El Morabba3: Painfully Genius Jordanian Music That Hurts Where It Hurts Most

El Morabba3 seem to specialize in uncomfortable comfort music. Intense melodies submerged in haunting sounds and satiated emotions make the debut album of this Jordanian band truly different from most other sounds coming from the region.

The bulk of the tracks are nightmares, the tough realities of a world that is corrupt, polluted, and seemingly hopeless. In the third track of the album “Tahet Al Ard” (Beneath the Ground), Tareq Abu Kwaik sings: “I’ve been standing on the ground for two weeks, I’ve been talking and complaining… Refineries and energy laws and science… Don’t go up there, It’s a crazy world… I’m coming down, I’m digging… If only a car would take me far away from here!”

In another song called “Tarweej” (Promotion), written and sung by Mohammad Abdullah, the bassist croons with burning questions: “Where am I supposed to revolt? Where am I supposed to revolt? Who will change the scene when the one responsible is sitting like stone counting cash?”

With every note so tasty and rich you just can’t possibly do anything else as you listen. Even upbeat tracks like “Asheek” (On the Fence) unveil the album’s powerful, mind-reeling nature. It isn’t often that an Arab and Arabic band has the grapes to go for something so intensely prophetic.

With a sharp lack of negative space in the tracks, the occasional de-layering of sound always has a surprising effect. Sahar Khalifeh often fills in the other spaces with her responsive vocals. The effect is that you feel like you’re sinking then suddenly taking a gulp of much-needed air, although you had no idea you were sinking in the first place. Here’s a great example in the track “Tarweej” (the air arrives as marked by comment from shadiadwan):

El Morabba3’s debut album is nervy and self-contained, the product of thinking a lot harder than we’re accustomed to (and not just in thinking in music, but thinking in general). Haunting melodies, meticulously arranged lyrics, and an overwhelming sense of epicness are emotionally draining to the listener. Indeed, this album is a painful telling of the hopelessness of our lives, and the urgent need to face our complacency.

With El Morabba3, there’s not much to do but sit back and enjoy it as you “take it”.

Related: Other Music from the Arab World
Jordanian Band Torabyeh: Ghorbah
Alaa Wardi: Gash3arteeni Lama 7akeiti…
JadaL – Bye Bye 3azizi جدل – باي باي عزيزي
Alaa Wardi’s Latest: Wenti Mastaneti
Akher Zapheer: The end of it is a melancholy tune – اخرتو لحن حزين
Risalet Salam – JEEL (Music Video) رسالة سلام – جيل
Bath Bayakha: Ahlan Ramadan
Good Jordanian Musician: Alaa Wardi
Tareq Abu Kwaik and Alfar3i
Toot Ard
El-Fer3i: Asafir Al Houla
“Madeline”
El-Morabba3: Painfully Genius Jordanian Music That Hurts Where it Hurts Most
Brilliant and Uplifting Performance That Makes You Feel Like Not All Hope is Lost

“When Monaliza Smiled”: Beautiful, Funny, and Moving

When Monaliza Smiled

I watched the screening of “When Monaliza Smiled”, a Jordanian romantic comedy, at the RFC yesterday. I have heard a lot about this movie, but I didn’t know what to expect, I am not one for romantic comedies after all. But wow. It was hard to stop laughing all throughout.

“When Monaliza Smiled” introduces us to Monaliza, a simple Jordanian woman in her late 30’s, just starting in job in a naturally-defunct public department. As she is introduced to her new colleague, the stereotypical Jordanian “army wife” (ha! can I laugh at my own joke?), the Egyptian office boy, Hamdi, walks in with a tray of Turkish coffee.

Director Fadi Hadddad has the audience run up and down the stairs of Amman as Hamdi and Monaliza fall in love through the city’s ancient cinemas and kushari restaurants; through immigration issues and racism; through a harshly judgmental society that gives no one a break. The jokes came from a plot that saw a a stereotypically-jokey Egyptian man attempt to bring a smile to the face of a jaded Ammani woman.

“When Monaliza Smiled” managed to capture something that very few creative initiatives in Jordan manage to. Although the movie is happy and fluffy, it is still rough around the edges, and for that, I tip my hat. Amman, after all, is a rough place; socially, culturally, politically, and even visually. I think it’s this quality of embracing our tough-as-rock reality as a people that makes things successful in Jordan; Jo Bedu, Turtle Green, Yazan Roussan. No frills around the edges.

