Showing posts with label middle east. Show all posts
Showing posts with label middle east. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

India.Arie & Idan Raichel at the Paramount Theater and finding politics where there is none


Open Door - an India.Arie and Idan Raichel collaboration

Last Saturday night I went to a beautiful concert in Oakland's Paramount Theater presented by SFJAZZ with neo-soul singer India.Arie and Israeli world-fusion pop artist Idan Raichel. I am a fan of both artists independently and was curious about this collaboration that resulted in the soon-to-be-released album Open Door.


Turns out, Arie and Raichel are a perfect pairing; both artists have a steady stream of humanitarian sentiment throughout their music as well as self-acceptance. Arie sang in both Hebrew and English, and Raichel brought a very cool world fusion vibe to Arie’s bohemian soul vibe. While at times I felt the music was overly cheesy, I was also moved by the sentiment.


So, we all have pet peeves. They’re built into our DNA and there’s often not much we can do about them. They just sort of follow you around, pissing you off.


One of my pet peeves is talking during a live show. It’s one of those that things that if I try to ignore a loud conversation, it just gets more annoying, especially if the comments are frustrating.


Saturday night, there were two women sitting behind me who did not do their research about this performance. In its program, SFJAZZ titled this show “India.Arie and Idan Raichel”; this was a collaboration project. These women were obviously not aware of Idan Raichel or that simply, he would be there. And, it seemed that they took offense to the mere fact that he was Israeli.


Now don’t get me wrong, yes, I definitely have my own politics when it comes to Israel. I am Jewish, and I am also pro-peace and a raging humanitarian (if there is such a thing). I have traveled to Israel and the West Bank. I have been moved, disturbed, frightened, inspired, depressed and excited by what I experienced and what I continue to learn about the country. I also have wonderful Israeli family that I love very dearly.


I am very much torn about the whole issue of Israel. And I believe that if a person takes a hard stance either pro- or against, you have not learned or experienced enough of the larger issue. It’s very easy, especially from half way around the world, to listen to media and believe that one group of people are in the wrong, but the issue is so much more complicated than that.


From stage Raichel and Arie told the story of how they met, simply that Arie had traveled to Israel for personal exploration and she had discovered Raichel’s music there. The woman behind me took offense to the fact that she had even been there, saying loudly “It’s an apartheid state!” Raichel added to the story that they first met at a falafel shop to which the women responded “that’s Palestinian!”


What? Really? I don’t think so. I can’t believe she took it there.


I also heard her say, “I just didn’t expect this!” to her friend and something like “this is just so glorifying…” But there was no mention of politics, no mention of Palestine. Just some songs with Hebrew lyrics and talk of falafel.


Unfortunately Israel is the modern day South Africa and to many, any mention of the country brings up politics. I’m also assuming that if it were up to this woman, there would be a cultural embargo on Israel, much like the one placed on South Africa during its Apartheid, making a collaboration like Arie and Raichel’s fraught with controversy (much like Paul Simon’s Grammy winning Graceland).


I moved to seats across the aisle so that I didn’t have to listen to any more comments. I was very close to saying something to them. I understand that these women were unhappy, but they did not do their research and they didn’t have to spoil my enjoyment.


This is all so ironic considering that one of the central tunes (and wonderfully cheese-tastic) on Open Door is called “The Gift of Acceptance” with the lyrics:

We can debate to the end of time who's wrong and who is right,

Or I can honor your choices and you can honor mine.

They call you Israeli and they call me an American,

I look at you and I don't see a country, I just see my friend,

I pray we're in each other's lives for a long, long time

because I honor your choices and you honor mine.


We all want the same things from life,

We want peace, love and prosperity.

But can we give up our need to be right?

Give the world a present, give the gift of your acceptance.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Israeli Jazz and bassist Avishai Cohen

At the beginning of 2010, a friend of mine turned me onto bassist Avishai Cohen. He has played with giants of jazz in New York, Europe and of course Israel. He finally started his own record label in 2003 and his new release Aurora is one of the most gorgeous records I've heard.

This video of the track "Alon Basela" has just over 24 thousand hits, I bet 20 thousand of them are mine. As soon as the video is over I want to hear it again.
(Sung in Hebrew)
I believe I’m an oak tree in the rock
Even if a storm will hit me.
I will keep standing
When I shed a tear I plant a Tree.

