Wednesday, November 12, 2014

'Hava nagila' star defies music taboo

 What is interesting about this snippet from Breitbart News is that singer Ema Shah, who shocked people in 2010 by singing Hava Nagila, speaks for many Arabs when she says that she doesn't care about the Israel- Palestine conflict. Her latest film role, as a girl who discovers her grandfather was a Jew expelled from western Saudi Arabia, may be pure fantasy, but betrays Arab guilt - or a generalised sense of loss. (with thanks: Mi)

Ema Shah is a superstar in Kuwait and the Arab world. Known for her singing and her musical style, which blends pop and classical influences, she is also a pioneer for women in the region, choosing to dress as she wishes--not just on stage but in everyday life as well. Lately, Shah--is trying to break a political taboo by reaching out to Jewish musicians--defying cultural hostility to Israel, hoping she can help cultivate peace. The 34-year-old Shah's interest in Hebrew dates to 2010, when she caused an international controversy by singing the familiar Jewish folk song, "Hava Nagila," at a nightclub as part of a  performance involving multiple languages.

The audience loved it, she told Breitbart News in an interview last week, but a few people were shocked, and alerted police. One woman shouted: "No normalization with Israel, this is Zionism," Shah recalls.

The incident only made Shah--winner of Best Music Video at the New York Winter Film Awards in 2014--more determined to reach out to Israeli--and Jewish--singers and musicians, in the Middle East and the United States. She hopes that by doing so, she can break through the barriers of mistrust in the region, and undo hateful attitudes in the Muslim world in particular.
"We Arabs should work together with Jews," she says. "We are family, and we are all human beings. We should love each other."

Shah's own ancestry crisscrosses the somewhat artificial boundaries of the Arab and Muslim world. Her parents are Iranian and Kuwaiti, with some ancestry in Afghanistan and Iraq. She burst onto the music scene with her performance at a Kuwaiti independence concert in 1996, and began exploring theater as well, acting in a local arts festival for several years under Kuwaiti director Abdulaziz Alhaddad.

Shah is currently working with Saudi director Mohammed Al Saber, who is seeking a producer for a new film he is directing about the Jews of the Arabian peninsula. The story follows the discovery by a young woman, to be played by Shah, who discovers that her grandfather, who lived and worked as a beekeeper in the Sarawat Mountains in western Saudi Arabia, was actually a Jew whose family emigrated from the country in the mid-20th century, as many Jews fled or were expelled from Arab lands at the time. The film's message, Shah says, is about the shared cultural kinship of Jews and Arabs, and the tragedy of how Jews were expelled from Saudi Arabia.

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The Jewish cemetery in Saudi Arabia

4 comments:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Will the day come when Arabs are better friends to us than the hypocritical EU that conceals its Judeophobia under a concern for peace?

by Davsil said...

This story seems a bit strange to me. Weren't the Jews kicked out of Arabia by Mohammed in the 7th century? Or at least after the time of David Reuveni in the 16th century?

bataween said...

Yes, you are right, Davsil. That's why I called the story 'pure fantasy'. But there remained Jews at the southern tip, known as Yemen today, and there were a few Jews in eastern Arabia as the cemetery story indicates.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

I would like to get something authoritative as to when Jews were definitively expelled from Arabia. Maybe 7th century, maybe 10th.