Archive for the ‘Arabic’ Category

Rapper Faces Death Threats in Iran

May 15, 2012 Leave a comment

From The New York Times


TEHRAN — With lyrics that tread on ultrasensitive topics and an album cover that shows the dome of a mosque in the shape of a woman’s breast, Shahin Najafi is an international rapper who elicits an intense reaction here.

Schahryar Ahadi/dapd

But Mr. Najafi’s latest song, “Naghi,” named after a Shiite saint, has prompted a particular uproar. Opponents of Mr. Najafi are using a recent fatwa by a leading cleric, Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi-Golpayegani, which labels all those insulting the 10th Shiite imam, Ali al-Hadi al-Naqi, also known as Imam Naghi, as apostates. An Islamist Web site then offered a $100,000 bounty to anyone who kills Mr. Najafi, who was born in Iran, raps in Persian but lives in Germany.


An Embrace of the U.S., Spun and Mixed by Iraqis

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

 Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

BAGHDAD — With his New York Yankees jersey, baggy jeans embroidered with “U.S.A.” down one leg and his casual greeting of “What’s up?”, Ali Jabbar, a rapper and a student in Islamic studies, seems an alien in his own culture.

DAM in Sheikh Jarrah II: The Remix

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

For those who caught my piece about DAM’s concert in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the site of weekly protests against the Israeli government’s eviction of Arab Israelis, here’s an amazing post-script: two Palestinian teenagers, male & female, sitting on a graffiti’d wall in Sheikh Jarrah, one wearing a kufiya, singing the DAM anthem, “Min Erhabi/Who’s the Terrorist?”

Read more…

Shadia Mansour wins back the Arab Kufiya

May 1, 2010 8 comments

Photo Credit: Ridz Design (via Illuminarcy Blog)

Last month, Palestinian Hip Hop star, Shadia Mansour, released the much-anticipated first single from her forthcoming debut album, “El Kofeye 3arabeye”/”The Kofeyye is Arabic”, featuring M-1 from the pro-Palestinian US rap group, Dead Prez. Prior to the release of the single, Shadia posted the following teaser video on Youtube, with this message about the song:

“In this song, I am claiming back its historical, political and revolutionary purpose. As you are aware, the ‘Kofeyye’ has been tastelessly commercialized and economically exploited worldwide. I feel that it is only right to give the people a thorough introduction and understanding of its symbolic existence.”

Already, the response has been remarkable, from impassioned messages of solidarity, to debates over the true origin of the so-called ‘Palestinian scarf’, to criticism of the attempt to reclaim as ‘Arab’ what has become an international symbol of resistance. Anthropologist and Hip Hop scholar Ted Swedenburg, in his recent lecture on the history of the kufiya at the Palestine Center, argues, “To try to reclaim the kufiya as simply Arab would be analogous to trying to reclaim rap music as African-American.”)

Closer examination of the lyrics, however, reveals a flaw in Dr. Swedenburg’s argument (which he, himself, admitted in a recent email). Shadia is not, in fact, trying to reclaim the kufiya from commercialization as a fashion accessory for hipsters and celebrities. Rather, she is trying to reclaim it from a more dangerous group of kufiya appropriators, the creators of the “Israeli Keffiyeh”, embroidered with blue Stars of David and the words “Long Live the People Israel” stitched across the top. The scarf was designed by a  Brooklyn-based Jewish Hip Hop promoter (I know, I know, it takes one to know one) who claims that his ancestors were wearing variations on the kufiya in ancient Yemen. In response to the “offense” taken by his “Arab friends”, Erez Safar offers this defense:

“I as a Jew am not offended by the Pope who wears a “kippah” and in the same respect, I don’t feel there is any reason for anyone taking offense to a Jewish person wearing a version of the Keffiyah which they identify with; especially considering the significance of this article of clothing in both of all of our histories.”

I, also as a Jew, am not buying this argument (nor the scarf) and feel compelled to call Mr. Safar and his supporters to task. First off, they have broken the first rule of Hip Hop: Be Original. Changing the color of the scarf and adding stars and a Zionist slogan does not make it a “remix”, just a shameless imitation. Furthermore, the claim of historical overlap does not supersede the fact that the kufiya has been recognized as a symbol of Arab/Palestinian pride for close to a century and appropriating it as a Zionist symbol is an inherently antagonistic act, especially given the present political context.

That said, I offer here a translation of Shadia’s lyrics, which win, hands down, this battle of symbols and language. Just ask the nearly 14,000 viewers who’ve watched & commented on her promo video (versus the 52 who’ve watched “Israeli Keffiyeh & DeScribe Live”), or the 500+ that showed up last night at Brooklyn’s Southpaw for an Arab Hip Hop showcase featuring DAM, The Narcicyst, Lowkey, and, of course, Shadia Mansour, with over 50 rockin the black and white checks, by my kufiya kount. As Jay-Z might put it to the creators of the Israeli kufiya, “We don’t believe you, you need more people.”

