Egyptian Revolution Songs:
Songwriter/Performer Ramy Essam Sings: ‘Bread, Freedom, Social Justice’; Rappers Protest the ‘Lies of the Military’ against Backdrop of Graphic Images of Security Forces’ Brutality in crushing the Egyptian revolution.
Egyptian Revolution Songs:
Songwriter/Performer Ramy Essam Sings: ‘Bread, Freedom, Social Justice’; Rappers Protest the ‘Lies of the Military’ against Backdrop of Graphic Images of Security Forces’ Brutality in crushing the Egyptian revolution.
Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins discuss science and morality.
At The Sheldonian Theatre, University of Oxford.
“Give me an example of an artistic form of expression?” asked our Arabic language teacher, who used to brag about being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, while examining the seemingly clueless eyes of my classmates. I enthusiastically raised my hand, stood up … and unhesitantly replied “Ballet”.
- “Ballet you said?” asked the teacher
- “Yes sir” I confirmed
- Oh, surely you don’t mean those women dancing half naked on the stage.
- Women and men sir, and they aren’t naked.
- Come on now, we all should know better than to appreciate this repulsive display of decadence in the name of art.
- But it is beautiful sir, I mean …
- Stop it now kid. Ballet is no art and there is absolutely nothing beautiful about it …Period. Do you understand? … Class dismissed.
The class was over and so was the authoritarian discussion but throughout the long years that followed never have I forgotten this psychological trauma.
The only good that came out of this class is that I realized we shouldn’t believe everything we are taught in school.
Another good thing is that I kept loving ballet as one of the finest and most abstract form of artistic expression.
You don’t have to speak Russian to appreciate the Bolshoi Ballet and indeed you’re in no need for words when you watch the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.
Words are the enemy in Wim Wenders’s mysterious, submersive and captivating 3D tribute to German dance pioneer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009 just as Wenders, the director of ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ and ‘Wings of Desire’, was beginning to make this film.
PINA is a feature-length dance film in 3D with the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, featuring the unique and inspiring art of the great German choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in the summer of 2009.
PINA is directed by Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club, Wings of Desire), who was a long-standing friend of Pina’s.
Wenders takes the audience on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension: straight onto the stage with the legendary ensemble and follows the dancers out of the theatre into the city and the surrounding areas of Wuppertal – the place, which for 35 years was the home of Pina Bausch’s creativity.
Born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770, Ludwig Van Beethoven burst on to the world’s musical stage with brilliance, flare, and charisma. He dazzled audiences and royalty, playing the piano with unmatched virtuosity. Even his early compositions demonstrated that he was a master.
But his world began to change when he realized that he gradually was losing his hearing. As he expressed in a letter written on June 1, 1802, he often felt frustration and desperation.
The depth of his emotions was expressed candidly in a “testament” written in Heiligenstadt, on October 6th, 1802. In this revealing document, discovered only after his death, he wrote, “Although born with a fiery and lively temperament . . . I soon had to cut myself off and live in solitude.
In the years to come, Beethoven more often he became characterized by courageous resolution to accept the challenge of fate. He managed to concentrate even more deeply on his compositions.” The results were works that advanced to new heights, such as his third Symphony, the Eroica symphony, and his philosophical string quartets.
Continuing to seek a solution for his hearing loss, he turned to inventor Johann Maelzel, who created an “ear trumpet,” which had marginal success. But it became more difficult for him to play in public, or conduct lessons.
Forced to retreat into this internal world of solitude, he was able to dive deeper into an internal world no one had probed before. As pianist Andras Schiff recently commented, “Beethoven, after the deterioration of his hearing, turned an obstacle into a virtue.” He “heard” music in new ways, and his music continued to change and deepen. Perhaps the pinnacle of this process was his Ninth Symphony.
As early as 1792, he had been thinking about setting to music the words in Frederick Schiller’s poem, “Ode to Joy.” Around 1817 began developing them further, thinking about creating a new symphony.
His focus became more intense around 1822, and he completed the symphony during the Autumn of 1823. The symphony’s most striking innovation is its use of chorus and solo voices in the finale. This was new, radical thinking.
The first performance of this Symphony took place in Vienna on May 7, 1824. Some felt that it was a failure. Some said he had “gone mad.” One reviewer said that the piece “lost its way.” Some felt it was too long. One writer complained that it was boring. But, overall, this legendary concert was a triumph. At the conclusion of the final movement, the crowd erupted in applause. But Beethoven heard nothing and one of the singers turned him around to see the overwhelming response.
