venerdì 30 dicembre 2016

The story behind Fairuz's song "Kanou Ya Habibi" and the Soviet army "Polyushka Polye"

"Kanou Ya Habibi"  كانوا يا حبيبي is one of the eternal works of Fairuz written in 1974. Originally, and like several of the works of Rahbani Brothers, the music was inspired from the Polyushka Polye Russian army march music and which music was composed in 1933 by the Russian composer Lev Konstantinovich Knipper. Even though the originale version had an intense reference to USSR and its formal glory, Fairuz managed to convert all the patriotic lyrics off the spirit of the music and insert love and drama instead as she played the character of Loulou that was imprisoned despite her innocence for 15 long years..

Polyushko-polye (Russian: По́люшко-по́ле; IPA: [ˈpolʲʊʂkə ˈpolʲɪ]) is a Soviet Russian-language song. Polye means "field" in Russian, "polyushko" is a diminutive/hypocoristic form for "polye". It is also known as Meadowlands, Song of The Plains or Oh Fields, My Fields in English.

The music was composed by Lev Knipper, with lyrics by Viktor Gusev in 1933. The song was part of the symphony with chorus (lyrics by Gusev) "A Poem about a Komsomol Soldier" (Поэма о бойце-комсомольце) composed in 1934. The original lyrics are sung from the perspective of a Red Army recruit, who proudly leaves his home to keep watch against his homeland's enemies.

The song was covered many times by many artists in the Soviet Union, including a well-known rock version recorded by The Singing Guitars (Поющие гитáры), released c. 1967. The song has been regularly performed and recorded by the Alexandrov Ensemble, and it is listed in the Alexandrov Ensemble discography, best known as the Red Army Choir....continue

giovedì 1 dicembre 2016

Who was José Ortiz Echagüe?

José Ortiz Echagüe (Guadalajara, 1886 - Madrid, 1980)  was a Spanish Photographer, aeronautical and industrial engineer . He founded the aircraft manufacturing company Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) and was the Honorary lifetime president of Spanish car company SEAT.

Ortiz Echagüe business management combined his passion for photography, a field in which he received prestigious international awards. His photographs were exhibited in many European capitals and in numerous American Photography magazine and  by 1935, he was one of the three best photographers in the world.

His photographic archive consists of more than 30,000 negatives. A collection of human subjects, documentaries and art and more than 1,000 large and beautiful carbón fresson  (a carbon process also known as direct carbon printing) printings, that gave his images a rather romantic or pictorialist look. Among his illustrated books should be cited Spanische Köpfe – Bilder aus Kastilien, Aragonien und Andalusien (Spanish heads – Pictures from Castile, Aragón and Andalusia) was Ortiz Echagüe’s first book . Images of Spaniards in traditional costume often photographed in historical settings.

Although this book had a print run of 15.000 it is now surprisingly rare, especially complete with dust jacket intact continue 

mercoledì 23 novembre 2016

The Qanun: Queen of Arabic Musical Instruments

Ph: Fatima Abbadi ©
(Al Hannouneh Society for Popular Culture )
The qanun is a string instrument played either solo, or more often as part of an ensemble, in much of the Middle East, Maghreb, West Africa, Central Asia, and southeastern regions of Europe. 
The name derives from the Arabic word qanun, meaning "rule, law, norm, principle", which is itself a phonetic borrowing of the ancient Greek word 'κανών' (rule) or Latin equivalent canon (not to be confused with the European polyphonic musical style and composition technique known by the same name). 
Traditional and Classical musics executed on the qanun are based on Maqamat or Makamlar. 
As the historical relative of santur from the same geography, qanun is thought to trace its origins back to Assyria, where an ancestral homologue might have been used in 
Mesopotamian royal courts and religious ceremonies. The instrument today is a type of large zither with a thin trapezoidal soundboard that is famous for its unique melodramatic sound...continue reading

