Syrian-American’s Pop Rap Music Video explodes on Tumblr while Syrian conflict escalates

While ISIS attacks in Syria escalate, a Syrian-American is dropping truth bombs in music form. Mona Haydar, a Syrian-American who first attracted international attention in 2015 with her “Ask a Muslim” interviews, recently released “Wrap my Hijab,”  a pop rap song with lyrics that invoke women’s empowerment and global sisterhood. The chorus lifts up “women [of] every shading,” while the final verse joins together “Somalis,” “Iraqis,” “Punjabis,” “Egyptians, Canadians, and Americans” who still “wrap [their] hijabs.” Tumblr is exploding with clips of the song and “Wrap my Hijab” is on track to become an anthem for unity and women’s empowerment.

While tumblr and social media are particularly resonate on the “make a feminist planet” soundbite and the lyrics are positive, upbeat and uplifting, the grating zurna accompaniment may be a barrier for this tune ever getting radio play or breakthrough popularity. On the other hand, this musicvideo echoes the call for peace and reconciliation not only in war-torn Syria, but in countries across the globe where culture wars continue to divide and destroy global citizenship.

 

 

Read more about Mona Haydar and her new single:

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China’s newest pop idol band tackles traditional gender norms

No really. This is not an April Fools joke.

Acrush is a group of young Chinese women gathered together to appeal to the boy-band, pop-idol demographic that has previously been dominated by young men from Japan and Korea. China has long been trying to improve its public image and ameliorate the reputation of having a staunchly conservative and controlled artistic sphere.

Acrush, however, is not the first androgynous women on the music scene. In the early 2000s, Han Hong crossed over from folk music to pop charts with her song Heaven’s Road (天路 ), about the trans-Tibetan railroad. Hong’s signature masculine/androgynous style caused a very negative reaction, which can be partially attributed to rumors of her being a homosexual. (Homosexuality was officially attributed to mental illness until 2001.)

Acrush’s agent and publicist has been very careful to remark that the young singers in the group are not attracted to the women whom their image is designed to attract. While Acrush may be challenging traditional sexual identities that have confined Chinese women, they are simultaneously reinforcing traditional sexualities.

Acrush promotional photo from their American Twitter account.

Update 4/7/17: Many news sites are referring to Acrush as “genderless.” It’s important to note that the band are calling themselves “meishaoshian” 美少年, which is denotatively a gender neutral term for “beautiful young person,” but connotatively refers to beautiful young boys. It’s also noteworthy that the Mandarin terms for he (他) and she (她) are phonetically identical (tā).

Update 4/8/17: As much viral attention Acrush has been getting, China’s major news network, CCTV, has not mentioned Acrush in any articles.

Read more:

 

 

X-men Apocalypse’s Missing Song

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X-men: Apocalypse was released in North America last month. The film misses the mark on many of its lofty ambitions. The actors are sincere but their characters are not compelling for those who haven’t seen the previous films (recently). The settings and scenes jump from continent to continent, creating a quasi-fast pace for a story that doesn’t make much progress until an hour in. The themes and messages are numerous–too much commentary is conveyed all at once–making the point of the film rather messy until the very end.

However, fans of the series will find it engaging and dense. We see a smooth and thorough development of the characters who play roles in the canonically later films. (This series parallels Star Wars, with a primary canon trilogy being released first, followed by a subsidiary prequel trilogy.)

The biggest missed opportunity would be the inclusion of the lyric version of “Figlio Perduto.” The music from “Allegretto” of Beethoven’s 7th is used in the turning-point of the film and reprised in the credits. However, only classical music buffs will recognize how much depth and context the song adds to not only the emotional scene but also the overarching message of the film.

Linked via the graphic below is a lyric video explaining the significance of the song. Damnit Jim, I’m an analyst and not a videographer, so don’t judge the sophomoric quality of the video. It gets the info across.  (Link also here)

figlio perduto first slide

Bonus: Cherik lovers will also appreciate Marc Winslow’s music video using a rendition of the song by a male singer and set to clips from “Les amitiés particulières,” a 1984 French GLBT classic film. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPO_nOL9WnA 

 

There’s no such thing as “Just Singing”

A Taiwanese, ethnic minority, children’s choir is disinvited to China after they sang the Taiwanese anthem at (Taiwan’s) President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration in May. The Puzangalan Choir was to travel to China in an endeavor to garner funds and visibility for a trip to an international singing competition in Hungary this fall. President Ing-wen has pledged a little over $15,000 USD when she heard about the cancellation.

Taiwan and China have a varying opinions on the sovereignty of the small island 110 miles off the coast of mainland China. However, that short distance is misleading, as Taiwanese government, freedoms, and art are leagues away from the People’s Party strict mandates in mainland China. Asian drama fans will note that television from mainland China is often overregulated to the point where the plot and characterization suffers, while Taiwanese dramas are rather enjoyable.

This political maneuvering is another example of a long string of contentious relations between Taiwan and China. It’s truly unfortunate, if not appalling, a children’s choir was the target.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36547305

Source: AFP

Choirlogue: The Pursuit of  Freedom in Beethoven’s Prisoner Chorus

O Welche Lust, in freier Luft…nur heir ist Leben!

Over Christmas, I had the opportunity to visit with my dear niece and nephews in Texas. My niece, to whom I as a woman can more easily relate, is sixteen years old and thinking about what she wants to do after high school and what sort of career she would like.

At sixteen, she has a black belt in karate and walks her own path, showing her individuality with brightly colored pants decorated by outlandish patterns.

As we sat on a settee in her softly colored bedroom, she told me that she wanted to be a counselor to clergy and missionaries and their families.