Beethoven had done more than write a symphony. He changed the way people thought about music, about themselves … about art.
After the Ninth, no one could approach music the same.
We cannot image music today aside from his breakthroughs. His willingness to probe deep emotions, to create new forms and to challenge conventions.
Here we see a man who had risen above his nightmares. Who had adapted to the loss of his hearing. Who had worked through his misery. Who emerged in triumph. Who called on all peoples to celebrate in a spirit of joy and exaltation, with music of pure exhilaration.
Clearly, when we listen to his music we are somehow summoned before the creation of a heroic musical giant.
In many ways, it is ironic that Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” melody from the Ninth Symphony has become the music for the hymn “Joyful, Joyful.” But perhaps his most enduring spiritual legacy is of a man who demonstrated the silent and yet heroic struggle with the adversities in life.
Sources: John E. Roos, BBC & Ludwig Van Beethoven’s website
with joy I hasten towards death – if it comes before I shall have had an opportunity to show all my artistic capacities it will still come too early for me despite my hard fate and I shall probably wish it had come later – but even then I am satisfied, will it not free me from my state of endless suffering? Come when thou will I shall meet thee bravely. – Farewell and do not wholly forget me when I am dead, I deserve this of you in having often in life thought of you how to make you happy, be so –
October 6,1802 Ludwig Van Beethowen
In the tomb of Ay, the chief minister of Akhenaten (and later to become king after Tutankhamun’s death, p. 136), occurs the longest and best rendition of a composition known as the ‘Hymn to the Aten’, said to have been written by Akhenaten himself. Quite moving in itself as a piece of poetry, its similarity to, and possible source of the concept in, Psalm 104 has long been noted.
Akhenaten was not a usual character. He was an intellectual and philosophical revolutionary who had the power and wealth to indulge his ideas. He tried to change the Egyptian people to a concept of godhead which was both monotheistic and abstract.
He worshiped the sun (Aten) as the one true god and it is possible that the Hebrew prophets’ concept of a universal God was copied in part from this cult. The hymn gives us a glimpse of the artistic renaissance characteristic of the Amarna period.
The hymn suggests that Akhenaten considered Aten (the disk, orb, sphere, globe of the sun) as the only god, and creator of the universe, particularly in the verses translated as:
How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
They are hidden from the face (of man).
O sole god, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,
Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,
And what is on high, flying with its wings.
The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,
Thou settest every man in his place,
Thou suppliest their necessities:
Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned.
Their tongues are separate in speech,
And their natures as well;
Their skins are distinguished,
As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.
Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,
Thou bringest forth as thou desirest
To maintain the people (of Egypt)
According as thou madest them for thyself,
The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,
The lord of every land, rising for them,
The Aton of the day, great of majesty.
Composed by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935);
Performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir;
Conducted by Paul Hillier;
Julie Taboh | Washington, D.C
The first film about Egypt’s revolution is one of eleven movies from the Arab world captivating audiences at the Arabian Sights festival.
Now in its 16th year, the event is presented annually by the Washington DC International Film Festival.
This year’s spotlight is on Egyptian cinema. The five featured films from Egypt cut across a variety of genres and subjects, including the American premiere of “18 Days,” about the January revolution.
Each short offers a unique perspective on the historic events that unfolded during the 18 days that changed the course of Egypt’s history.
Shirin Ghareeb, the festival’s director and programmer, says the 10 stories are all different from one another, reflecting the director’s unique view of the Egyptian revolution.
“It’s a mixture of narrative and fact and at the same time reflecting what was going on in the streets on those very days.”
Another highlight at the festival was “Microphone,” an award-winning docudrama offering a close look at the underground art and music scene in Alexandria, Egypt, just before the revolution.
Rock, hip hop and fusion are among the music genres portrayed in the film.
For the first time, Ghareeb says, young artists had a voice. “This is a part of the population that you never read about in newspapers, they’re never on the radio, they’re never interviewed on TV…you never hear their voice.”
However, “Microphone,” which was made before the revolution, “gave them this outlet. But it was representative of a much wider group of young people that really represent the revolution,” she says.
In retrospect, according to lead actor and co-producer Khaled Abol Naga, the film was a precursor to the revolution. But that wasn’t evident when the film was being made.
“When we made the movie, we had no idea. We didn’t really call for a revolution,” says Abol Naga. “We didn’t even think there would be a revolution. The movie is called “Microphone” because it’s giving a microphone to be heard. We’re trying to get those voices out. It’s an underground scene before the revolution.”
