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Heavy metal, Middle Eastern band of brothers!

Who knew heavy metal could promote peace?  But that’s just what’s happening as the Israeli band, Orphaned Land, and the Palestinian band, Khalas, have toured Britain.  They come from different countries.  They even write different kinds of lyrics. But they have shown how art has an ability to transcend lines that politics often can’t.

Who knew heavy metal could promote peace? But that’s just what’s happening as the Israeli band, Orphaned Land, and the Palestinian band, Khalas, have toured Britain. They come from different countries. They even write different kinds of lyrics. But they have shown how art has an ability to transcend lines that politics often can’t.

We’re constantly bombarded by implicit and explicit images of the relationship that Jews and Muslims supposedly have in today’s world. We are bombarded with the cliched reminder that we “used to get along” but recently have become enemies.

We’ve almost become used to it, accepted it as some sort of reality.

And, ironically, all these “interfaith” events can often cause us to feel even more disconnected. They just don’t seem as genuine as a true connection. It would seem the only people you would need to show such “unity” with is people you don’t get along with.

Which is why we need to look deeper. We need to look wider. We need to see that “unity” doesn’t mean press. It doesn’t mean “shows of support”. It means genuine connection and giving.

And the truth is that the world is scattered with that. The truth is that the press likes to say just one side of the story, likes to focus on conflict. But there is unity. There is connection.

All we need to do is look!

Listen as the tour leaders speak of their unity and message:

Sources: Sky News, PopChassid, metalinjection.net, The Guardian, alarabiya.net, cnn.com

March 26, 2015 Posted by | Arab lifestyle, Geography, Human Rights, Interfaith, Peace, Religious Reconciliation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rapping with Germans and Saudis in Jeddah

German and Saudi rappers mix it up

More than 60 aspiring Saudi rappers packed out the German consulate general's home in Jeddah to learn about rap and hip hop.

Some of the more than 60 aspiring Saudi rappers who packed out the German consulate general’s home in Jeddah to learn more about rap and hip hop.

German Consul General Rolf Theodor Schuster held a “mind-blowing” concert put on by German and Saudi rappers at his residence here in Jeddah on Wednesday evening, January 30. This live performance was given ample coverage in the local Saudi Gazette. I went out to dinner with these rappers and hip hop artists later in the evening.

A “Jeddah Hip Hop Jam,” organized by the German Consulate General in cooperation with Universal Legends Entertainment, was a cross-cultural event which featured well-known German singer and producer Max Herre and Saudi rapper “Qusai.” Qusai has made quite a name for himself, having co-hosted MTV Arabia’s Hip Hop Na music competition back in 2007. Since then, he has hosted the two latest editions of Arab TV’s Arabs Got Talent, and he has won the epithet of “Middle East’s Hip-Hop Ambassador.” Qusai and Herre were accompanied by talented Jeddah hip hop crews “J-FAM” and “Run Junction.”

The Artists channeled a mixture of emotions through their music ranging from concern for the latest social developments in the region to a genuine respect for the traditional Arabic and Muslim culture.

The Saudi Gazette gave an excellent review of the the evening’s music, stating, “The concert showed a rare acknowledgement of Saudi artists’ level of maturity and their ability to portray their exact socio-cultural context without suggesting stereotypical hip-hop rhymes as well as allowing deeper understanding of the German hip-hop tradition which is somewhat influenced by the Middle East.”

Three-day workshop for aspiring Saudi rappers

Arabs Got Talent TV host  and rapper artist  Qusai Kheder.

Arabs Got Talent TV host and rapper artist Qusai Kheder.

The live performances were followed by a three-day workshop involving 60 young local aspiring rappers and producers. The workshop enabled the upcoming Saudi musicians a chance to personally meet and share experiences with Qusai, Herre and J-FAM, who recorded a song together, premiering their collaborative work at the event.

The concert was opened by the energetic and Saudi-based acts Run Junction and J-FAM. Both crews paid a musical tribute to Jeddah, creating a pleasant atmosphere, followed by German rapper Herre, who enthusiastically shared information about his 20 years of experience in the music industry.