Mohammed Abdu Saleh, who was born in a suburb of Cairo in 1912, the family of the art it was his father "Alnayati" a member of the choir and Hamouli Abdo Mohammed Othman, when he was the holder of Certificate world Azhar, while his grandfather was "Alnayati" private Sultan Abdul Hamid.
Early morningPush Abdo Saleh love art that is still small _, _ no more than six years to discuss a piece of wood and copper wire and nails be "legally small", defying his father, who tried to small through art, but in vain. Especially after playing Mohammed Abdo, ..continue 

Zeina Alkhatib from Jerusalem, is a young woman shares her passion for one of the Arab world's most beautiful instruments, listen to her story.

mercoledì 2 novembre 2016

Barcelona, blanc i negre

Xavier Miserachs i Ribalta (b. July 12, 1937 – d. August 14, 1998) was a Catalan photographer. He studied medicine at the University of Barcelona, but left school to be a photographer. He exhibited his work in Barcelona from 1956. His work is reminiscent of neorealism and is representative of the years of Spanish economic recovery, 1950-1960. His photographs show him as a creator of a new image of the city and its people. In 1998 he received the Creu de Sant Jordi of the Catalan government...continue

Barcelona, blanc i negre

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martedì 25 ottobre 2016

Kabardinka dance: Circassian Noble dancing

In Circassian music, there are several dances that are performed differently:

Kafa (Adyghe: Къашъо; Kabardian: Къафэ) is a piece with (4:4) time signature, and usually this piece demonstrates the relationship between the Challa (male) and the Pshasha (female), this relationship which is built out of love, cooperation and strength. Usually 'Kafa' is the main piece to be played in a 'Djagu' (a Circassian dance party) and there are more than 100 kafas written by different Circassian artists.

Wuig (Adyghe: Удж) is a piece with (8:4) time signature, and usually this piece is played before Challas are going to war, but nowadays it is played at the end of the Djagu and usually it follows this rhythm each eight time intervals a new musical phrase is introduced, and this piece may be repeated several times since more than ten different Wuigs are available.

Tleperush is a dance which originates from the Black Sea coastal area. It is a piece with (4:4) time signature, and the word "Tleperush" means "leg kick" and usually this piece is faster than Kafa and Widj, almost equal in tempo to known "Lezginka" but different in style and follows this rhythm (1&2..3&4) and this rhythm is produced by Pshina and Pxachach and Pkhetaw (a wood hitting instrument for tempo). Abkhazians have this dance too, and they call it "Apsua Koshara"

Zefauk (Kabardian: Зэфакӏу) means "approach to each other". It is a piece with (4:4) time signature, and very similar to Kafa; the word "Zefauk" means (forward and backward) and it defines how it is danced by going 4 steps forward and another four backward exactly as the Kafa but with different musical taste.

Shishan (Kabardian: Щэщэн) means "horse behaving". The dance is a fast piece with (4:4) time signature; this particular piece is played differently by pulling the Bellows of the Pshina in and out rapidly to create an Off Beat Rhythm which produces a Rhythm two times faster than its time signature, and the word shishan is a Circassian word and it is not linked to Chechen.

Tlepechas is a fast dance and it is an improvisation dance it is considered to be one of the ancient dance of the Circassians, "Tlepechas" means "stick toes in the ground" the dance is based on the Nart sagas legends that used to dance on their toes.

Zighalat (Russian: Загатлят) means "be the top". The dance is very energetic and fast, and it considered to be the fastest dance in the Caucasus. It is danced in pairs, in which the male dances fast and strong to show his skills, and the woman dances gentle but moves fast.