A new age
Abol Naga was active in the uprising which saw the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He says what was once underground is now above ground. And what was above ground, the regime, is now under.
“The power of the people is finally, is becoming equal or maybe even stronger than the people in power. Any group of people feeling they are discriminated against, they don’t have rights, now they have the means, in this new age we’re just entering, to actually have enough power to topple or challenge the people in power…and that’s changing all over the world,” he says.
Abol Naga acknowledges there are obstacles to overcome, especially Egypt’s military.
“Yes, we have now a horrible, horrible military dictatorship. Two days ago, they actually detained bloggers, because? You can’t imagine the audacity of the crime. They criticized the military. That’s a crime now.”
But Abol Naga and festival director Ghareeb are optimistic that freedom will ultimately prevail.
“The revolution has created a sense of freedom, and this freedom is going to be illustrated in the creativity that’s going to come out in the films and I think the impact is going to be huge,” Ghareeb says.
“You will never accuse me of meekness hereafter, Father, for I am swept by a sacred desire, strong as the northern winds, a desire to know the truth and record it, as you did in the prime of your youth,” declares Meriamun, the protagonist of Nobel Prize-winning Naguib Mahfouz’s novel Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth.
Meriamun is a man on a quest: he wishes to understand the mysterious circumstances of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s rule in the days of his father in the eleventh century, B.C.(2) Akhenaten is known to Meriamun as “the heretic,” the crazed Pharaoh who brought destruction to his kingdom by declaring monotheism. To understand the life and rule of the infamous Akhenaten, Meriamun travels throughout Egypt with a letter of introduction from his father and interviews fourteen people closely associated with Akhenaten, including a high priest, relatives, friends, harem member, advisers, and the former queen herself, Nefertiti.
Reminiscent of Wilkie Collins’ format in his classic The Moonstone, the case to determine Pharaoh Akhenaten as sage or madman is intricate and even contradictory at times. Mahfouz helps readers negotiate the evidence through his treatment of religion, his integration of Egyptian cultural-historical norms, and his challenge against a modern tendency to believe every dilemma can be answered with a single value judgment.
Religion is absolutely a major theme of Akhenaten. Meriamun’s interviews are often reduced to characterizations of Akhenaten as a pious martyr or as a weak madman unworthy of the throne.
Religion itself is treated respectfully, but the real (and intrinsic) question is whose religion is right? Though many criticize Akhenaten harshly for his failures as a Pharaoh, something any honor culture understands, Mahfouz also integrates terminology similar to that of modern Abrahamic religions. Ancient Egypt’s unusual monotheistic King Akhenaten, the “first priest of the One and Only God” (as Meri-Ra, a devout priest of Akhenaten’s God says) (106), is particularly ridiculed for his closure of the temples; Akhenaten declares, “The priests are swindlers” and the “temples are brothels, and there is nothing they hold sacred but their carnal desires” (107). The phrase “One and Only God” seems to have a high correlation with Egypt’s predominant religion—Islam—today, as it exemplifies the fundamental concept of Tawhid (the oneness of God) as based on the one hundred and twelfth Surah of the Quran, Surah al-Ikhlas: “He is Allah, [the] One”(Hilali and Khan). Deuteronomy 4:35 also confirms monotheism: “Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him” (ESV).
With his clear monotheistic motifs, Mahfouz creates an impasse. He is no longer speaking just of an obscure Pharaoh and a decision to change his country’s religion; he is raising the more universal question of the acceptability of religious compulsion. One can believe the accounts of so many people who paint Akhenaten as a “heretic” (11, 79, 131, 133) and who emphasize his “frail” constitution (133), his “repulsive appearance” (11), his “feminine nature” (11),and his “ugliness” (80). One can believe that Akhenaten was indeed a “mouse that fancied himself a lion” (80) (read: “a fool”); in this case, the minister of Akhenaten’s chamber, Nakht, is right in his sad lamentation, “This is a story of innocence, of deception, and infinite grief” (131).
But Nakht also believed Akhenaten a man “noble, truthful, and compassionate” (93). Like Akhenaten’s personal physician, Bento, he believed that the Pharaoh was more than met the eye . . . “no gentle spring breeze, but a winter storm” (137). Bento remembers Akhenaten’s last words to him before his passing: “They think my God and I are defeated. But he never betrays not does he accept defeat” (142). These are the last words of the book, and they reveal something about the way people treat religion today.
Meriamun’s quest for truth is an approach with which many can identify. Every man negotiates his idea of truth in one way or the other; if he does not “choose” his religion, he at least makes decisions informed by a worldview that he accepts. Before beginning his quest, Meriamun quotes Qaqimna when he says,“’Pass no judgment upon a matter until you have heard all testimonies’” (3).
