Monday, April 21, 2008

A stop to Metro: more banished pictures in Egypt!

Policemen paid a visit to Malameh Publishing house in Cairo last April 15th. It did not bother very much Mr Al-Sharkawi, the owner. He is already in jail because he is among those who called in the Internet for 15th April general strike (another one is programmed for Husni Mubarak’s birthday, the 4th of May).

The policemen targeted the remaining stock of Metro, a book published a year ago. According to the Egyptian law, an honest citizen had complained against an outrageous publication (using dirty colloquial words says more or less the accusation).

Metro is not an ordinary book. It is the first “graphic novel” in Arabic. Magdy El Shafee (محمد الشرقاوي) spent five years working on that detective story whose main character, Shihab, is a young Egyptian IT engineer who decides to rob a bank. The money being hidden in the subway, the real problem is to find the way out…

A question that many Egyptian ask themselves nowadays.

Little chance to find Metro now that the book has been confiscated! But some pages have been published (translated into English) on the Internet, and some other drawings.
Magdy El Shafee has a web site, and he wrote a post (in English) on his blog when his book has been confiscated.
He also links to Lebanese musician and artist Mazen Kerbaj work, who also writes a blog.
For articles (Arabic and English) about Magdy El Shafee’s, see links on the original post in French.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Poetry and TV in the Arab Gulf: a question of “geopoetics”

“The Millions Poet” has been shown on Abu Dhabi TV for the second year. Until the finals, the great poetry contest was a very successful operation but it could turn into a political and even an economical fiasco after the victory of the Qatari contestant.

In Saudi Arabia, calls for a boycott can be heard as a revenge for this unbearable conspiracy against the Saudi poet Nasir al-Fara’ina, the expected winner (a proof of this being, among others, that competitors were asked to improvise upon two verses composed by a poet from the Saudi rival Al Racheed family).

For some Saudi commentators, the Emirates are duplicating with “The Millions Poet” a game already experimented by Qatar with Al-Jazeera: putting the pressure on a powerfull neighbour using the asymmetric weapon of the media.

But there is a true lesson in those “geopoetics”: passion for poetry and games could be strong enough to shake the Saudi Kingdom born less than one century ago.

Apparently, the Saudis were beaten at the “Millions Poet” competition because they did not agree on one national competitor but split their votes between two poets according to tribal rivalries!

Follow that link to read the original and more detailed post in French.
And click on that link for a video giving an idea of "The Millions Poet" competition.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Good and Bad: Two Faces of the Arab Modernity

Dancing with the Saudi flag, on which coranic verses are written, is not something to be done, especially when you have already been seen drunken on a stage in Dubai. All the worst if you have been the partner of the outrageous Dina whose belly dance was close to set fire to the Cairene street in October 2006 when an hysterical crowd of young men started to harass every passing-by woman. (An information which was mainly reported by the local bloggers whose importance began to be clear with that event.)

Thus, Saad al-Saghir (سعد الصغير) had many reasons to “repent” as many others did before him recording religious songs (see previous post). A contribution which raises some interrogations among the lovers of the high tradition of nasheed.

Nonetheless, others see nothing problematic with that modernization of the nasheed which can be heard on Arab TV’s among other (non religious) musicals songs.

With the success of Sami Yusuf’s songs, the modern nasheed has given up the old fashion style. Thanks to digitalization, the ban of musical instruments is no more a problem. Singers like Kuwaiti Alafassy make clear that today religious songs may deal with new issues like ecology. Even relations between men and women may be tackled in a musical genre strictly restricted before to divine love.

One could suspect, or even make fun of such a quick shift from shameless behaviour to a so pious one. But the coming back to virtuous behaviours is a complex phenomenon. For some singers, TV and movie stars probably, but certainly for most of the Arab youth who admire them and watch them, the “bad” cheeky fruit seller dancing in an outrageous way and the “good” devout young muslim singing his love to God are in fact two inseparable sides of the Arab modernity.

Follow that link to read the original and more detailed post in French.

And to whach an almost "satanic" dance by Saad al-Saghir follow this link and then shift to the pious singer with that video of Ahmidu rabba-na