Translation by Ouassim Addoula (aka. Big Moor)

Verse 1

Good morning cousins, y’all welcome, come in

What would you like us to serve you, Arab blood or tears from our eyes?

I think that’s how they expected us to receive them

That’s why they got embarrassed when they realized their mistake

That’s why we rocked the kuffiyeh, the white and black

Now these dogs are startin to wear it as a trend

No matter how they design it, no matter how they change its color

The kuffiyeh is Arabic, and it will stay Arabic

The gear we rock, they want it; our culture, they want it

Our dignity, they want it; everything that’s ours, they want it

Half your country, half your home; why, why? No, I tell em

Stealin’ something that ain’t theirs, I can’t allow it

They imitatin us in what we wear, wear; from this land enough, what else do you want?

About Jerusalem, Jerusalem, would they be worried, how can you humans?

Before y’all ever rocked a kuffiyeh, we here to remind em who we are

And whether they like it or not, this is our clothing style


That’s why we rock the kuffiyeh, cuz it’s patriotic

The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic

That’s why we rock the kuffiyeh, our essential identity

The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic

Come on, throw up the kuffiyeh (throw that kuffiyeh up for me)

The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic

Throw it up, come on “Bilad Al Sham” (Greater Syria)

The kuffiyeh is Arabic, and it will stay Arabic

Verse 2

There’s none yet like the Arab people

Show me which other nation in the world was more influential

The picture is clear, we are the cradle of civilization

Our history and cultural heritage testify to our existence

That’s why I rocked the Palestinian gear

From Haifa, Jenin, Jabal al Nar to Ramallah

Let me see the kuffiyeh, the white and red

Let me throw it up in the sky; I’m

Arab, and my tongue creates earthquakes

I shake the words of war

Listen, I’m Shadia Mansour, and the gear I’m rockin is my identity

Since the day I was born raisin people’s awareness been my responsibility

But I was raised between fear and evil; between two areas

Between the grudging and the poor, I seen life from both sides

God bless the kuffiyeh; however you rock me, wherever you see me

I stay true to my origins, Palestinian

Hip Hop Diplomacy x Language Learning: DAM

February 9, 2010 1 comment

In a conversation yesterday with my Imagination Age colleagues, Rita J. King and Josh Fouts, the question came up of how to use Hip Hop Diplomacy to promote language learning and I immediately thought of this amazing video from the Palestinian rap pioneers DAM, in which group leader Tamer Nafar spits a series of rhymes off of each letter in the Arabic alphabet.

It’s a remarkable video, stylistically and lyrically, and it deserves a moment of appreciation. First of all, it uses a research-proven method of language acquisition, linking words to images, the audio to the visual. Going a step further, Nafar carefully selects words (and the director matches images) that signify certain cultural and political themes, including Muslim-American icon Muhammad Ali, Hip Hop bling, images of Palestine, snapshots of fellow Arab Hip Hop stars, such as Canadian-Iraqi MC Narcicyst, Egyptian supergroup the Arabian Knightz, and Palestinian R&B singer Shadia Mansour, not to mention political figures such as the Ayatollah Khomeini and Hosni Mubarak. But the best part is the simplest, when a buzzing bee flies across the screen as the sound “zz-zz” is repeated, to illustrate the sound of the letter ز (‘z’ equivalent). I wish I’d seen this video when I was first learning Arabic. Not to mention the fact that it’s set to some of the best American rap instrumentals of the past 2 decades (by Kanye West, Swizz Beats, Just Blaze, et al), which is only increasing my intrinsic motivation to absorb the sounds, letters, and images I’m seeing. That, my non-linguists, is the golden ticket for language learning. If you’re motivated (eg. to earn money, to make friends, to pick up chicks, etc.) and if you’re immersed in meaningful content, you’re gonna absorb more and more quickly than by just reading from a book, all by your lonesome. If you don’t believe me, just ask Noam Chomsky. But I doubt if Tamer needed to read Chomsky or Howard Gardner (Theory of Multiple Intelligences) or Stephen Krashen (Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis) to create a video that would entertain, educate, and inspire a global audience to learn his native tongue. He just did what he does naturally: crafted clever rhymes over dope beats and then portrayed them in a next-level video, mixing text and image and self-reference, like what DA Pennebaker did with Bob Dylan for the “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, though I can’t be certain that this was an influence either.

Either way, it’s one of the most creative and innovative language learning videos I’ve seen in my language learning life. Props to Tamer and the boys from DAM! Teachas, all a y’all.