It is interesting that Meriamun searches for truth, not religion. While in the end he is uncertain if he has found the truth, he has discovered more religion. The book ends with only two real conclusions—Meriamun is certain of his “growing fondness for the hymns of the One God, and [his] profound love for the beautiful Nefertiti” (172)1. Perhaps the legacy of Akhenaten, that changer of religion yet “Dweller in Truth” (with a capital “T”), lies in that all humans ought to search for the truth; it may be that then they will discover religion quite unexpectedly. Akhenaten may be soft, but perhaps this is precisely what distinguishes him from his ancestors. The Pharaoh of the Biblical Exodus account hardened his heart again and again, exchanging the truth of God’s miracles in exchange for the lies of his magicians (Exodus 7:222, Romans 1:253). For anyone who has found himself following tradition before truth, Meriamun and Akhenaten make striking, if difficult to judge, characters.
Beyond common human experience, Akhenaten provides glimpses into a more specific cultural-historical context. Mafouz’s choice of setting seems calculated; it is at once identifiable with the Egyptian people, yet so far removed from daily experience that it provides the same veiled pith of a critical joke. Someone familiar with Cairenes might recognize archetypal characteristics of an honor culture. Indeed, Pharaoh Akhenaten’s choices seem criticized the most because they are shameful to his people. For instance, the high priest ruefully recalls the young Pharaoh: “He was rather dark, with dreamy eyes and a thin, frail figure, noticeably feminine. His features were grotesque and disturbing. He was a despicable creature, unworthy of the throne, so weak he could not challenge an insect, let alone the Master Deity. I was disgusted but said nothing” (18).
Egypt is a visual culture, and appearances, particularly in public, are emphasized. There are certain conventions people must follow, even if it is as simple as the statuary domestic cup of tea. No wonder Mubarak remains ever-young, or that people keep silent until the time that they can call out dishonor without endangering their own reputations. It happens with shopkeepers. It happens with government. And it happens with Akhenaten.
The beauty of literature, and particularly Mafouz’s novel, is that people and ideas have some universal qualities. The only ambiguity for the casual reader might be the events themselves, as they are rooted in the politics of the period. Nevertheless, Mafouz makes his book highly accessible and imprints it with a particularly Egyptian ethos. The point hardly seems to be the events themselves, since they are often told out of sequence and from many different perspectives; more important is the search for truth and the characters who believe they know it. The players only become more difficult to judge, however, when they are more than figures on a search for truth—they are reflections in a modern mirror.
The universal qualities of religion and culture in Akhenaten also extend to values. Although cultural values can be relative (precisely because they are uniquely cultural), value judgments made by individuals in the novel are similar to the values many hold today. For instance, every interviewee volunteers his own (often differing) opinion of Akhenaten. As Ay, the sage and former counselor of Akhenaten says, “[Life] is a sky laden with clouds of contradictions” (27). Meriamun’s search reveals shared value systems—systems that value strength, religion, and loyalty.
Some condemn Akhenaten as weak; others recognize a quiet strength. Some see Akhenaten’s move to monotheism as religious suicide; others see it as the beautiful and right religion. Some see Akhenaten a betrayer of the people’s trust, an Oedipal adulterer, and his wife Nefertiti conniving, unloving, and disloyal (99); others see Akhenaten as a friend despite differences, a steadfast husband who neglected his entire harem (72) for Nefertiti, “beauty and brilliance combined,” who believes in his cause and does everything she can to stand by her husband (124). Throughout these conflicts, Mahfouz weaves his tale such that readers can empathize with any one of the characters because their actions may be dictated by experiences to which readers would respond no differently. The plot, as the cliché goes, thickens.
If Akhenaten lived so basely, then those who stuck by him because it was their duty are laudable for their sacrifice in service of the system; those who abandoned him entirely did what they thought was best for the kingdom.
For instance, the most captivating woman of Akhenaten’s inherited harem, Tadukhipa, is revolted by his weakness and decision to neglect the concubines, for harem women lived “an unbearable and utterly degrading life that bred further perversity,” and “when it became known that the idiot king wanted to fight sin with love instead of punishment” the women turned to each other and to the palace guards (74).
So who is right, the man Akhenaten who says he knows who God is, or the gregarious, hardened woman Tadukhipa, disgusted with the moral decline resulting from the Pharaoh’s rule? Few chose the former, and those who did live in the shadows of others’ doubt for the remainder of their lives.
