alonewiththemoon: Drumlin Farm Banding Station 2016 (Default)
I just realized as I walked past a mirror at work that in my skirt tied with a sash, 3/4 sleeve loose shirt, wide headband and Egyptian jewelry that I have inadvertently dressed like a pirate today.  Oh well.

I believe the upstairs neighbors have moved out already, as there was a moving truck around yesterday evening and by nightfall the truck and their car were gone, and still gone this morning.  How timely, given that I am about to embark on a two week vacation! 

Last night I watched the 1940 Egyptian movie Dananir, starring Um Kulthum as a sweet young Bedouin girl who is discovered singing in the desert by a minister of the Caliph of Baghdad.  You can tell things are not going to go well for her from the opening scenes of the film, with the minister and his men loosing their hawks and hounds upon the gazelles and hares of the desert (side note:  the Arabian horses in this movie were stunning creatures, the real thing).  It's set I suppose sometime after 800AD, since messengers from Charlemagne arrive for the Caliph at one point, vintage Arabian Nights era.  It was interesting to see how this period of historical fantasy/fantastic history was treated in a Middle Eastern film made by and for Middle Easterners.  Of course Egyptians are not Iraqis, so they were to some extent romanticizing somebody else's past, just as Hollywood does, and Dananir was representing all that is good and true about Arab culture just as much as she was representing a real woman.  But I did feel that the Arab characters were more complex in this film than they are in analogous Hollywood films, with a variety of motives and characters.  (although there were bits just as jarring in this film as in Hollywood's of that era, for example the slaves in blackface--though one of them made me laugh, because between his heavy makeup, bone structure, scowling expression and facial hair he resembled no one so much as Lt. Cmdr. Worf.)  Dananir is of course a very good girl, loyal to a fault.  In her (gorgeous, beautiful) songs, she sings very passionately about her minister, and there is an implication that they are romantically involved, but you never see any physical hint of that onscreen.  I've recently been reading a book about the history and structure of Arabic music, and the treatment of music and poetry in the Caliph's court rang true to what I had been reading.  There's a great scene where Dananir sings a song that had been taught to her by the court's master musician.  The Caliph says it was lovely and she had sung it just as she had been taught, but he wanted to hear it improvised.  She does so, and he then says now do it again, and give it everything you've got.  And so she does.  I am very glad to have seen the movie just for that scene alone.  I'm not sure I could say it's entirely a good movie, as it adheres closely to fairy tale formula in a very predictable way, but if you like to watch movies that make you think a lot about cultural issues of representation and Orientalism, about Arab political history or about Arab music, or if you just plain like to listen to Um Kulthum, I highly recommend it.  I think it was filmed rather well, too, with some shots showing a lot of sensitivity, esp. in the desert scenes.  I bought my copy from Maqam.com for pretty cheap, not sure if it's available anywhere else.

This day is draaaaaaaaggggggiiiiiiinnnnnnggggggggggg.....
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alonewiththemoon: Drumlin Farm Banding Station 2016 (Default)
After picking up an album by the Syrian-Lebanese-popular in Egypt singer Asmahan (Amal Al Atrache, a Druze princess) and completely falling in love with her voice, I had to read Asmahan's Secrets:  Woman, War, and Song by Sherifa Zuhur.  It is astonishing how much history, both cultural and political, was packed into one woman's all too short life.  review )

All in all, strongly recommended for those interested in Arabic music, Middle Eastern political history and/or women's sociocultural history in the 20th century Arab world.  I know I listen to her music differently now, hearing the very real woman behind the voice, and for that alone, the book was well worth the read.

Asmahan:
alonewiththemoon: Drumlin Farm Banding Station 2016 (Default)
Last night after a two and a half hour journey by public transportation from Kenmore Square to Jamaica Plain back to Arlington, I sat down and did not move for two hours and forty-five minutes to watch The Yacoubian Building, an Egyptian film by director Marwan Hamed with an all-star cast including the luminous Hend Sabri.  It is not an easy movie to watch, both for its length and for some very unpleasant things that happen, but I highly recommend it.  I gather from my book on Arab popular culture, which I really shall get around to writing about someday, that this was a groundbreaking film in Egyptian cinema for daring to tackle taboo subjects, from the obvious one of homosexuality to less-obvious-to-the-non-Egyptian-viewer taboos regarding religion and politics and gender and sex.  The movie is certainly Allegory writ large, as most of the non-comedic, non-musical Egyptian films I've seen tend to be, but with a more fluid moralistic stance than most other Egyptian films I've seen.  more review )

And because I have to find something relevant to belly dance in any Egyptian film I watch, I note that I now understand the cultural context of Yasmina of Cairo's rooftop baladi performance--there are entire small villages on top of the large buildings of Cairo where the working class poor/immigrants from the countryside live, and where laundries are frequently located. 
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alonewiththemoon: Drumlin Farm Banding Station 2016 (Default)
This evening my chiropractor not only fixed up my back and hips and shoulders, but she also declared a couple of my ribs out of alignment from all my coughing.  She adjusted them, which rather hurt in the moment, but immediately afterward my lungs could suddenly expand all the way again!  Hooray!

Reading an excellent book now on Arabic popular culture--I'm still in the introductory chapters about the phenomenon of pan-Arab nationalism and the standardization (or not) of the Arabic language.  It is fascinating stuff and my head is spinning from all the revelations about why things are the way they are.  I'll try to write a review when I'm done, but this is a very valuable read.  There's a bit about the controversy over Fifi Abdo serving Ramadan meals to the poor later in the book, can't wait to read that.
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