In the case of this movie, the introduction of humor and lightness via an Egyptian element was sheer genius. Since there aren’t many preexisting Jordanian precedents to “When Monaliza Smiled”, the Egyptian humor, style, and looks in both Hamdi — the love interest — and the old Egyptian movie clips used abundantly in the movie so much more believable.

When Monaliza Smiled movie   لما ضحكت موناليزا

Visually, the movie is a feast. The clever lines and themes of immigration and suffocating societal expectations are beautifully complemented by the pastel-coloured alleyways of East Amman and the “Ayat Al-Kursi” wall pieces that you find in almost every single Muslim household in Jordan. The art department should be very proud of their work.

Yet, it was the fact that the movie didn’t fall into the cliché of starring Amman’s sweeping hills that had most power. I don’t think there was a single sweeping-hill camera pan, actually. The visual language instead celebrated what individual people add to the city; as random, chaotic and kitschy as it may be. The kitchen in the governmental organization setting, with the potted flowers over the window sill, was a much more powerful emotional element than all the jeweled mountains of Amman. I was constantly touched during the movie because I kept seeing my grandmother making us candied apples, my aunt sewing on her Singer sewing machine, and our neighborhood’s dokaneh.

I felt bliss during much of “When Monaliza Smile”. It’s the telling of the comedic casualness of the hopelessness of our lives (it took Monaliza 37 years to “wake up”), the complacency, the shrug. You’ll find yourself believing that a hopeful spirit can triumph over the demanding societal expectations of being Ammani, and that Kushari can make wishes come true.

“When Monaliza Smiled” stars Tahani Salim, Shady Khalaf, Haifa Al Agha, Nadera Omran, Fuad Shomali, Suha Najjar, Haidar Kfouf. Written and directed by Fadi G. Haddad. Produced by Nadia Eliewat. Executive Producer Nadine Toukan. Music from the film’s soundtrack, composed by Dr. Najati Suloh, with Maestro Aziz Maraka, Director of Photography Samer Nimri. Production Designer Amjad Al Rasheed. Art Director Rand AbdelNoor. Sound Supervisor Falah Hannoun. Produced through the support of the education feature film program of the Royal Film Commission-Jordan. Filmed on location in Amman, Jordan

You can like their Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/WhenMonalizaSmiled

Nothing and everything

I have been obsessing over the “Ender’s Game” universe during the past few weeks. In fact, I’ve been obsessing to the point of insanity; yesterday for example, I read from 10:00AM to 2:00AM, with a two-hour break to go to the gym.

The books are truly amazing. I have read a lot of science fiction in my life, and the very reason I read science fiction in the first place is because it makes me think.

So, I don’t take it lightly when a science fiction series makes me think REALLY HARD. I guess it helps that Card is a Mormon and a lot of his ideas and ideals in the books are not in line with my own as a secular person. Yet, Card says them so well, and his arguments are structured logically. Obviously, they won’t make me change my ideals, but they definitely have been making me find gaps in my own theories and beliefs, which is always a good thing.

So, reading these books has been an experiment in figuring out what and why I think of things the way I do on souls, monogamy, genetics, tribal society, and goodness.

Here’s one of my favorite texts from “Xenocide” (Book 3 in the series) by Orson Scott Card: 

<The strangest thing about humans is the way they pair up, males and females. Constantly at war with each other, never content to leave each other alone. They never seem to grasp the idea that males and females are separate species with completely different needs and desires, forced to come together only to reproduce.>

<Of course you feel that way. Your mates are nothing but mindless drones, extensions of yourself, without their own identity.>

<We know our lovers with perfect understanding. Humans invent an imaginary lover and put that mask over the face of the body in their bed.>

<That is the tragedy of language, my friend. Those who know each other only through symbolic representations are forced to imagine each other. And because their imagination is imperfect, they are often wrong.>

<That is the source of their misery.>

 

 

“Yes, I call it nothing,” said Valentine. “We human beings are no different. It may not be a virus, but we still spend most of our time acting out our genetic destiny. Take the differences between males and females. Males naturally tend toward a broadcast strategy of reproduction. Since males make an almost infinite supply of sperm and it costs them nothing to deploy it–”

“Not nothing,” said Ender.

