Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Loving Umm Kalthum - In Israel

 Umm Kulthum performs for Gamal Abdul Nasser (8.56 mins into the clip)

 Politics and music are two different things in the Middle East, but it's no reason to ignore cultural connections between Israel and the Arab world, according to this story in the Times of Israel:

That Umm Kulthum is highly, even increasingly popular in Israel, despite being an iconic symbol of the 20th century Arabic nationalist movement, is no surprise to Elad Gabbay, a prominent qanun (eastern zither) player and a teacher of Middle Eastern music and piyutim (Jewish religious poetry) at the Musrara School of Eastern Music in Jerusalem.

“For us, music is art, music is joy,” Gabbay said. “We love her, because her songs are beautiful. We grew up on them and we sing them. It doesn’t matter who she was.”

There was “never a question” in Israel, he added, of rejecting Umm Kulthum because of her background, because in the East, music and politics “are two different things.”

In the Western world, music gets mixed up with “spirituality, politics and ideology,” Gabbay asserted, but in the East, music is just “a job, a profession.” Just like “a Jew will go to an Arab carpenter to buy a good table… the Jews have no problem to listen to Umm Kulthum. We love her music, and that’s it.”

Of course, Israel’s Mizrahi Jews are not politically naïve and know very well “who our enemies are,” Gabbay said. Some people “look at old photographs of Arab and Jewish musicians playing together in Morocco or Iraq,” he said, and think that back then it was all “shalom and kumbaya, but it wasn’t. They played together, but afterwards one was a Jew and one was an Arab. The communities were separate, and there was anti-Semitism, and later they [the Arab countries] wanted to get rid of the Jews… but it didn’t affect the music.”

Those old photographs are part of the vision of conductor Cohen, for whom it is important to give Middle Eastern music “a place of honor, because we are living in this culture. All the time, we are looking at differences and problems between Israel and our neighbors, but we can look at our connections as well, for example this music.”


Anonymous said...

I am considered by most people as a calm and collected woman.
But the hate I have for Nasser is so huge, it will follow me even after death!tHE VER SIGHT OF HIS IMAGE ON MY SCREEN MAKES ME SICK

Anonymous said...

If there is more appreciation and interest in the music heritage of the Jews of the Arab world, now residing in Israel and elsewhere that is all to the good. So it's disgusting to see typical Arab disparaging comments posted on sites if Jews show interest in Mid East music and have the nerve to even play it! I've posted here before. My background is Ashkenazi, and I loved this music from when I came across it on ethnic radio stations as a youngster. And that's when she was alive. I like the Egyptian music and singers of 30's thru 70's. What I hear on the internet from Arab stations playing contemporary music of their countries isn't particularly interesting to me.