Herre was greeted enthusiastically by the audience. Responding to his local devotees, he encouraged them to look around them for inspiration. He said, “I find inspiration in personal experiences and the society that surrounds me. The social consciousness demonstrated in these years by young Arab citizens who took action to defend their rights was a great stimulus for my own creativity.”

Herre said he was impressed by the local Saudi talent and encouraged the rappers to come out with their own original stories.

Life’s experiences are their inspiration

Herre was interviewed by The Saudi Gazette, and there he spoke about inspiration that comes from hard times and good times. He said Saudi rap must be about Saudi experiences. “I always tell young talents to talk about their lives and experiences exploiting the lyrical potentialities of their native language instead of imitating American rappers.”

Herre also said networking with other artists was crucial.  “Before competing, it’s important to be united through a common networking platform. It’s fundamental to go on the internet, search for other rap crews from the region, country or town and exploit any networking occasion.”

Qusai entertained the enthusiastic Jeddah crowd with some of his popular hits in both English and Arabic.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Qusai explained the concept behind his latest album, “I believe the millennium is the true change that started in 2011 when Arabs woke up and started to express themselves. And change is certain; it happened, it’s happening, and it will happen. It’s inevitable.”

A big “Hats off!” to the German consulate for their support of these artists!

Here’s one of Qusai’s songs from his album Yalla:

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A day and a night in the desert with Bedouin friends

Sam (in white thawb), pictured here with (l-r) Majed Olayan, Majed Bandar and Fahad Olayan, is given expert Bedouin instruction in hunting desert quail with an heirloom 12-gauge, single-shot shotgun!

Sam (in white thobe), pictured here with (l-r) Majed Olayan, Majed Bandar and Fahad Olayan, is given expert Bedouin instruction in hunting desert quail with an heirloom 12-gauge, single-shot shotgun!

Back in the desert, hunting for quail

Abdullah Al Ghamdi picked me up yesterday afternoon, and we headed for a rendezvous with my Bedouin friends near the Red Sea coast town of Radigh–about 150 miles north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There we met up with the Olayan brothers Majed and Fahad and their friend Majed Bandar. Abdullah and I jumped into Fahad’s Toyota 4×4 Cruiser, and we drove out over and around the dunes into the Arabian desert.

It led to an afternoon hunting desert quail and remembering how God provided manna and quail to the Children of Israel as they grumbled their way through the Sinai wilderness for some 40 years. Alas, having shot no quail, we set our sights on a few plastic bottles for target practice, and then headed into a nearby town to purchase some fresh red sea fish from a local market. Then we enjoyed an evening of Bedouin music, fried fish, rice and fresh frothy camel milk from a camel that was standing a few steps away!

The majority of Bedouins in the past have traditionally lived a nomadic lifestyle, spreading from the Persian Gulf all the way across northern Africa to the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa, and from the borders of Turkey as far south as Yemen.

The word “bedouin” comes from the Arab word bedou, meaning “desert dweller.” Estimates today indicate nomadic Bedouins constitute about one-tenth of the population of the Middle East.

In my many meetings with Bedouins it has become all too apparent, that Bedouins regard themselves as the “true Arabs” and the “heirs of glory.” The family I visited yesterday were exultant when they showed me some of their 60 incredible camels and more than 1,000 very well shepherded goats.

I’m very grateful to my Bedouin friends for hosting me for one of the most incredible days of my life.

Bedouin families still enjoy desert life, herding goats and camels is often a very profitable livelihood.

Bedouin families still enjoy desert life. Herding goats and camels is often a very profitable livelihood.

Life in the desert

Bedouin life is generally pastoral-desert; herding camels, sheep, goats and occasionally, when the climate is not so harsh, cattle. Through the centuries they have migrated seasonally, depending on grazing conditions. In winter, when there is some rain, they migrate deeper into the desert. In the hot, dry summer time, they camp around secure water sources. Bedouins define themselves as members of tribes and families. People are divided into social classes, depending on ancestry and profession. Passing from one class to another is relatively feasible, but marriage between a man and a woman of different meets with difficulty. 