Hakulash means "lame man move". At the beginning it was a joke and comedy dance to make the viewers laugh, but with time it became part of the Circassian repertoire; its leg moves look like lame moves but the dance is a fast dance.

venerdì 21 ottobre 2016

Struggle in Jerash - Jordan's first cinematographic film

"Struggle in Jerash" was Jordan's first cinematographic film dates back to 1957. Until the creation of the Royal Film Commission in 2003, there were only 7 narrative feature-length films created in Jordan. The number of Jordanian narrative feature-length films now are 24.

giovedì 20 ottobre 2016

Ilo Battigelli il fotografo pirata

Ilo Battigelli nasce a San Daniele del Friuli nel 1922. Si trasferisce giovanissimo a Santa Margherita Ligure, dove compie l’apprendistato presso lo studio dello zio Ernesto, noto fotografo, attivo dapprima in Friuli e, dopo la Grande Guerra, alla quale partecipa nelle squadre fotografiche dell’Esercito, in Liguria.
A sedici anni, dopo una breve parentesi come gestore, nella sua città natale, della succursale dello studio fotografico bujese Barnaba, Ilo raggiunge, con la madre ed i fratelli, il padre Marziale ad Asmara, in Eritrea, allora Africa Orientale Italiana. Il giovane fotografo friulano freelance collabora con il Corriere eritreo e la Compagnia Foto Milano.
Arabia Saudita 1946-1954
Gli eventi bellici lo vedono ancora in Eritrea, dove è trattenuto come prigioniero sino al 1946 quando, assieme a numerosi connazionali si trasferisce in Arabia Saudita, dove partecipa alla costruzione degli impianti petroliferi dell’ARAMCO a Ras Tannurah. Ed è proprio nel Golfo Persico che inizia l’epopea di Ilo il Pirata, lo pseudonimo da lui scelto e mantenuto durante tutta la sua vita di fotografo professionista. Degli otto anni di soggiorno in Arabia Saudita ci rimane una serie di rare immagini di paesaggio e una vasta galleria di ritratti, da quelli dei beduini a quelli dei governanti locali.
Nel 1954 Ilo Battigelli lascia l’Arabia Saudita e inizia un lungo viaggio che lo porta in Terra Santa, in Medio Oriente, in Turchia, in Grecia, e, passando per l’Italia, negli Stati Uniti. Viaggio interrotto dalla notizia di una grave malattia della madre. Tornato in Italia, in Friuli e a Genova, dove lo zio Ernesto aveva nel frattempo trasferito la sua attività, Ilo sente però il richiamo dell’Africa e nel 1957 riprende la sua avventura trasferendosi a Salisbury in Rhodesia.
Dopo un primo periodo di ambientamento, il Pirata viene messo sotto contratto dall’IMPRESIT che sul fiume Zambesi costruisce la diga di Kariba. Ilo non si limita a documentare il capolavoro di ingegneria idraulica ma, con grande sensibilità, entra nel mondo dei Tonga e fotografa la vita degli indigeni costretti a lasciare i loro villaggi poi inondati dal bacino della diga.
A Salisbury, che ora si chiama Harare ed è la capitale dello Zimbabwe, Ilo apre nel 1960 uno studio che continua la sua attività sino al 1996.
Numerose mostre e premi nel corso degli anni ed altri riconoscimenti puntualizzano la sua attività fino a raggiungere, nel 1964, il più ambito riconoscimento alla Mostra Internazionale di New York dove su 130.000 fotografie a colori inviate da tutto il mondo si vede premiare tutte e quattro le foto presentate. Nel 1968, l’Illustrated Life Rhodesian gli dedica la copertina della rivista e un ampio servizio antologico della sua attività. Il Rhodesia Herald nel 1970 rende omaggio ai suoi 40 anni spesi al servizio della fotografia dedicandogli la pagina centrale. Nel 1980, la National gallery of Zimbabwe presenta una sua antologica di 350 fotografie....continua

martedì 6 settembre 2016

Samira Tawfik: The representative of Jordanian music to the Arab world

Samira Ghastin Karamona, better known by her stage name Samira Tewfik (Arabic: سميرة توفيق‎‎ surname also spelled Tawfik, Tawfiq, Toufiq or Taoufiq) (born 25 September 1944) is a Lebanese singer who gained fame in the Arab world for her specializing in singing in the Bedouin dialect of Jordan.She has also acted in a number of Arab films.

