool — the economic losses are immense.”

The tactic is novel in that the previous rounds of confrontation have all involved considerable violence. Given that football fans are a key element of Port Said's opposition movement (at least if the report by James Dorsey, which I cited yesterday, is to be believed), it will be interesting to see whether this form of protest will be sustained, given the very confrontational stance of Egypt's footbal ultras towards the police. 

"Inverted worlds" - Congress on Cultural Motion in the Arab Region

I haven't had a chance to watch/listen to the papers yet, but I wanted to call this event to readers' attention. In October 2012, the Orient Institut Beirut sponsored a very interesting conference on Arab culture called "Inverted Worlds." I of course am particularly interested in the papers on music, but there is much more, papers on social media, graffiti, youth, visual art, humor, and so on.

Here are the music papers; they all sounded interesting to me:

Yves Gonzalez-Quijano(Université de Lyon): Arab Rap: a Culture of Revolution and a Revolution in Culture (check out Yves' excellent blog here)

Mark LeVine (University of California, Irvine): "Scripting" the Revolution: Music, movement, and the Arab Spring’s Auratic Momentum

Jackson Allers (Cultural writer and film maker): Arab Hip Hop – Rhymes and Revolution (Jackson covers the scene in Beirut, his blog is here)

Nicolas Puig (URMIS/CEMAM, USJ): Critical Sounds from the Periphery: Palestinian Electro in Lebanon (a list of Puig's pubs is here)

Ines Dallaji (University of Vienna): Tunisian Rap Music and the Arab Spring: Revolutionary Anthems and Post-Revolutionary Tendencies (Dallaji's dissertation in progress is: "Die Stimmen der Revolution. Tunesisch-arabische Rap-Musik als Ausdruck des Protests gegen das Regime Bin ʿAlī und die politischen Umbrüche in Tunesien 2010-11")

Stephan Prochazka (University of Vienna): The Voice of Freedom – Egyptian Revolution Pop: Provocation or Encouragement (a list of Prochazka's articles is here)

Simon Dubois (Université Lumière Lyon II): Street Songs from the Syrian Protests

PLUS: Discussion with members of Hip Hop Project Khat Thaleth, moderated by Ahmed Khouja aka Munaqresh. Participating artists: El Rass (Lebanon), Sayyed Darwish (Syria), Watar (Syria), El Far3i (Jordan), Zeid Khemiri (Armada Bizerta, Tunisia), Ahmed Galai Ezzar (Armada Bizerta, Tunisia).

Check it out here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Port Said: general strike & dancing to simsimiyya music

As of today, Friday February 22, Port Said is in its 5th day of a general strike. As James Dorsey tells us, the leading forces in the strike are organized labor and soccer fans, in an unprecedented collaboration.

And as this Youtube footage shot today, residents of Port Said are not just striking, but they are dancing as well, to the distinctive strains of their local music, in which the simsimiyya (lyre) is the lead and the most significant instrument.

I've posted in past about Port Said's leading simsimiyya group, here and here. (Although in the latter post, I've misidentified the song I saw performed, and at some point in future, need to make some corrections on the post.)

And I've written about Port Said and El Tanbura and the Egyptian uprising, in the latest issue of Middle East Report, here. Much respect to Port Said. I hope they manage to shut down the Canal.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ded Prez: new vid, same kufiyas

New one from the verrry political rap group Ded Prez. It's very "positive." A bit too much on the positive tip for me, really. But it does have the requisite kufiyas, worn by M-1. Who has been spotted before in kufiya. Here. And spotted here, not in kufiya, but with DAM at Sundance.

mahragan (electro cha3bi) mixtape

Courtesy Cairo Liberation Front, who call the genre Electro Cha3bi. If I could read Dutch I could figure out more about who these folks are. Generation Bass says they are "two dudes from Tillburg." Names: Joost Heijthuisen and Yannnick Verhoeven.

They like to wear kufiyas, it seems, when they DJ.

Check them out on Facebook. If you read Dutch, tell me more.

I also wish I knew more, or anything, really, about the artists on the mixtape. Maybe someone will do that work too. (Except #26, Oka and Ortega, of the famous Eight Percent crew, straight outta Matariya.)

You can access it 3 ways.

1: on Soundcloud.

2. on youtube:

 3. and best of all, as a download. Here.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

and the greatest rapper of all time is...

 Rakim, of course. So sez Charles Mudede (who I used to see reading at poetry slams, back in the day, in early nineties Seattle).

(And don't forget that Rakim is a God.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

shameless self-promotion

That's what a personal blog is for, right? Three items.

1. My article, "Egypt's Music of Protest: From Sayyid Darwish to DJ Haha," was published in the new issue of Middle East Report (#265, Winter 2012). The issue theme is, Egypt: The Uprising Two Years On. Please buy and read the entire issue. And then subscribe to MER, if you have not already.

2. My article, "Palestinian Rap: Against the Struggle Paradigm," has appeared in a new volume from Routledge (December 2012), Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook, edited by Mounira Soliman and Walid El Hamamsy. The volume is expensive ($125), so I won't urge you to buy it but I will urge you to get your library to order a copy.

3. I just turned over several old Palestinian resistance movement posters to the Palestine Poster Project Archives, collected in Beirut in 1970 or 1971. You can view them here.

I particularly like this one which, I learned from the Archive curator Dan Walsh, was designed by Ghassan Kanafani himself. It says: "destroy the enemies of the people."

Revolutionary music from Port Said

Check out "Heela Heela," from El Tanbura's album Friends of Bamboute: 20th Anniversary Edition. You can listen to it and buy it (you must!) here.

El Tanbura describe the song as follows: "Traditional worker’s song from Port Said popularised by local fishermen. The “Heela Heela” (Do More) chorus takes the form of a motivational refrain to be sung by encouraging fellow workers to tackle the job in hand with vigour when engaged in their daily activities, be it fishing or working in agriculture. This rendition includes additional lyrics from ET’s oldest member Abul Adel for verse 3 in which the fish become a metaphor the countries (Israel, Great Britain and France) attacking Egypt and the activities of the resistance movement during the [1956] occupation of Port Said."

You can also find El Tanbura's "Heela Heela" on the new Rough Guide to Arabic Revolution. (Alas, it's not a great collection, but "Heela Heela" is certainly one of the better tracks.

You can learn more about El Tanbura and its role in the Egyptian Revolution in the article I recently wrote for the latest Middle East Report (#265, Winter 2012), "Egypt's Music of Protest: From Sayyid Darwish to DJ Haha."

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Tomi Lapid (father of Yair) on Mizrahi music

Jacky Levi, Israeli columnist and radio and t.v. host, interviewed by Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber, in her Israeli Media and the Framing of Internal Conflict: The Yemenite Babies Affair (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 63.

I remember driving one day and listening to a radio talk show, they put on a great song by Amir Benayun and then interviewed Tomi Lapid [an Ashkenazi media icon and a Knesset member]. When he was asked what he thought about the song, he said 'it was disgusting and repulsive, they say that we occupy the Arabs, but they really occupy us.' I was so shocked I almost got into an accident. This was not just a private person making a stupid comment. This was an influential key media figure. I think only then I started to understand what other Mizrahim, like Avihu Medina, are talking about, (Interview, summer 2008)

Tomi Lapid's son Yair is head of the "centrist" Yesh Atid party, which won 19 Knesset seats in the January 2013 elections.

Amir Benayun, from Beersheva, is the son of an Algerian Jew. He put out an album in 2011 called Zini, a collection of songs sung in Arabic and based on the book of Ecclesiastes. Benayum is affiliated with the right-wing of the Zionist religious camp and with Chabad.

Here's are a couple good tracks from Benayun.

Avihu Medina, of Yemeni background, is one of the giants of Mizrahi music or more properly, "Israeli Mediterranean Music." Amy Horowitz discusses him at length in her Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic (Wayne State University Press, 2010).

kufiya alert: Chuck Hagel

Charles P. Pierce, from the Esquire blog, on the Senate Republicans' grilling of Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense:

Ted Cruz, the Tea Party gossoon from Texas, took almost his entire opportunity to fit Hagel for a kaffiyeh. [gossoon: Irish for 'lad,' from garçon.]

I guess you'll start seeing posters like this in Israel, except with Hagel's face?

And maybe new Hagel t-shirts, like these I found in Jerusalem in summer 2008?