Sorrow is the soul
And I am nature

I believe in mankind
And in the sky
I exist in the ocean
And in the tree
As long as I live
I will remember
Happiness is the people
For better and ever



Cohen plays at Yoshi's in Oakland on Wednesday and Thursday, two shows each evening. I'll be there Thursday for the 8pm.

READ MY PREVIEW HERE

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bahaa Ronda and Arabic Music

I'm still trying to figure this video out (anyone have any information?) But this is an all Arabic female performance of traditional Moroccan music featuring singer Bahaa Ronda. Her voice is effortlessly beautiful.



I am so fascinated by how the violin is played upright like a cello in this Arab-Andalusian musical tradition called Gharnati.

Ronda also performs with the Chabab Al Andalous Rabat Orchestra. The Kennedy Center recently featured them on the Millennium Stage. See the live broadcast here. The Milliennium stage has a free to the public performance every day of the year at 6pm and archives every performance on their website. So if you are ever looking for something new, from classical music to world hip-hop, this is a wonderful resource. 

The Kennedy Center recently held a festival called Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World.
Sharing the varied music and culture of the 22 Arab nations across the globe, the program also featured exhibitions of  art installations, dance, fashion, a soundscape, cuisine, a marketplace and more. Check out the website, there are many links and resources to help you discover this
wealth of culture.

Kudos to the Kennedy Center for helping Americans learn a little bit more about the Arab world and therefore bringing understanding and appreciation between our worlds.

Thanks to Yaffa and my Mom for telling me about this!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Palestine and Israel - Hevenu Shalom Alechem/ Ma Ana Ajmal Min Salam

Who's in the mood to hear about some Jewish/Muslim collaboration for a change?  I sure am.

Since going to Israel two years ago (I can't believe it's been that long) I am even more thoroughly convinced that there is no right and wrong when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian situation. At this point it's more like mafia warfare that anything else. The resentment and fear runs so deep that there seems to be no hope in sight.

As I Jew I cannot help but to feel sympathy and cultural understanding for Israel. I have family there that I love very much, and I know how they have grown up in a world where you might lose your life walking across the street. And as a human being and as part of a people who was once victim to genocide, I feel the Palestinian struggle as well.

One thing that most people can agree upon is that the leaders of these two peoples cannot seem to make it work. There have been so many misteps along the way (that I will not get into here) that you can't help but wonder who on earth these people are and how they can sleep at night.

Most Israelis and Palestinians just want to live their lives in peace and most of them do, together, side by side.

I wanted to post this song as tribute to the power of two warring peoples coming together to make art and music. It's sung in both Hebrew and Arabic called Hevenu Shalom Alechem ("We brought Peace among us" in Hebrew) & Ma Ana Ajmal Min Salam ("There is Nothing more Beautiful than Peace" in Arabic).  And I have to say, Other than Souad Massi, I'm new to listening to Arabic being sung, I think it's gorgeous!



If you want to help, my advice to you is go to Israel and the West Bank if you can (especially the West Bank, so many people go to Israel and don't make it to the West Bank, there are organizations that will take you for free), talk to as many people as you can including Jews and Muslims. 

But if that's not possible, talk to people at home. If you hear someone taking sides, talk to them about it. The only thing that will save this situation is communication, whether it be artistic or simple conversation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Israeli Music - Part 1: Shotei Ha'Nevuah (Fools of Prophecy)


Happy Channukah!  I always feel especially Jewish this time of year, so I figured I'd take advantage by blogging about my favorite Israeli music; something I've been meaning to do for a while.  And there's a certain Texan that I know will be interested...

I'm going to start of this three part installation with a group that my Israeli cousin turned me onto almost two years ago (I can't believe it's been that long since I visited): Shotei Ha-Nevuah or the "Fools of Prophecy."  (their myspace page)

My favorite Shotei Ha'Nevuah song is called "Kol Galgal" meaning "The Sound of  Circle" or even "The voice of the wheel" (Hebrew speakers correct me here, my Hebrew skills have long since declined since my Bat Mitzvah, and I don't trust the internet). It's one of the most gorgeous songs I've ever heard. My aunt said that she's never heard Hebrew sound so beautiful.

The lyrics come straight of the Kaballah, the book of Jewish mysticism:

THE SOUND OF A CIRCLE

The sound of a circle rolls upwards from below,
obscure chariots going and revolving

The sound of melodies goes up and down
it goes and wanders in the world.

The voice of a shofar extends
through the depths of stairs,
and the circle spins around.
That's the sound,
the sound of a circle going up and down.