Samira was born in the village of Umm Haratayn in the Suwayda region of Syria. She lived in the Rmeil neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon, where her father Ghastin, who was of Armenian descent, worked as a dock laborer.As a child, she enjoyed Classical Arab music and was particularly a fan of Farid al-Atrash. She often climbed a tree at her home and sang aloud his songs. She was heard by musician Albert Ghaoui, who was impressed with her voice and asked her father to become her musical mentor. Ghaoui introduced Samira to the Egyptian musician Tawfiq Bayoumi who taught her the tawashih musical form. Bayoumi also gave her the stage name "Tawfiq" (or "Tewfik") ("Success") when he told her al-Tawfiq Min Allah (success will come with the blessing of God). Her first hit on Radio Beirut was a song originally sung by Bayoumi called Maskin Ya Qalbi Yama Tlaawat ("Oh My Heart How You Have Suffered").

She struggled for success in Lebanon,due to the highly popular competing acts of Fairuz, Sabah and Wadi al-Safi, but she excelled after basing herself in Jordan in the 1960s and 1970s. There, the Jordanian Broadcasting Authority (JBA) employed her with the request that she sing in the Bedouin dialect. The JBA trained her to sing in the local dialect in order to make her music genuinely sound Transjordanian. Her first song played by Jordanian radio was her first hit, Maskin Ya Qalbi Yama Tlaawat. Samira performed her first concert at a Jordanian village called Ainata and the following day was invited to perform at an event attended by King Hussein. King Hussein became a fan of her Bedouin tunes and mawalil. She became the representative of Jordanian music to the Arab world by singing with the rustic, Bedouin dialect...continue

mercoledì 13 luglio 2016

Who was Yousef Karsh?

Yousuf Karsh (1908 – 2002) was an Armenian–Canadian portrait photographer. He has been called one of the great portrait photographers of the 20th century by Time magazine and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with the latter noting the "distinct style in his theatrical lighting."

Yousuf Karsh was born in Mardin, a city in the eastern Ottoman Empire (present Turkey). He grew up during the Armenian Genocide where he wrote, "I saw relatives massacred; my sister died of starvation as we were driven from village to village." At the age of 16, his parents sent Yousuf to live with his uncle George Nakash, a photographer in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Karsh briefly attended school there and assisted in his uncle’s studio. Nakash saw great potential in his nephew and in 1928 arranged for Karsh to apprentice with portrait photographer John Garo in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. His brother, Malak Karsh, was also a photographer.
Karsh returned to Canada four years later, eager to make his mark. In 1931 he started working with photographer John Powls, in his studio on the second floor of the Hardy Arcade at 130 Sparks Street in Ottawa, Ontario, close to Parliament Hill. When Powls retired in 1933, Karsh took over the studio. Karsh's first solo exhibition was in 1936 in the Drawing Room of the Château Laurier hotel. He moved his studio into the hotel in 1973, and it remained there until he retired in 1992.

Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King discovered Karsh and arranged introductions with visiting dignitaries for portrait sittings. Karsh's work attracted the attention of varied celebrities and on 30 December 1941 he photographed Winston Churchill, after Churchill gave a speech to Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa....

Read more:


lunedì 4 luglio 2016

Following the footsteps of “Sitt Halima”

"I needed to live among the people, hear them talk about themselves in Artas, make records while they spoke of their life, customs and ways of looking at things. For that reason I decided to remain in Palestine---"
Hilma Granqvist 1931, introduction to Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village

Hilma Granqvist (nicknamed 'Sitt Halima' in Palestine) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish anthropologist who conducted long field studies of Palestinians. In the 1920s Granqvist arrived at the village of Artas, just outside Bethlehem in the then British Mandate of Palestine as part of her research on the women of the Old Testament. She had gone to Palestine "in order to find the Jewish ancestors of Scripture. What she found instead was a Palestinian people with a distinct culture and way of life. She therefore changed the focus of her research to a full investigation of the customs,
habits and ways of thinking of the people of that village. Granqvist ended up staying until 1931 documenting all aspects of village life. In so doing she took hundreds of photographs."

