Friday, January 18, 2008

Singing in Vain...

In Lebanon, it is easy to separate music from politics, especially in the case of the meaningless bimbo fare and other musical crapola produced by LBC & Co, SAR(trés)L. However, a few singers stand out, not least of them Fayrouz, our “Ambassador the Stars”.

National Anthem

Indeed, if there is one song that all Lebanese agree on, it is “Bhebbak Ya Libnan”. Thanks to Fayrouz’s rendition of this Rahbani masterpiece, the song has become the country’s stealth national anthem if there ever was one, far more inspiring than the platitudes of the “Koullouna”, our official national anthem that proclaims that we’re “All for the Nation" (What else would we be for?).

So, to say that singing and politics are linked in the case of Feyrouz is an understatement.

National Diva

Yet for all our pride, Fayrouz’ success in the wider Arab world is such that she has grown far beyond Lebanon. Like it or not, we do not “own” her anymore.

For one, many a Palestinian would feel teary-eyed when he hears her sing about Jerusalem. I have no doubt that, in spite of all their divisions, this is one of few songs all of them agree on…

One can understand the position of those opposed to see her singing for torturers, cultural capital or not... As we are often reminded, the Syrian regime only needs people to talk to them, and it will feel validated anytime someone does so. So, even when someone goes there just to spit at them, they will claim that it is raining.

Rain Dance

That said, if a regime feels the need to draw legitimacy from a singer, it means they are really in dire straits.

All the singing of Fayrouz will not help them understand reality any better, and neither will it change the key fundamental fact that the Syrian regime is clutching at straws, sending his lapdogs on a barking spree, and even threatening to pull a Delamarre on the foreign ambassadors. Bashar is mistaken in betting of French frivolity and Arab weakness; the fact is that, contrary to Kaddafi, Bashar learned all the wrong lessons from Saddam’s demise. In his stubborn alignment with Iran, he may well have “lost the Arabs”, and could soon lose the Turks.

On the positive side, our tired national diva may unwittingly help prepare the “post-Bashar” era. For all the miscreants who govern them, Syrians remain a decent people with whom we’re going to have to do business with after this regime is gone...

So, let the regime ignore the warnings and enjoy the songs. The last Ghost Dances were not very successful, but it occupied them for a while, until the day of reckoning.

So, with Damascus a “cultural capital”, the Syrian regime will try this little Rain Dance… And if the dance does not bring rain, they’ll kept dancing till it rains.

…And Lebanon will survive them.


Blacksmith Jade said...

A very clear eyed post Jeha...

...I still wish she had said no and not given them that validation they so desperately need.


ghassan karam said...

You have seldom been this wrong before:-) You are so wrong that you have forced me out of my self-imposed exile from blogging:-)
Fairouz, just like anyone else, is not owned by a country or a people. She must , however, have strong allegiances to ideas. She ought to be principled and thus refuse from lending any credibility to dictators and jailers of those that dare express any dissent.
What is glaringly contradictory about your position is that on one hand you have been the first to object to those that even attempt to open a dialogue with the Syrian regime and yet you find no problem in supporting an event to glorify said regime. As you well know, life is not a cafeteria line and positions ought to be consistent. Selective indignation just does not cut it.

Jeha said...

Like Blacksmith, I wish she did not go there too. Who knows, maybe I am spinning this thing to "cover" my own disappointment. But I keep thinking that it is essential we look past this regime, keeping in mind that the welfare of the Lebanese and Syrian people do not matter to the current rulers.

Though my position appears "greyish" at first blush, on this matter, but I Still think I am being consistent here; I still oppose dialogue with the regime as a useless distraction. However, I do not think cultural events are not part of it. Rather, they can serve to maintain a "sha3rat mo3awiya" with our kin across the border.

Yes, Ghassan is right to get out of his "self-imposed exile" to let me have it and hint that I am mistakenly differentiating between cultural events like this and political dialogue. The fact remains that the regime will not make that distinction, and will act accordingly.

However, One has to keep in mind that this hardly matters, practically; the issues escaped beyond Lebanon and Syria, to Paris, Ryadh, Washington, and other large oil interests. Feyrouz does not vote in any of those places, and the presentation may have lost her many fans there.

By mistakenly putting too much stock in theatrics, the regime miscalculates, and this miscalculation will only push them further along this impasse. Indeed, If the regime thinks a theatrical event glorifies, so be it. There are historical precedents for this mindset; the fact remains that all Wagner's prowess did little else than provide Hitler with a nice musical backdrop to his downfall.

Anonymous said...

Just from south of your border. Hitler liked Wagner, a fact. Hitler fell, a fact. But Millions were killed while Wagner was being played before hitler fell, so we know that for some people his music sound and even smell of death and this is more than "little else".
And wishing to insult nobody, many years ago some body played some string instrument when a Mediterranean capital city was burning. Was this art? was this politics? Some body wiser than me should say. Shell we call this kind of noise a music to hear while selling human body parts?
I and my people have our many shortcomings, and one of them is music. So after all this was said [and I know nobody need or want my opinion] I think the Lady should go and sing if that is what she wish. It is a free world still, for some people in some places, and those who want it to be free should pay this price and let use her freedom. But it will interesting to know what kind of music will be played and what she will be singing about.