Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Songs & Politics : “I hate Israel”

Some years ago, Egyptian singer Abdel-Rahim “Shaabula” Shaaban” became incredibly popular with a song which plainly says “I hate Israel.”

Surfing on every major political event in the Arab world (Irak, Palestine, Lebanon, Darfur…), Shaabula also deals with local politics. I don’t like chairs, one of his most famous songs is a clear allusion to Egyptian “chair-man” Husni Mubarak and the Kefaya movement used it for one of its political campaigns.

Today, Shaabula gives a new version of his very first hit with new lyrics dedicated to US President Georges Bush, whose election was such “a black day” (for Arabs…)

The fact that he was hired by both Egyptian authorities (for a preventing campaign against the bird flu) and muslim preacher Amr Khaled (in a campaign against drug addiction) reveals how popular the former mekwagi (a man who irons shirts and throusers) remains.

Heir of a long and rich tradition of Arab protest singers (see previous posts 1 and 2), Shaabula has a popular and comic touch that makes him similar to great names of the past like Shaykh Imam. But he is also the product of a radically different cultural era, dominated by media and mass production of cultural artefacts.

An era in which the raising of stars like Shaabula sometimes may be seen like a kind of revenge: the revenge of “low” classes which have been living too long under the cultural patronage of cultural elites.

Follow that link to read the original and more detailed post in French.
To wath Shaabula in one of his most famous hits, 'Ammi 'araby, (with English subtitles), this video from Walter Ambrust's study, Bravely Stating the Obvious: Egyptian humor and the anti-American consensus

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