“Nothing,” said Valentine, “just to deploy it. Their most sensible reproductive strategy is to deposit it in every available female– and to make special efforts to deposit it in the healthiest females, the ones most likely to bring their offspring to adulthood. A male does best, reproductively, if he wanders and copulates as widely as possible.”

“I’ve done the wandering,” said Ender. “Somehow I missed out on the copulating.”

“I’m speaking of overall trends,” said Valentine. “There are always strange individuals who don’t follow the norms. The female strategy is just the opposite, Planter. Instead of millions and millions of sperm, they only have one egg a month, and each child represents an enormous investment of effort. So females need stability. They need to be sure there’ll always be plenty of food. We also spend large amounts of time relatively helpless, unable to find or gather food. Far from being wanderers, we females need to establish and stay. If we can’t get that, then our next best strategy is to mate with the strongest and healthiest possible males. But best of all is to get a strong healthy male who’ll stay and provide, instead of wandering and copulating at will.

“So there are two pressures on males. The one is to spread their seed, violently if necessary. The other is to be attractive to females by being stable providers– by suppressing and containing the need to wander and the tendency to use force. Likewise, there are two pressures on females. The one is to get the seed of the strongest, most virile males so their infants will have good genes, which would make the violent, forceful males attractive to them. The other is to get the protection of the most stable males, nonviolent males, so their infants will be protected and provided for and as many as possible will reach adulthood.

“Our whole history, all that I’ve ever found in all my wanderings as an itinerant historian before I finally unhooked myself from this reproductively unavailable brother of mine and had a family– it can all be interpreted as people blindly acting out those genetic strategies. We get pulled in those two directions.

“Our great civilizations are nothing more than social machines to create the ideal female setting, where a woman can count on stability; our legal and moral codes that try to abolish violence and promote permanence of ownership and enforce contracts– those represent the primary female strategy, the taming of the male.

“And the tribes of wandering barbarians outside the reach of civilization, those follow the mainly male strategy. Spread the seed. Within the tribe, the strongest, most dominant males take possession of the best females, either through formal polygamy or spur-of-the-moment copulations that the other males are powerless to resist. But those low-status males are kept in line because the leaders take them to war and let them rape and pillage their brains out when they win a victory. They act out sexual desirability by proving themselves in combat, and then kill all the rival males and copulate with their widowed females when they win. Hideous, monstrous behavior– but also a viable acting-out of the genetic strategy.”

More Awesomeness from Sudan: La (Dictatorship) لا للديكتاتورية

The Sudanese Thinker pointed me to this video that features Mao, who I posted about yesterday.

Wow. I am blown away.

I have never seen anything from Sudan, and then seeing this just totally dazed me. It is so much better than most of the stuff coming out of Jordan. Amazing.

Hats off.

And for more Sudanese goodness, here are two ads:

Related: Other Music from the Arab World
Jordanian Band Torabyeh: Ghorbah
Alaa Wardi: Gash3arteeni Lama 7akeiti…
JadaL – Bye Bye 3azizi جدل – باي باي عزيزي
Alaa Wardi’s Latest: Wenti Mastaneti
Akher Zapheer: The end of it is a melancholy tune – اخرتو لحن حزين
Risalet Salam – JEEL (Music Video) رسالة سلام – جيل
Bath Bayakha: Ahlan Ramadan
Good Jordanian Musician: Alaa Wardi
Tareq Abu Kwaik and Alfar3i
Toot Ard
El-Fer3i: Asafir Al Houla
“Madeline”
El-Morabba3
Wad Balad by Mao

Reggae from Sudan: Wad Balad by Mao

This is the first modern pop culture that I’ve personally come across from Sudan. The visual aspect of his music needs a LOT of work, but the music is better than A LOT of the more popular things from other Arab countries.

Nice!

Related: Other Music from the Arab World
Jordanian Band Torabyeh: Ghorbah
Alaa Wardi: Gash3arteeni Lama 7akeiti…
JadaL – Bye Bye 3azizi جدل – باي باي عزيزي
Alaa Wardi’s Latest: Wenti Mastaneti
Akher Zapheer: The end of it is a melancholy tune – اخرتو لحن حزين
Risalet Salam – JEEL (Music Video) رسالة سلام – جيل
Bath Bayakha: Ahlan Ramadan
Good Jordanian Musician: Alaa Wardi
Tareq Abu Kwaik and Alfar3i
Toot Ard
El-Fer3i: Asafir Al Houla
“Madeline”
El-Morabba3