Online Since 2004.

Month: November 2012

Pictures of People in Lebanon from the Middle of the Last Century

I’m not sure how I came across these photographs on Tate’s website, but I am totally captivated. I’ve seen lots of family pictures set in the Arab world from early- and mid- 20th century, but none of them had as much character as this set.

Although they’re mostly shot in studios, there’s an absurd sense of realness in them, in the same way that Napoleon Dynamite is more real most other highschool dramas. Their awkwardness, joy, and absurdity is a fantastic snippet into our past.

A simpler past.


Ahmad el Abed, and his friend Rajab Arna’out. Madani’s parents’ home, the studio, Saida, Lebanon, 1948-53. 
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Students and teachers of Aisha Om el Mo’minin School for Girls. Wadiah Lofty (right) and a school teacher colleague. School courtyard, Saida, Lebanon, 1948-49.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Abu Jalal Dimassy (centre) and two of his friends acting out a hold-up. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


A fisherman with his daughters. Saqqa family house, Saida, Lebanon, 1948-53. 
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Tarho and El Masri. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1958. “Films inspired people a lot. They came to perform kissing in front of a camera. In a conservative society such as Saida, people were willing to play the kiss between two people of the same sex, but very rarely between a man and a woman. I remember only one couple who came to the studio and kissed in front of the camera, and they were not married. The rest of them were people of the same sex. One of them plays the woman, while the other plays the man.”
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Amin Hijazi (left) and his cousin Gharamti. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1950s-1960s  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Akram ZaatariAnonymous. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, early 1960s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Anonymous. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1970s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Anonymous. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1970s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Syrian resistants. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, early 1970s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Ahmad el Abed’s sister. Madani’s parents’ home, the studio, Saida, Lebanon, 1948-53.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Najm (left) and Asmar (right). Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1950s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Palestinian with his guitar. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, early 1970s.
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Palestinian resistant. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1968-72.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Twins. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1950s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Syrian resistant. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, early 1970s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Syrian resistant. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, early 1970s.
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Anonymous. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1950s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Anonymous. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1960.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Two young men from Aadloun. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1966.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Abu Zahr and his wife. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1973-74.
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut


Bashasha (left) and a friend. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, late 1950s.  
©Akram Zaatari, courtesy Hashem el Madani and Arab Image Foundation, Beirut

Bikaffi Tghallo feat. Gotye – Jordanian Style

Haha, this is funny.

El Morabba3 Unplugged on Wednesday and Friday

Come sit back and “take it” with El Morabba3 المربّع this Wednesday (Canvas) or Friday (Caesar).

It is the perfect activity during these harsh times; come and enjoy a painful telling of the hopelessness of our lives, and the urgent need to face our complacency.

Like I mentioned a few days ago, I am in the El-Morabba3 zone these days. Their music describes what I’m feeling.

From my July review of El-Morabba3’s debut album:

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.

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.

Here is a video I recorded from their mesmerizing launch concert earlier this year.

Now for some joy with Salalem: Il Donya Ouda

And then they take my heart and sew it back together and plaster a huge smile on my face.

The song takes me back to the Dead Sea, to lying on a mattress in the middle of no where watching a meteor shower. The song takes me back to the streets of Cairo, to the place where the video was shot, to the smell of the old books lining its shelves. It takes me back to Zamalek’s rooftop bar overlooking the Nile. It takes me back to Amman in the summer, and the nonchalance and the ice cream and the sunsets and the streets and the noises and the music and the laughter. It takes me back to the very core of goodness.

I want to hug Salalem really tight and hide in them and in their music and tell them “Okay, the bubble shall win.”

Here’s a great song by Salalem, who are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

كل الحب. كلو.

Break my heart… over and over again

Hold my heart and squeeze it with your bare fingers. Watch the soft, bloody tissue of my beating organ slip through the spaces between your fingers. Squeeze it until it aches, until it feels as thin as a string. Twist it slowly until it starts breaking into many little pieces.

Society, you keep breaking my heart, over and over and over again. I wish I can sign a document and divorce you, my society. But I can’t.

Here’s a great song about honor crimes by Palestinian rappers DAM featuring Amal Mourqus:

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