The Lion of Egypt in Amsterdam

by Hatim Suleiman

20170921_204303Amsterdam – The Egyptian pop star Hakim (aka the Lion of Egypt) gave an unique performance on the 21st of September in the Melkweg in Amsterdam.  The announcement of the concert on Melkweg’s website accurately described Hakim as an innovator of both the Jeel, popular youth music style, and the more folky dance Sha’bi. This is a story worth telling as it gives an idea not only about an important chapter in the development of popular music scene in Egypt, but also about how it always relates to and interacts with the different social classes. For decades there has been a musical answer offered to fit the social mobility and changing tastes of different classes. Let’s go briefly over this story before commenting on the fantastic show he gave in the Melkweg.

The story begins at the second half of the 1970s. There was a kind of a gap in the popular music market in Egypt. On one hand, the young audience of the urban middle class did not feel attracted to the folkish nightclub music of Ahmed Adaweyah. This music was socially regarded as that of a lower class that has become the nouveau riche.

On the other hand, Continue reading

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The Ottoman Armenian

by Hatim Suleiman

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered his government to draft a new law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide. The French parliament recognized the killing of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War as genocide in 2001. In December 2011, The French MPs went further, approving a bill that would make denying the Armenian genocide a criminal offence punishable by a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros. France’s top court struck it down last month as unconstitutional. Sarkozy, running for re-election next month, stressed again to the Armenian Diaspora in France (around half a million strong) his commitment to a new law.

Away from election politics and the contradicting French official denial of France’s own dark history in Algeria, I cannot help thinking of the intertwining cultures of Anatolia (or Asia minor) and its painful twists of history, I cannot help thinking of Tatyos Efendi.

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Three Songs from the Syrian revolution.

Abdul Basit Saroot

Abdul-Basit Saroot

by Hatim Suleiman

For a long time, the Palestinian plight and general Arab national themes dominated Syrian political singing. The regime of Al-Asad (father and son) left no space for songs critical of Syrian domestic politics. These days however singer-songwriter Samih Shuqair, the young Syrian singer Wasfi Massarani and the popular goalkeeper Abdul-Baset Saroot are criticizing the regime in their songs.
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Egypt: Singing a revolution.

by Hatim Suleiman

Egypt is back in the news, like one year ago: demonstrations, millions marching and sitting in Tahrir Square, clashes with security forces in the heart of Cairo. One year after  the 25th of January “planned demonstration” that turned into a revolution getting millions out, in what came to be known as “the liberation squares” around the country. Named after the biggest: Tahrir (liberation) Square in Cairo. “Occupying” – or actually – regaining control of  their squares and streets from President Mubarak’s security forces and refusing to leave until their demands are met. Mubarak eventually stepped down the 11th of  February 2011, handing over power to the army’s military commanders known as the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces). SCAF immediately paid homage to those killed in the revolution and vowed to carry on with its demands in a transitory period.  One year later however the revolution continues, the  slogan DOWN with SCAF rule replacing last year’s down with Mubark’s rule.

All along songs are used. There’s no way to document the songs of a revolution that simply had not ended and that continuously evolves. Loads of young musicians, amateurs and professionals took the chance to present their music directly to the street public or via social media. This is only a quick sketch of some of the musical moments of this revolution that gave it part of its soundtrack and image (due to the inseparable video clips).
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