21 July 2006

The Face of Lebanon

It seems one of SoundRoots' Sisyphean tasks is to forever push against the tide of disasters -- both natural and manmade -- that would dehumanize certain segments of the population. Foremost
in my mind are the disasters in Indonesia and in Lebanon. But since we're recently talked of Java, albeit in a different context, today's cultural focus is the latter.

I'm no expert, so I recommend you read the news. What I know is that Lebanon was just starting to get its groove back after a devastating civil war that turned it from a vacation destination into a wasteland. The Lebanese are one of the most highly educated populations in the Middle East, with high literacy rates (and globally known authors such as Khalil Gibran). The country has 225 km of Mediterranean coastline, including fabulous beaches.

Oh, and it has the misfortune to be a convenient staging ground for terrorist attacks against Israel, and an easy target for Israel's scorched-earth retaliation. Tourists and residents with any means are fleeing, including a Michigan family who paid $17,000 to escape Israel's bombing. Of the population of nearly 4 million (which is only about 60% Muslim), some 500,000 have already been displaced by Israel's attack. And with US support (despite UN and international outcry - even many Jews think Israel is overreacting), Israel is continuing the bombing campaign and considering a ground assault. It should be obvious to SoundRoots readers that we similarly condemn the random missile attacks on Israeli towns.

But SoundRoots is about culture. And Lebanon's got it. Among the most well-known musicians are Fairuz, Marcel Khalife, and Nawal Al Zoghbi.

Richard Khuzami was raised in New York, but has roots in Lebanon. He's got a great new album out that draws from many traditions, including funk, jazz, and Bollywood, most with a Middle Eastern musical foundation. This song is not the most likely to be heard on the dance floor, but is perfect today. It's a duet between Arab-American Maurice Chedid and Israeli-American Dorit. The lyrics are "a plea for sanity in an insane part of the world: If we allRichard Khuzami - Fused CD practiced the basic tenants of our related religions, then all the manipulations of demigods on all sides would have no success: Respect and tolerance: with it we can move mountains, without it we can only destroy." Read the lyrics.

[mp3] Richard Khuzami: "The Serpent"
from the album Fused - available at CDbaby

CIA Factbook on Lebanon
Music of Lebanon at Wikipedia
Lebanon's Music at National Geographic

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In grad school at U. Michigan, my closest neighbors in married student housing from 1987 to 1990 were refugees from Beirut. She had been a head emergency room nurse; he a businessman. They had to leave as violence increased and they became targets. They were passionate about their country and I learned to love Lebanon by proxy from them.
Why is Lebanon being cynically destroyed again? Why doesn't the 'free' world step in to support one of the oldest democracies in the Middle East?
The people who caused and are doing this are evil, evidence of how evil breeds evil until we all learn compassion and forgiveness.