The enigmatic Nefertiti says that she left her husband’s side only when she thought it would save his life; she thought that if she left, “he might falter and take the advice of his men” (170). Akhenaten did not falter. Those who followed Akhenaten to the end seemed to believe in conscience, they believed in God before and despite of His weak messenger (142). The people of Akhenaten could be anyone, for while history changes, moral dilemmas do not.
Meriamun’s interview with the high priest ends with a long silence. Finally, the priest concludes, “We are still healing. We need time and serious effort. Our loss, inside and outside the empire was beyond estimate. [. . .] That is the true story. Record it faithfully. Do carry my sincere greetings to your dear father (25). Mahfouz imitates life when he does not give readers all the answers; he simply provides the records necessary for the gnawing discomfort of uncertainty.
Sure, arguments can be made to favor the dichotomy. Akhenaten was a weakling because he said thus! Akhenaten was a warrior because he did thus! But then, too, maybe he was both weakling and warrior. Or neither at all. As Iranian author Azar Nafisi notes in Reading Lolita in Tehran, “A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil” (131). Through Mahfouz’s craft, suddenly Akhenaten has little to do with the dilemma at all, for the conflict lies in the hearts of the people interviewed and splashed undecidedly in the minds of the readers.
Thanks to Shadows & Dust website
No, I don’t think I’m surprised, may be dismayed or worried but absolutely not surprised by the rise of hard-line Islamists in the wake of the falling dominos’ syndrome in the Arab countries, or what is better known as the Arab spring.
Revolution is a wonderful and intriguing word, what is wonderful about it, is the illusionary heralding of a new dawn with a whole set of principles by which all men everywhere can declare their own freedom. But that is something easier said than done.
It is one thing to dream about revolution but it’s a totally different situation to wake up one day to find yourself living through one.
Revolution is not about toppling the dictator and handing the power over to some gallant revolutionaries who believe in liberty, justice and common good, rather it is a transient phase of anarchy during which the culture and principles of a rising power will rule.
And in the case of the Arab Muslim countries, where the investment in human capitol-proper education, training and employment- has been almost non-existent the mob culture will most likely to rule in the aftermath.
Nothing happens overnight, what we are witnessing now of the rise of hard-line Islamists is the result of years and decades of rampant corruption that abolished the emergence of a second line of political cadres and leadership, crippled the development of a free civil society, hindered creativity and favored indoctrination over critical thinking and that stifled all sorts of dissent and in doing so allowed the teachings of the mosque to dominate and thrive.
Most Muslims- specially the fundamentalists- share the supremacist conviction that Islam is not just a religion but also a manifesto for a state and a way of life as it is the last and perfect message delivered to mankind from heaven. In other words, that simply means no one can possibly argue differently from the Quran Holy Scriptures or deviate from the teachings and instructions of the prophet Mohamed as compiled in his sacred legacy of quotes or what is known in Arabic as “Hadith”.
The mosque/state relation is one of Islam’s prominent features and chronic dilemmas at the same time. And while Christianity managed to separate the church from the state Islam still awaits its reform movement.
The scripture leaves not much room for innovation or multiplicity and while that could be appreciated in terms of the religious teachings it is glaringly incompatible with the modern man ever-changing worldly affairs.
I can understand the Islamic scripture stipulating that Muslims should pray five times per day (one of which is at dawn break) but I can’t understand it outlawing the right of free expression and I certainly don’t appreciate it when the price one has to pay for freely expressing his opinion in a so-called conservative Muslim society would simply be his life.
AFP – Fri, Oct 14, 2011
Tunisian extremists fire-bombed the home of a TV station chief Friday, hours after militants protesting its broadcast of a film they say violated Islamic values clashed with police in the streets of Tunis.
About a hundred men, some of whom threw Molotov cocktails, lay siege to the home of Nessma private television chief Nabil Karoui late Friday, the station reported in its evening news bulletin.
Karoui’s family had only just escaped, the news presenter said as Nessma denounced the attack.
Sofiane Ben Hmida, one of Nessma’s star reporters, told AFP the station chief was not at home when the attack on his house took place around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT). But his wife and children were.
About 20 of the protesters were able to get inside.
“The family managed to get out the back and are safe. The attackers wrecked the house and set it on fire,” he added.
A neighbour, who had alerted police, said the aggressors arrived in taxis, armed with knives and Molotov cocktails.
According to a Nessma source “only a housemaid was present inside. She was attacked and hospitalised.”
Karoui himself said by telephone that he was shocked and devastated by the attack.