Hilma Granqvist's international reputation is based on five extensive ethnographic works that focus on a Palestinian village in the 1920's. Granqvist was also an innovative photographer. During her research she took about 1000 photographs that greatly contribute to visual anthropology. Granqvist broke the prevailing research tradition of perceiving of foreign peoples as mere proof of the versatility of the human race and the subjects of research as anonymous objects. Granqvist documented people in their activities - in their every chores or going through the rituals related to different phases of life.

The research which Hilma Granqvist undertook between 1925 and 1931 provided her with most of the material, that later became the content of her published work. In 1931 she published
Marriage conditions in a Palestinian village vol. 1 and in 1935 the second volume appeared. These two volumes offer a detailed description of marriage stages and some aspects of family life.
Based on the materials collected during the years from 1925 to 1931, the two volumes dedicated to childhood, Birth and childhood among the Arabs  (1947) and Child Problems among the Arabs
(1950), offer a complete overview of children's way of life of the Palestinian village Artas, starting from the phase of pregnancy. In the first book the author describes the customs and traditions regarding conception, pregnancy, birth and post-natal practices, such as social and religious education, training and circumcision. The second book deals with the health and care of the child, examining issues such as infant mortality and devoting a large part of the description to rituals that ward off evil forces. It also provides a detailed list of names that were actually chosen for children, with several tables divided by  gender and derivation. The two books can be considered a continuation of the previous publications of the author,

Marriage conditions in a Palestinian village volumes I (1931) and II (1935), which concern the same
group of people and give a complete picture of the family in the community of Artas.
In 1965 she published the results of her last period of research: Muslim death and burial. Arab customs and traditions studied in a village in Jordan. Here she describes customs and beliefs about illness and death.

More reading:


Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village I. 1932

Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village II. 1935

Birth and Childhood in an Arab Village. 1947

Child Problems Among the Arabs. 1950

Muslim Death and Burial. 1965

martedì 19 aprile 2016

Great Malian photographer Seydou Keïta

Seydou Keïta (1921-2001) is considered one of the greatest Malian photographers of the second half of the twentieth century. A self-taught photographer, he opened a studio in 1948 and specialized in portraiture. Seydou Keïta soon photographed all of Bamako and his portraits gained a reputation for excellence throughout West Africa. 
His numerous clients were drawn by the quality of his photos and his great sense of aesthetics. Many were young men, dressed in European style clothing. Some customers brought in items they wanted to be photographed with but Keita also had a choice of European clothing and accessories - watches, pens, radios, scooter, etc. - which he put at their disposal in his studio. The women came in flowing robes often covering their legs and their throats, only beginning to wear Western outfits in the late 60s.

Seydou Keïta worked primarily with daylight and for economic reasons took only a single shot for each picture.

Seydou Keïta was discovered in the West in the 1990s. His first solo exhibition took place in 1994 in Paris at the Fondation Cartier. This was followed by many others in various museums, galleries and foundations worldwide
More reading:

martedì 5 aprile 2016

The Man Who Saved the 'Mona Lisa' From the Nazis

In August 1939, 10 days before the outbreak of World War II, a secret and extraordinary rescue
mission began in Paris, one that was conducted just like a military operation. Hundreds of workers and volunteers took part, all commanded by one man who was acting on his own initiative, without orders from his superiors.
This man, Jacques Jaujard, is the hero of the new French documentary “Illustrious Yet Unknown” (Illustre et Inconnu), directed by Jean-Pierre Devillers and Pierre Pochart. It will be screened on Friday morning (February 13) during the Epos International Art Film Festival at Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Jaujard was deputy director of The Louvre museum, and foresaw the potential dangers for the art treasures there. On August 25, a few days before the Germans invaded Poland, Jaujard ordered the closure of the museum for three days, officially for repair work. On the first night, 800 of the most important works of art were removed from the walls, among them Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic "Mona Lisa." In the following days, some 4,000 works were packed up and loaded onto a fleet of vehicles, including hundreds of trucks, ambulances, private cars and taxis.
The stored works were marked according to their importance: in yellow, green and red. The "Mona Lisa," for example, was awarded three red circles. Not all the works could be packed in crates because of their dimensions: “The Raft of the Medusa” – an 1818 oil painting by French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault – had to be carried to a truck covered in a gigantic blanket.
When the order was given, a convoy of 203 vehicles set out, bearing 1,862 wooden crates with the priceless works of art. The destinations: castles throughout France, where the works would be kept safe until the troubles passed. The vehicles traveled at a speed of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph). Electricity and telephone wires that would have impeded their passage were removed in advance, and the largest art rescue operation of World War II went without a hitch.

Mostly empty
The Nazis entered Paris in June 1940, and soon afterward Jaujard was asked to conduct a tour of the museum for Adolf Hitler’s emissary, Count Franz Wolff-Metternich, who was tasked with inspecting France’s art collection and overseeing the Kunstschutz (German appropriation of art).
As archival film in the documentary shows, few items remained in the museum by this point and it was mostly empty, albeit still open to visitors.
Jaujard wrote in his diary – extracts from which are quoted in the film – that Wolff-Metternich, who was not a member of the Nazi Party, felt relieved when he saw the empty museum. Jaujard sensed that, like other members of the German nobility, Wolff-Metternich did not feel much affection for the Nazi regime and intentionally “cheated” at his assignment, allowing Jaujard freedom of movement and protecting him from other elements in the regime. After the war, at Jaujard’s initiative, France awarded Wolff-Metternich the Légion d’honneur.
The Louvre was subordinated to the education minister of the Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis. Jaujard had to play a double diplomatic-political game – satisfying the regime, on the one hand, and protecting the art treasures on the other. In a circuitous way, he succeeded in doing this. However, his relations with the collaborative regime reached boiling point when Hermann Göring, Hitler’s deputy and an art collector in his own right, stole works of art that belonged to France. Jaujard wanted to submit a complaint to the authorities, but was advised to keep quiet lest something bad happen to him. read more:

giovedì 24 marzo 2016

Art of embroidery in Jordan and Palestine

As a young girl learned the stiches, she was also initiated into her culture. Patterns, colours  and fabrics revealed her village, tribe, social status, material wealth, and the period in which she lived. Individuality was expressed in the way each woman assembled the piece of her dress.
A young girl’s skill in embroidery was noted by the older women and was equated with her capabilities as a home maker. The finer her stitches, they said, the better her groom. Until quite recently, nearly every Jordanian or Palestinian girl, whatever her social class, embroidered her trousseau. The six to 12 loosely cut robes she made were worn over a lifetime, and her bridal dress served for many special occasions – and in some cases as her shroud.
Trousseau on both sides of the Jordan River traditionally included embroidered cushions that were as beautiful and varied as the dress. Today, it is the cushions that have carried this art into modern-day life in Jordan: in many homes, the décor is not complete without one or more matching sets. Their colours can range from red, maroon, purple and pink, spiked with orange, green, and gold, to a more sober combination that instead emphasises the artistry of the needlework. The simple cross-stitch forms the basis for the myriad designs, and the recurring motifs tend to be drawn from nature.

Contemporary pieces include large wall- hangings stitched with the “tree of life” motif and elegant quilts based on the popular “horse’s hoof” design.