I also found another translation here.

Here is a video someone put together of rather nice beach shots in Tel Aviv.  They have a pretty gorgeous beach actually, one of the nicest ones I've been to that's still so urban. Maybe it helps that it's on the Mediterranean sea... I also found an awesome live version here (with a 100 person choir). 




"Kol Galgal" is nothing like the rest of Shotei Ha'Nevuah's music.  Usually it's more upbeat, and is a sort of "world fusion" (I hate that term) hip hop. I really don't know how else to explain it.

This a tune called "Ein Ani" (No, I):



This is a funny video I found of "Ha'yeladim Koftzim" (The Children Are Jumping ) that some kids made. I just like watching these silly teenagers dance around in funny hats. And WOW do they have amazing hair...



Anyway, stay tuned for a couple more bands and HAPPY CHANNUKAH or happy Christmahanukwanzikah.  

And more importantly, a happy new year.  

p.s. oh, I added  "follower" widget over on the right there.  Sign up if you feel like it.  It will make me feel loved.  :)

p.p.s. No one took me up on that CD mix that I'd say I would make for you if you wanted.  I was serious about that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The AccoLade and Souad Massi: Muslim Women and Music


Many of you may have heard about this already, but NPR and The New York Times have both run stories about The AccoLade, a all-female rock band from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (you can listen to the NPR radio spot here).

The three college students posted the tune "Pinocchio" on facebook and myspace and at first, only had a couple dozen fans, but now they have over two thousand.

They do not play live shows or share their full names, nor to they post images of themselves on the internet out of respect for their religion. The NPR story states that "cultivating a modest and somewhat anonymous identity online lets them thrive in this strict society." Instead they interact with their fans on facebook and myspace and share original drawing and paintings to represent themselves (see the above images).

Dina, Dareen, Amjad and Lamia, all college students between the ages of 19 and 21 have received a wave of international support as well as criticism for being female and playing in a rock band. The ladies state on their facebook page (with a few edits to bridge the language gap):
Anyone in this world can play, hear and create music no matter what their gender is or nationality, we are making music and we would appreciate it if the comments are only about our music, lyrics, paintings, where talk about our song, or how good/bad our song is…and omit anything that is irrelevant or inappropriate .

And by the way we are not facing any problems with anyone, and we are satisfied with what we are doing and the way we provide our song to you ... as we said before we are doing this for fun only and we respect our country, culture and traditions …we’ll continue our music without contradicting them…
Read an interview with them here (scroll all the way down).

I am so impressed with these women and their courage to live and make music within the system, even in a city like Jidda, by far the most cosmopolitan city in Saudi Arabia. It got me thinking about other female Muslim musicians and also how the internet is really revolutionizing and changing the world that we live in. It as has made things possible for women like The AccoLade to do what they love and share it with others.

Another woman who comes to mind is Souad Massi, an Algerian singer/songwriter who started playing as a teenager and was immensely influenced by American roots music, flamenco and rock bands like Led Zeppelin and U2. In the 1990s she joined an Algerian hard rock band called Atakor, but because of the political climate (civil war), political lyrics and growing popularity became a public target. Massi tried disguising herself by cutting her hair and dressing in male clothing. But despite these efforts, she began to receive death threats, so she left the band and moved to Paris in 1999.

Massi, finally found massive success in her solo career in Europe. This is a clip of a gorgeous performance in Brazil of the tune "Yemma," a song for her mother.



From the research I've done online, it looks like she never moved back to Algeria. I also can't tell how much her gender effected the reaction she got from her involvement in Atakor. But I do know that women and musical performance do not mix well in the Islamic world. I am doing further research on why and what women are and are no allowed to do. (For example, women are allowed to perform for other women, which is the case in the Bedouin community of the Sinai Desert between Israel in Egypt.)

If you have any information on this topic, I would love to hear it. I am very curious. (I found this too from Muslimah Media Watch, very interesting how the media is framing AccoLade in terms of it's political presence more than it's musical attributes.)

I also think it's fascinating that a band, in this age of the world wide web, no matter who or where they are, can be successful and have fans, without ever leaving their homes; ESPECIALLY if they don't want or need to make money from their music. They don't need record labels, or CDs or managers. Just an audio recording and an internet connection.

If you are a Muslim female musician or are a fan of a Muslim female musician, Please check this out: there is an effort out there by the English organization called Ulfah Arts to connect these women and give them a supporting network.