“I fear for my family. I am scared they (the attackers) will come back,” he said.
Interior ministry spokesman Hichem Meddeb said around a hundred people turned up outside the house, forced their way inside, broken the windows and torn out two gas pipes. Five people were arrested, he added.
Late Friday, 50 police officers were deployed at Karoui’s house, along with Nessma security staff.
This was the most serious incident yet in an escalating series of protests against the station’s broadcast of “Persepolis” on October 7.
The globally acclaimed animated film on Iran’s 1979 revolution offended many Muslims because it depicts an image of God as an old, bearded man. All depictions of God are forbidden by Islam.
“Persepolis” is a poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution, a story that bears an obviously similar parallel to the undergoing revolutions ripping through the Arabic countries and a one that is definitely worth watching.
The film won the jury prize at Cannes film festival 2007 and was nominated for the academy award for the best animation feature in the following year but was denounced and deemed blasphemous on his first screening in an Arabic country during the aftermath of the Arab spring currently beening hijacked by hard-line Islamists.
The man who authorized its screening in Tunisia almost got killed by a mob of angry Islamists who never saw the film in the first place but acted promptly and savagely according to a fatwa as worshippers poured out of al-Fatah mosque in downtown Tunis in the Friday afternoon and began protesting after the imam preached against “Persepolis,” calling it a “serious attack on the religious beliefs of Muslims.”
Even if they had watched it, they would never have discerned the profound message conveyed in this beautiful film, for those who grew up with such dangerous indoctrination- a theme the film draws upon- and who are not able to differentiate the literal from the figurative language; this compelling animation would prove to be too intricate for their dogmatic minds to decipher.
A report in UK daily The Guardian stated that the London Philharmonic Orchestra has suspended four of its musicians for nine months for adopting its name when they called for the cancellation of an Israeli orchestra’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
According to the Guardian, the orchestra suspended cellist Sue Sutherley, as well as violinists Tom Eisner, Nancy Elan and Sarah Streatfeild until June 2012, after they signed a letter as members of the LPO condemning the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as an instrument of Israeli propaganda.
The musicians’ statement claimed that “denials of human rights and violations of international law are hidden behind a cultural smokescreen. The IPO is perhaps Israel’s prime asset in this campaign”, and that Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians “fits the UN definition of apartheid.”
The Guardian’s report states that both Orchestra chief executive Tim Walker, as well as chairman Martin Hohmann released a statement regarding the suspensions, which were meant to send a “strong and clear message that their actions will not be tolerated … the orchestra would never restrict the right of its players to express themselves freely, however such expression has to be independent of the LPO itself.”
The statement also said that the Orchestra has no desire to “end the careers” of the musicians, but that “for the LPO, music and politics to not mix.””
The move comes after protestors interrupted a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on September 1 during an annual BBC Proms concert series.
Several demonstrators in the venue shouted as Zubin Mehta stood to conduct Bruch’s Violin Concerto, while other audience members booed in response to the protest.
Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which organised protests against the concert, said: “Would the London Philharmonic Orchestra have punished musicians speaking out against apartheid South Africa, when a similar call for boycott was supported by artists, performers and sports people internationally?
“It is staggeringly bad judgment for the LPO to be seen to be attacking musicians who are simply voicing support for human rights and defending the civil right to call for a boycott of institutions which lend strategic support to Israel’s occupation.
“If the LPO really wishes not to appear to be taking sides, and supporting an occupying nation against an occupied people, it must end the ridiculous suspension of these four musicians immediately.”
From “The Spell of Egypt” – 1911
Why do you come to Egypt? Do you come to gain a dream, or to regain lost dreams of old; to gild your life with the drowsy gold of romance, to lose a creeping sorrow, to forget that too many of your hours are sullen, grey, bereft? What do you wish of Egypt?
The Sphinx will not ask you, will not care. The Pyramids, lifting their unnumbered stones to the clear and wonderful skies, have held, still hold, their secrets; but they do not seek for yours.
The terrific temples, the hot, mysterious tombs, odorous of the dead desires of men, crouching in and under the immeasurable sands, will muck you with their brooding silence, with their dim and sombre repose.
The brown children of the Nile, the toilers who sing their antique songs by the shadoof and the sakieh, the dragomans, the smiling goblin merchants, the Bedouins who lead your camel into the pale recesses of the dunes–these will not trouble themselves about your deep desires, your perhaps yearning hunger of the heart and the imagination.
Yet Egypt is not unresponsive.