Traditionally, the Bedouin’s home, the tent, is divided into three sections by curtains: the men’s section, the family section and the kitchen. In the men’s area, guests are received around the hearth where the host prepares coffee over the fire. This is the center of Bedouin social life. Tea is served as a welcome drink; coffee is usually prepared after the meal and is the last drink before the guest leaves. The serving of food and drink represents the generous hospitality of the host. The men pass the evening trading news and discussing their animals. Separated by a curtain, the women gather in the family area and kitchen along with their small children to bake bread and prepare the main meal. A dinner of rice and chunks of mutton or lamb are usually then served to the gathered guests.

Women occupy a very important position in Bedouin society. Not only do they raise the children, they also share in herding the sheep, milking the animals, cooking, spinning yarn and making family clothes. Some even weave the heavy cloth that constitutes the tent.

The O... brothers sing typical Bedouin tunes using -------- instruments.

The Olayan brothers sing typical Bedouin tunes tapping out the beats on percussion instruments.

Around our fire last evening, the Olayan brothers recited ancient Bedouin poetry and sang, accompanied by traditional percussion drums and cymbals  Poetry has been a central cultural form of expression for the Bedouins since ancient times. In the early centuries of Islamic history, I’m told Bedouin poetry represented the ideal standard for other literary achievements, as well as for the refinement of the Arabic language.

To mark the end of the evening, Ali, our host, burned incense in a mabkhara (incense burner) passing it to each of his guests to inhale and fan their clothes.

The traditional Bedouin foods are fresh camel or goat milk and meat. Bedouins usually sell and barter their animals and meat in exchange for fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices  from other tribes or village markets.

Bedouin society has a strict code of honor which dictates proper behavior for all members, including children. Because of the demanding nature of the Bedouin lifestyle, children are expected to assume a considerable amount of responsibility in order to help their families survive. Although modernization has changed the Bedouin lifestyle somewhat, emphasis is placed on teaching children to carry on traditional ways of life. While the advancement of modern technology is not considered terribly important to children’s education, as we sat around the fire last evening, I did notice two of the younger boys were captivated by video games they were playing on their dad’s smart phone.

Faith among the Bedouins

Islam’s prophet Mohammed was born and raised in the Bedouin tribe of the Quraish during the 7th Century. The Qur’an, believed to be first revealed to Mohammed by the Archangel Gabriel, was soon after written and compiled in the Arabic language. The first converts to Islam came from the Bedouin tribes living in and around Mecca. Therefore, Islam is embedded and deeply rooted in Bedouin culture.

Although there are pockets of Christians in Middle East Bedouin tribes, especially in Palestine, by and large the word Bedouin is synonymous with being a follower of Islam or a “submitter” to God. Prayer is an integral part of Bedouin life. As there are no formal mosques in the desert, they pray where they are, performing the ritual washing, or with sand where water is not readily available. There they humbly bow their faces to the earth, facing Mecca, five times a day. 

Challenges of modern society

In modern Arab states and Israel, Bedouins are faced with many challenges in their lifestyle, as their traditional Islamic, tribal culture has begun to mix with western practices. Men are more likely to adjust and interact with the modern cultures, but in many places women are still bound by honor and tradition to mostly stay within the family dwelling. They have in the past lacked opportunity for education and advancement, but in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and other more advanced nations, times are changing.

As well, governments have a strong tendency to regulate Nomadic lifestyles since it is only then that taxation works. Providing services for the people also works best in an urban setting. Today, the Arab world has one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world.

As traditional Bedouin lifestyle become less and less attractive, in Saudi Arabia, especially on the steppes  many of these desert tribes live on, as tradition has a strong hold. But today, many Bedouins are now bowing to increasing pressure, opting to settle in urban areas. It was at a South Jeddah camel market last June that I met the Olayan brothers.

Today, it is not uncommon to see a young Bedouin family building a house and living in it while their parents pitch their tent in the rear garden, where they will live very happily until the end of their days.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to enjoy this short video of Jordanian Bedouin musicians!

Sources: The Olayan brothers, Wikipedia, YouTube, InterNations, Facts & Details

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment