Reporting Change – Stories from The Arab Region

by Hatim Suleiman

Amsterdam – On Sunday, June 15, a group of Arab writers, artists and journalists, gathered in the famous pop venue the Melkweg, to tell their stories in word, song, film, and theater. This event called Reporting Change – Stories from The Arab Region, was organized by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch. The program featured music and keynote addresses by Reem Maged and Yassin Al-Haj Saleh.

The Egyptian TV journalist Reem Maged is one of the major voices of the revolution on Egyptian TV between 2011 and 2013. Yassin Al-Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer and political activist. Photojournalists from Algeria, Tunis and Egypt talked about their work, and you had to choose between watching the keynotes or the movies, ‘Return to Homs and ‘E-Team’, which we (Charlie Crooijmans and me) had to skip.

There was also a play especially made for the occasion, telling the story of the revolution through the eyes of two women. All of these stories tell so much more than what the mainstream media present us, far more human and therefore easier to identify with.

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A call for artistic solidarity with L7a9ed

L7a9edby Charlie Crooijmans

For the third time in three years artist and human rights activist Mouad Belghouat, alias El Haqed (The Indignant) or L7a9ed, got arrested on Sunday 18 May 2014. “El Haqed has been targeted for his political views and his participation in Morocco’s February 20th movement: On 20 February 2011, what began as a group of Moroccans expressing their frustration with the status quo grew to a nationwide movement that demanded change in Morocco.” (Free L7a9ed – Music is not a crime). Filmmaker, photographer and activist Nadir Bouhmouch put a video on his You Tube channel to call for artistic solidarity with L7a9ed. Continue reading

No desire to be a good girl – an interview with Yasmine Hamdan

Yasmine Hamdan at Café de la Danse, photo: CC

Yasmine Hamdan at Café de la Danse, photo: CC

by Charlie Crooijmans

Paris – Last week News and Noise! was at Café de la Danse in Paris, to attend the concert of Yasmine Hamdan. It was an electrifying show with elements of underground and mysticism. Singer-songwriter and actress Hamdan is one of those free spirits seeking for inspiration. She needs the music to be able to express herself – especially coming from Lebanon, a damaged postwar country – and is considered an underground icon throughout the Arab world ever since Soapkills, the duo she founded in Beirut. After moving to Paris, Hamdan recorded an album with musician/producer Mirwais, and also collaborated with CocoRosie for a while. Together with Marc Collin (Nouvelle Vague), she wrote and produced her first solo album in 2012, which was internationally released on Crammed Discs under the title Ya Nass. Both she and her song Hal appears in the Jim Jarmusch’ vampire movie Only lovers left alive. In a cute tea-house in the middle of Paris we had a very nice, open-hearted conversation, about her youth in postwar Lebanon, her non-conformism, her collection of old Arab songs and her music.

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“The Saharawi need an identity” – an interview with Aziza Brahim

by Charlie Crooijmans

Aziza BrahimAmsterdam – The liner notes of the third and newest album of Aziza Brahim, Soutak, has a strong message. “If things are not set right soon, we, the native people of the Western Sahara (“Saharawis”), will have traveled a road of some 40 years since our land was invaded, ravaged and robbed. A path that leads from napalm bombs to landmines; a route encompassing the exodus to the refugee camps in the South of Algeria and the cruel devastation and unjust condemnation of the brave Gdeim Izik (Camp of Dignity); a march from medieval colonialism to neoliberal imperialism; all of it face to face with the silent complicity of the large international organizations.” Aziza Brahim (1976) was born and raised in the Saharawi refugee camps in the Tindouf region of Algeria where her family settled, after fleeing from the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. When she was 11 years old, she journeyed to Cuba to pursue her secondary school studies. Back in the refugee camps she committed to self-education and the development of her own musical expression. Now many years, awards, movies, and three albums later, her album Soutak has reached number 1 of the European World Charts. She appeared in the TV show of Jools Holland (UK), and last week she was in Amsterdam to perform at the TV show Vrije Geluiden. News & Noise spoke to her shortly before she had to return to Barcelona. Continue reading

Big in Iran – an interview with Rita

Rita at Babel Med

Rita at Babel Med, photo: Jean de Peña

by Charlie Crooijmans

– Marseille. Babel Med is a world music expo and conference from 20-22 of March, in Marseille. The organization likes to program showcases with an interesting story, like the Libyan hiphop crew G.A.B. and Israeli singer Rita Jahanforuz, simply known as Rita. With a career of 25 years, sold-out concerts and multi-platinum records, Rita is one of the Israeli top female singers. Since her album My Joys (2011), she became even big in Iran. As a born Iranian, Rita decided to record a personal album inspired by her Persian heritage. News & Noise joined in at the press conference and learned that her music is more than just showbiz.

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“We are trying to give a good image of Libya” – an interview with G.A.B.

G Thug AKA Lantren at Babel Med
by Charlie Crooijmans

Marseille – At the world music expo Babel Med, last month, News & Noise spoke with Seraj Kamel/G Thug AKA Lantren, the crew manager and one of the rappers of G.A.B. (Good against Bad). This zealous Libyan hip-hop group is reveling in and grappling with the new freedom of expression that has flourished since the fall of Colonel Gaddafi. Sponsored by a French institute, G.A.B. came to Babel Med in Marseille to represent their country. This is their first international experience. The timing of their performance wasn’t that opportune, because they had to compete with the Congolese Jupiter & Okwess International. Despite their excellent rapping skills, for the delegates of Babel Med the message of G.A.B. seems to be far more interesting than their music. Talking with Seraj Kamel of G.A.B. gave us an interesting impression of today’s Libya.

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Bad teeth

Youssou N'Dourby Bram Posthumus

One of the worst things that has happened to Africa, musically speaking, is We Are The World. Saccharine lyrics, simple melody and yes, of course, that earworm refrain. It sticks in memory but rather like any ditty written for soap advertisements.

We Are The World. Africa has several inexplicable love affairs with Continue reading