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)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sudanese mixtape

Terrific ten track mix of Sudanese music from back in the day, with Abdelkarim Al-Kabli, Al Bilabil, Sayed Khalifa and Khogali Osman, who was murdered by an Islamist assassin in 1994, and others. Courtesy Aquarium Drunkard. Grab it now.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Calypso in Farid El Atrash's film, Mā Ta’ūlsh le Ḥad (1952)

I've been reading Margaret Farrell's excellent dissertation ("Aspects of Adaptation in the Egyptian Singing Film", CUNY 2012) and learned this: the operetta " Mā Ta’ūlsh le Ḥad" which concludes the film of the same name (1952) runs consecutively through these styles: Modern Egyptian, Tango, Waltz, Calypso, Arabic traditional, Egyptian traditional, Egyptian samba. I was familiar with Egyptian music adapting all these styles but it was "Calypso" that really stuck out. Fuller doesn't discuss this segment, so I checked out the clip on YouTube. It's amazing. The calypso segment (yes, with calypso beat, starting at 5:19) features a Sudanese singer (I don't know who it is), black dancers, and Samia Gamal dancing in (subdued) blackface. Farid El Atrash joins in the calypso song at the end. Check out the entire operetta, it's great. Samia Gamal dances throughout, she's the best, and the woman singing in the operetta is Nur al-Huda.

A side note on calypso, courtesy Billy Bragg's new book, Roots, Radicals, and Rockers. The mass migration of West Indians to the UK was launched with the arrival on June 21, 1948 of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in Essex. On the boat were two of calypso's finest singers, Lord Beginner and Lord Kitchener. Lord Kitchener was filmed on deck singing his new composition, "London Is the Place for Me." Newsreel footage was shown around Britain and calypso was presented as the music of the new immigrant community. One of the earliest calypso recordings to be released in the UK was Lord Beginner's "Victory Test Match Calypso" (1950) in celebration of the West Indian cricket team's first victory over England. 

It is said that the world craze for calypso was launched in 1956, with the success of Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song." So Egypt -- or maybe it was Sudan -- was ahead of the cultural curve.