I came back to her with dread, after fourteen years of absence—years filled for me with the rumors of her changes. And on the very day of my arrival she calmly reassured me. She told me in her supremely magical way that all was well with her.
She taught me once more a lesson I had not quite forgotten, but that I was glad to learn again–the lesson that Egypt owes her most subtle, most inner beauty to Kheper, although she owes her marvels to men; that when he created the sun which shines upon her, he gave her the lustre of her life, and that those who come to her must be sun-worshippers if they would truly and intimately understand the treasure or romance that lies heaped within her bosom.
Thoth, says the old legend, travelled in the Boat of the Sun. If you would love Egypt rightly, you, too, must be a traveler in that bark.
You must not fear to steep yourself in the mystery of gold, in the mystery of heat, in the mystery of silence that seems softly showered out of the sun. The sacred white lotus must be your emblem, and Horus, the hawk-headed, merged in Ra, your special deity.
Scarcely had I set foot once more in Egypt before Thoth lifted me into the Boat of the sun and soothed my fears to sleep.
I arrived in Cairo. I saw new and vast hotels; I saw crowded streets; brilliant shops; English officials driving importantly in victorias, surely to pay dreadful calls of ceremony; women in gigantic hats, with
Niagaras of veil, waving white gloves as they talked of–I guess—the latest Cairene scandal.
I perceived on the right hand and on the left waiters created in Switzerland, hall porters made in Germany, Levantine touts, determined Jews holding false antiquities in their lean fingers, an English Baptist minister, in a white helmet, drinking chocolate on a terrace, with a guide-book in one fist, a ticket to visit monuments in the other.
I heard Scottish soldiers playing, “I’ll be in Scotland before ye!” and something within me, a lurking hope, I suppose, seemed to founder and collapse–but only for a moment. It was after four in the afternoon. Soon day would be declining. And I seemed to remember that the decline of day in Egypt had moved me long ago–moved me as few, rare things have ever done.
Within half an hour I was alone, far up the long road–Ismail’s road–that leads from the suburbs of Cairo to the Pyramids. And then Egypt took me like a child by the hand and reassured me.
It was the first week of November, high Nile had not subsided, and all the land here, between the river and the sand where the Sphinx keeps watch, was hidden beneath the vast and tranquil waters of what seemed a tideless sea–a sea fringed with dense masses of date-palms, girdled in the far distance by palm-trees that kept the white and the brown houses in their feathery embrace.
Above these isolated houses pigeons circled. In the distance the lateen sails of boats glided, sometimes behind the palms, coming into view, vanishing and mysteriously reappearing among their narrow trunks. Here and there a living thing moved slowly, wading homeward through this sea: a camel from the sands of Ghizeh, a buffalo, two donkeys, followed by boys who held with brown hands their dark blue skirts near their faces, a Bedouin leaning forward upon the neck of his quickly stepping horse.
At one moment I seemed to look upon the lagoons of Venice, a watery vision full of a glassy calm. Then the palm-trees in the water, and growing to its edge, the pale sands that, far as the eyes could see, from Ghizeh to Sakkara and beyond, fringed it toward the west, made me think of the Pacific, of palmy islands, of a paradise where men grow drowsy in well-being, and dream away the years.
And then I looked farther, beyond the pallid line of the sands, and I saw a Pyramid of gold, the wonder Khufu had built. As a golden wonder it saluted me after all my years of absence. Later I was to see it grey as grey sands, sulphur color in the afternoon from very near at hand, black as a monument draped in funereal velvet for a mourning under the stars at night, white as a monstrous marble tomb soon after dawn from the sand-dunes between it and Sakkara. But as a golden thing it greeted me, as a golden miracle I shall remember it.
Slowly the sun went down. The second Pyramid seemed also made of gold. Drowsily splendid it and its greater brother looked set on the golden sands beneath the golden sky. And now the gold came traveling down from the desert to the water, turning it surely to a wine like the wine of gold that flowed down Midas’s throat; then, as the magic grew, to a Pactolus, and at last to a great surface that resembled golden ice, hard, glittering, unbroken by any ruffling wave.
The islands rising from this golden ice were jet black, the houses black, the palms and their shadows that fell upon the marvel black. Black were the birds that flew low from roof to roof, black the wading camels, black the meeting leaves of the tall lebbek-trees that formed a tunnel from where I stood to Mena House.
And presently a huge black Pyramid lay supine on the gold, and near it a shadowy brother seemed more humble than it, but scarcely less mysterious. The gold deepened, glowed more fiercely. In the sky above the Pyramids hung tiny cloud wreaths of rose red, delicate and airy as the gossamers of Tunis.
