Music and Dance

Given all the unhappiness, it is refreshing to find a little happiness in the Middle East, even if it is musical. Enjoy the following:

Happy in Yemen (

Happy in Abu Dhabi (

Happy in Algeria (

Happy in Egypt (

Happy In Kuwait (

Happy in Jerusalem (

Happy in Jordan (

Happy in Lebanon (

Happy from Morocco (

Happy in Qatar (

Happy from Saudi Arabia (

Happy in Turkey (

A recently uploaded Youtube video speaks to the frustration from the violence that has enveloped Iraq, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere. Check it out here.

Palestinian Arab Idol Gets Booted From World Cup, and Shakira’s Response Was Perfect

by Milana Knezevic, PolicyMic, February 13, 2014

Palestinian Arab Idol winner Mohammad Assaf says he has been banned from performing at the World Cup opening ceremony this summer — and that Shakira is boycotting.

He said at a press conference earlier this week that he was supposed to sing at the show kicking off the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, but that because of some “countries” or “groups” — no one was specified — his record company was told this won’t happen after all. He also said that Colombian superstar Shakira, who sang the 2010 World Cup anthem “Waka Waka,” has refused to perform at the ceremony because of it.

Assaf rose to fame last year when he won the regional singing competition Arab Idol, and was especially lauded for his performances of traditional Palestinian music:

Hear the winning song on Youtube here

In the process, he gained some high-profile fans. FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited Palestine last summer, and said he would invite Assaf to sing at this summer’s World Cup.

It was reported then that Assaf and Shakira might sing together in Brazil, but now it appears both will be staying away from the festivities. (more…)

An American woman who becomes a celebrated belly dancer on a Nile cruise boat out of Cairo in Egypt. Now there’s a plot. But it is full of as many twists as a belly vibrating to a dumbak. For the story of Luna in a graphic comic book format, check out her story here.

The latest issue of CyberOrient (Vol. 7, Iss. 2, 2013) is now available online as open access. Here are the contents:


Orchestrating Hip-hop Culture Online: Within and Beyond the Middle East

Anders Ackfeldt

Articles Constructing Muslim Hip Hop Identities on the Internet
Inka Rantakallio

Hanouneh style resistance. Becoming hip-hop authentic by balancing
skills and painful lived experiences

Andrea Dankic

“I Am Malcolm X” – Islamic Themes in Hip-hop Video Clips Online

Anders Ackfeldt (more…)

For those fortunate enough to own a MAC computer there is the digital blessing of ITunes. One of the stations listed under “Eclectic” is “The 1920’s Radio Network” which features jazz and vaudeville songs from the 20s through the 40s. Every once in awhile along comes one of those “Oriental” tunes, usually riding stereotypes into the desert on a sand-blasted camel of Araby. One I recently heard manages to offend both Egyptians and obese women (not to mention any serious poet). This is Egyptian Ella, not to be confused with Ella Fitzgerald, who did not debut until four years after this tune was written by Walter Doyle and popularized by Ted Weems and his orchestra.

Egyptian Ella

by Walter Doyle

Ella was a dancing girl who started getting fat
Every day saw three more pounds on Ella
Until one day she found she’d lost her job because of that
And to make it worse, she’d lost her fella
She took a trip to Egypt to forget
And she made such a hit that she’s there yet … (more…)

Perhaps it is boring to be rich, especially for the super rich in a traditional cultural setting. Take the Emirates, for example, with the ultra modern business hub of Dubai and the fabulous new buildings that oil money funds in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates is an unusual oasis in the heartland of the Islamic faith. What makes it unusual is that some 88% of the population here is foreign. So it is not surprising that there should be a murmur of culture clash under the glitz. So when Western pop stars like Snoop Dog, Jay Z, Justin Bieber and Rihanna role into one of the Emirates, you can expect some culture clash talk. Al Jazeera reports that several recent Western superstars have raised eyebrows by their language and behavior. Did the organizers really think that Jay Z would forget how to swear or call women by demeaning terms? This is his bread and butter.

There is a famous biblical saying that Jesus once said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Jesus, theologians tell us, was referring to a narrow gate in Jerusalem that made it very hard for camels to enter, but the sentiment is apt. Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are respected prophets, but none of them squandered riches or lived in opulence or built huge pyramids. This is not just a problem for Muslims, but for all the major monotheisms which preach about helping the poor. Islam is exemplary in this regard with its principle of sadaqa, but Judaism and Christianity also stress helping the unfortunate. For that matter, even concerned atheists care about their fellow humans. But there is something about wealth (the love of money being the root of all evil) that strains religious behavior. Jay Z and Snoop Dog went to the Emirates, where the money flows, not Yemen, though I suspect young Yemenis have heard them as well in the global pop music market.

My point is not to disparage pop music, nor to defend those who would place a Muslim in a 7th century cultural bubble, but simply to note that defining one’s personal faith is not made easier in a context of vast wealth. Even a cursory reading of the Arabian Nights shows that this is not a modern problem. But if you invite Jay Z, don’t expect a sermon.

For anyone following the driving issue of Saudi women behind the wheel, here is a tune to drive home the problem.

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