Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oriental Fantasies on video: Haifa Wehbe

Since Edward Said’s seminal book, Orientalism, some forty years ago, it is well known that fantasies about the Orient exist. But what about fantasies of the Oriental people themselves? For Arab women, the Turkish TV opera soap “Noor” (see previous post), featuring the handsome Muhannad, provides may be an answer. And for the men, there is Haifa Wehbe, the “hottest” sex icon of the many videos aired on Arab TV satellites.

Being the target of so many Arab male fantasies at a time of public dispute about the right moral behaviour, Haifa Wehbe becomes, willing or not, a subject of political debates. Regularly, people protest again her coming to their country. It happened in Algeria, in Egypt and, recently, in Bahrein when the pop singer was invited for the celebration of the workers festival (!).

After very “lively” discussion at the Chamber of Deputies (dominated by “islamist” parties), a compromise has been reached: Haifa would come and give her performance, but dressed in a decent (محتشم) way (see pictures). In a rather smart move, the Lebanese singer paid a visit during her stay in Bahrein to some institution for disabled children, a “perverse” way to shut up critics by shifting her public image from the scandalous and glamorous sex icon to the untouchable one of the pitiful mother of sorrow and all pain, a strategy already used in a very successful way with her very ambiguous hit “Boss al-wawa” (with lyrics like "see the owie, kiss the owie, make the owie get better. When you kissed the owie, you made the owie go away. Hide me close to you, cover me and make me warm. Without you I am so cold aahhhh", etc.)

Following that link to the French post, you’ll find a translation to French of an article published in the Lebanese daily Al-Safir by Ahmad Moghrabi. He comments in a very interesting way on Haifa’s latest video which is there for you to… enjoy it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ziad Rahbani: the beating heart of Arabism

There is no way to present Ziad Rahabni, son of Assi Rahbani and Lebanese Diva Fayrouz, in a few lines. The wiz kid published his poems at the age of 13 and shortly thereafter became a comedian, a playwright, a songwriter, a composer, a singer, a radio host, before he turned more recently to jazz music.

And it is the jazz composer and player who has been officially invited to perform in Damascus, for the first time is his whole career. Two hours before the beginning of the show, the audience was already there, clapping hands and singing by heart the most famous hits of the Lebanese composer and singer.

Thus, a real event, at the musical and the political levels, since Ziad Rahbani is a major icon of the Arab left wing. Indeed, his coming to Damascus, within the official frame of the (very successful) celebrations of “Damascus, Capital of the Arabic Culture”, means that things are changing in the country, at least at some level and even if Fayrouz’s son is not anymore the trouble maker he was.

It means also that the relationship between Lebanon and Syria is certainly more complex and deep-rooted that what we usually read in the main-stream media.

The text of the original post in french (with other links) and a video by a fan.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mahmoud Darwish Is Gone: Death of a Nation

The “Palestinian Authority” and a number of Arab intellectuals have asked Israel for Mahmoud Darwish to rest in his homeland, close to Akka. The answer was no, and the poet will be buried in Ramallah. Obviously, the Israeli state could not grant such a request. During
his whole life in exile (since 1970), the poet got a permit for a short stay in his homeland only three times, the last one being last year, for a lecture in Haifa (see previous post).

Mahmoud Darwish always asked to be heard as an artist, and not as the spokesman for the Palestinians. The world's reaction to his death shows that he succeeded in becoming recognized as the great poet he was. But he died before he could see any success on the other side of his life struggle, a real solution for the Palestinians, including for them the right to return, even after their death, where they were born.

The link to the original (and a bit different) post in french and a excerpt from Notre musique, a movie by Jean-Luc Godard which shows Darwish discussing with a Jewish student.