As I turned, far off in Cairo I saw the first lights glittering across the fields of doura, silvery white, like diamonds. But the silver did not call me. My imagination was held captive by the gold. I was summoned by the gold, and I went on, under the black lebbek-trees, on Ismail’s road, toward it. And I dwelt in it many days.
The wonders of Egypt man has made seem to increase in stature before the spirits’ eyes as man learns to know them better, to tower up ever higher till the imagination is almost stricken by their looming greatness.
Climb the great Pyramid, spend a day with Abdou on its summit, come down, penetrate into its recesses, stand in the king’s chamber, listen to the silence there, feel it with your hands–is it not tangible in this hot fastness of incorruptible death?–creep, like the surreptitious midget you feel yourself to be, up those long and steep inclines of polished stone, watching the gloomy darkness of the narrow walls, the far-off pinpoint of light borne by the Bedouin who guides you, hear the twitter of the bats that have their dwelling in this monstrous gloom that man has made to shelter the thing whose ambition could never be embalmed, though that, of all qualities, should have been given here, in the land it dowered, a life perpetual.
Now you know the Great Pyramid. You know that you can climb it, that you can enter it. You have seen it from all sides, under all aspects. It is familiar to you.
No, it can never be that. With its more wonderful comrade, the Sphinx, it has the power peculiar, so it seems to me, to certain of the rock and stone monuments of Egypt, of holding itself ever aloof, almost like the soul of man which can retreat at will, like the Bedouin retreating from you into the blackness of the Pyramid, far up, or far down, where the pursuing stranger, unaided, cannot follow.
By Andrew O’Hehir / Salon.com
A luscious, sensual journey into the underworld of Iranian youth culture, Maryam Keshavarz’s debut feature “Circumstance” is one of the biggest indie-film discussion topics of the year. Winner of an audience award at Sundance, “Circumstance” was then selected as the closing-night film at New York’s New Directors/New Films festival. That reflects Keshavarz’s smoldering, art-house-friendly pictorial sense and immense ambition, but also the circumstances under which the film was made and its strikingly topical story and setting.
“Circumstance” was shot entirely in Lebanon, probably the most liberal of all Middle Eastern nations, and even there it apparently wasn’t easy. Considering that it documents a steamy lesbian affair between two Iranian teenage girls, conducted amid the casual drug use and hip-hop nightclubs of Tehran (almost literally under the noses of the ruling mullahs), it’s remarkable that it got made at all.
Keshavarz reportedly warned her cast of expatriates that they might never be able to return to Iran after making the movie, and it’s hard to imagine any future Iranian society liberal enough to allow “Circumstance” to screen legally. (On the other hand, I feel certain that samizdat copies will be hot black-market commodities.)
As to the question of whether “Circumstance” is actually a good film, or just one with an important story to tell, a high degree of difficulty and some hot all-girl action, I think the verdict is mixed. (I’m being more than a little facetious; this movie may indeed attract some viewers for prurient reasons, but there’s no actual nudity or NC-17 content.) I was tremendously impressed with the lustrous, widescreen images shot by Brian Rigney Hubbard, and Keshavarz crafts an atmospheric Orwellian fable about an intense security state where even the most intimate acts, from two girls alone in a bedroom to a group of friends watching a smuggled movie (“Milk,” in this case), are not truly private.
Her two young leads, Nikohl Boosheri as Atafeh, daughter of a wealthy and liberal Tehran family, and Sarah Kazemy as the orphaned Shireen, whose parents were anti-revolutionary writers, are gorgeous and give unaffected performances. If Atafeh’s increasingly devout ex-addict brother, Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), is a bit of a cardboard villain, I blame the screenwriting.
When Keshavarz is introducing us to the secret world of teenage Tehran, where girls shed their headscarves and floor-length wraps to reveal designer minidresses, and condoms and Ecstasy are handed around to all, “Circumstance” has a powerful and hypnotic allure.
As an exercise in style that draws a little on the classic Iranian cinema of Abbas Kiarostami but much more on ambiguous, erotic Western art film, it feels more jumbled and uncertain. Keshavarz cites Atom Egoyan, the Canadian chronicler of voyeurism, and cryptic Argentine fabulist Lucrecia Martel among her influences, and she strives for that level of narrative and thematic complexity without quite getting there.
Still, by any measure this is a powerful debut film and a remarkable tale of oppression and liberation, and one that leaps right to the top of the unfortunately brief list of LGBT-themed films set in the Islamic world.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Pyramidion’s editorial policy.