Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hava Nagila in Kuwait

Singer's Performance of Hava Nagila Sparks Debate in Kuwait
Unfortunately most articles posted by MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute, an organization devoted to translating the Arabic media into English) paint an unflattering view of the Arab world. Such is the reality of what is said in Arabic in Middle Eastern papers. The following story, however, is thankfully atypical. Below is the introduction from MEMRI's report. You can read more, especially the debate that ensued in Kuwait's daily paper, by following the link. 
On February 27 and 28, 2010, a Kuwaiti folk group headed by singer Ema Shah, which performs songs and dances from around the world, gave two concerts at the Kuwait University Alumni Club. In addition to songs in Arabic, English, Spanish and Japanese, the program included the Hebrew song "Hava Nagila," as well as some songs by Jewish French singer Enrico Macias. On the first night, the songs were received with warm applause by the audience. However, during the second performance, there was some protest from the audience and demands to remove the songs from the program.
Ema Shah rejected these demands. In an April 6, 2010 interview, she explained that her group performed folk music in order to connect people around the world and remove barriers created by extremists who oppose freedom, liberalism and democracy. She stressed that there was nothing in the song "Hava Nagila" that was offensive to Arabs, that performing a song in a foreign language is not tantamount to spying for a foreign country, and that art should not be mixed with politics. She added that Kuwait, which is not a theocracy, should uphold its laws of freedom of belief and expression, and that the Arabs should drop their racist attitude towards others.

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