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.

Dalida!


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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Review of Syrian Prayers: Sacred Music from Bilad Al Sham




My review of Syrian Prayers: Sacred Music from Bilad Al Sham was just published by RootsWorld.
You can read it here. Here's a sample from the review:

Erik Hillestad of the Norwegian record label KKV, in an attempt to highlight the diversity of religious faiths in the Arab world, traveled to Lebanon and made a series of recordings of Christian and Muslim vocalists, including Syrian and Iraqi refugees now living in Lebanon, as well as Lebanese nationals. The singers represent a broad range of religious traditions, all with deep roots in this region, known in Arabic as Bilad al-Sham (in English, the Levant, encompassing Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan). On this recording, we hear a sampling of just a few of the many Christian churches in the region: Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox), Maronite, Syriac Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, and the Assyrian Church of the East. We also hear from Muslim vocalists representing the two main branches of Islam, Sunni and Shi'ite. A hear a range of languages as well: Arabic, Armenian, varieties of Eastern Aramaic (Syriac, Assyrian, Chaldean), and Greek. 

And please watch Hillestad's documentary about the project.
 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cooper Tires kufiya


US tire company Cooper Tires using a kufiya to sell tires! Is the kufiya that mainstream now? Maybe so... (Thanks to D. McDonald for this.)


undercover kufiya


Undercover Israeli occupation forces arresting Palestinian protester on July 27, 2017 near Beit El checkpoint -- #kufiyaspotting

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Multilingual Middle Ages: Sicily


here's a better shot of the document. source is here.


What is this document? According to the British Library blog: "A mid-12th century trilingual Greek, Latin and Arabic Psalter from Sicily illustrates an intricate propagandistic message. The manuscript contains the trilingual text in the ancient layout of three separate columns, but its function was probably much more than fulfilling the practical needs of a multilingual liturgical environment or serving as a textbook of an eccentric scholar. It was designed as a tool in the political propaganda of the Norman dynasty, ruling an essentially trilingual Sicily in the 12th century. Its threefold layout with one and the same text in Greek, Latin and Arabic testifies to a society in which multiple language groups had come together under a new Norman rule."

There are plenty of books and articles on the Arab period in Sicily -- I suggest having a look at Karla Mallette's The Kingdom of Sicily, 1100-1250: A Literary History (U Penn, 2005).


A mid-12th century trilingual Greek, Latin and Arabic Psalter from Sicily illustrates an intricate propagandistic message. The manuscript contains the trilingual text in the ancient layout of three separate columns, but its function was probably much more than fulfilling the practical needs of a multilingual liturgical environment or serving as a textbook of an eccentric scholar. It was designed as a tool in the political propaganda of the Norman dynasty, ruling an essentially trilingual Sicily in the 12th century. Its threefold layout with one and the same text in Greek, Latin and Arabic testifies to a society in which multiple language groups had come together under a new Norman rule. - See more at: https://www.bl.uk/greek-manuscripts/articles/multilingualism-in-greek-manuscripts#sthash.3weXifTN.dpuf
A mid-12th century trilingual Greek, Latin and Arabic Psalter from Sicily illustrates an intricate propagandistic message. The manuscript contains the trilingual text in the ancient layout of three separate columns, but its function was probably much more than fulfilling the practical needs of a multilingual liturgical environment or serving as a textbook of an eccentric scholar. It was designed as a tool in the political propaganda of the Norman dynasty, ruling an essentially trilingual Sicily in the 12th century. Its threefold layout with one and the same text in Greek, Latin and Arabic testifies to a society in which multiple language groups had come together under a new Norman rule. - See more at: https://www.bl.uk/greek-manuscripts/articles/multilingualism-in-greek-manuscripts#sthash.3weXifTN.dpuf