My silent, knee-jerk reaction was “Oh thank god.”

This is a young woman who has surprised her parents at every turn by giving up ballet and starting to collect knives. Who is demure in public speaking but impassioned when with small groups or partners. She is strong with a fiercely caring personality, and I am ever so thankful that she is not tempted to go into any field related to videogames.

She could, very easily I believe, enter into such a vocation and would stand strongly, back straight against the adversity. She can take of herself quite well. But I would never wish a calling in the videogame industry on any woman.

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen the emergence of a new complex artform: videogames combine playwriting, acting, music, and visual art in one performance medium. Videogames have become spaces in which people can feel free to live alternate lives, to experience new liberty by being granted superpowers and assigned epic missions, to find peace in achievement and predictable productivity through efforts which always make a real difference (in the game). Not only do videogames affect our culture, but the industry provides the most enticement and seductive position for a person to go into the technology field–that being the coveted, successful videogame design career.

While technology plays more and more salient roles in our lives, videogames offer a relaxing way to process the stresses we encounter. Everyone is interested in videogames, but the videogame establishment isn’t interested in everyone. In fact, there are structural and organizational reactionary stances towards the inclusion of 51% of the US population– women.

Women videogame designers face endless hate mail and well-organized smear campaigns against their products. Women videogame journalists face the threat of murder and mass shooting at their public speaking engagements. Everyday female gamers face persecution and oppression ranging from the micro-level (devaluation of their talents and contributions as players and exclusion from the gaming community via online harassment) to the macro-level–objectification in videogames themselves as well as organized campaigns to flag their social media and other online accounts, dox, or swat them. Wir sind belauscht mit Ohr und Blick. Women on all levels of videogaming are watched, monitored, and targeted.

Under these circumstances, the pressure to not make any waves as a woman, to not speak up about any microaggressions for fear of larger repercussions and retaliatory action has become the norm. Spricht leise! Haltet euch zuruck. Speak softly. We must hold ourselves back.

And yet the hope of a day in the sun and free air continues. Where women can play (and design, and talk about) games and simply just be playing games. O welche Lust in freier Luft…nur hier, nur hier ist Leben. Only here, only here, is Life, when freedom is guaranteed for all.

 

“When a good man is hurt, all who would be called good must suffer with him.”

Euripides

Contemporary Contextualization: Mozart’s “Lacrymosa,” Part 2

Contemporary Contextualization: Mozart’s Requiem in Pop Culture Television

Part 2: Hannibal, Season 1, Episode 7, “Sorbet”

“Hannibal” transversed boundaries in television no one had come close to touching. The series itself can only be described as an artwork. The creators blend cleverly cutting dialogue with earnest and honest characters contained in exacting costumes and framed by lavish sets, and yet all the meticulous creation builds to show the audience a mirror of their darkest, secret desires. The show builds upon the grotesque artistry precedented a dozen years previous by Silence of the Lambs, while tapping into contemporary discourses of religion, medically-assisted suicide, and untraditional “found” families.
Classical music is used throughout the series. While  most television series reserve the grandiose sound of a full orchestra for large dramatic climaxes, Hannibal uses well-known classical pieces as pointed motifs of the titular character, often laying an audiophile subtext into the nondiegetic storytelling. “Lacrymosa” is played at the near halfway point of the first season. Much of the dialogue of “Sorbet” revolves around the idea of friendship–being a friend to someone, or the lonely, “painful” state of friendlessness. The choir beseeches a nameless entity as Hannibal paces in a darkened, empty room, waiting for his patient and colleague Will Graham to arrive for an appointment. The song ends and we see Hannibal breaking his normal pattern of behaviour to seek Will out, confront him about his absence, and their conversation flows into a volleying of words, a verbal repartee about Hannibal’s most-wanted alter ego, the Chesapeake Ripper.  This moment elevates the relationship of Hannibal and Will Graham from hunter and prey to something more complex, as the dialogue and plot suggests a type of agapé love to be building between the two. In some respects, “Lacrymosa” marks the death of the singularly-motivated Hannibal. The relationship of the Hannibal and Will is indelible altered from this point onward, and their interactions and intimacy increasingly drive the story as the series progresses through its three seasons.

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Contemporary Contextualization: Mozart’s “Lacrymosa,” Part 1

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Contemporary Contextualization: Mozart’s Requiem in Pop Culture Television

Teen Wolf, Season 3a, Episode 8, “Visionary”

Teen Wolf is an MTV series that springboards from the eponymous 1985 film and incorporates European and Asian folklore with a personable and complex cast of characters and fast paced plots to build a momentous popular narrative with a passionate following and an exemplarily creative fanbase. Since its inception in 2011, it has garnered over a dozen Teen Choice Awards, and its actors have seen their careers take off in popularity: one third of the original main cast members have since secured roles in high-profiled movies.

The show began in 2011, and has gained an immense following of fans. Over 17 fanmade conventions (one of which is a hop, skip, and jump away in New Jersey, Howlercon) and very creative fanbase with over 50,000 works of fanfiction on Archive of our Own,  40,000  fanvids on Youtube, and 25,000 pieces of fanart on DeviantArt.

The show supports a demographically diverse audience by resonating on several levels and pulling from (and putting a creative spin on) familiar mythology. While themes of high school cliques, sports, and popularity taps into the primary YA demographic, subtexts and commentary on prejudice, gender, and homosexuality engages an adult audience as well. It is during the development of one of these “more mature” sub-themes that Lacrymosa is played: in a flashback episode, the audience is given information on the background of the Big Bad of the Season. The leader of a (friendly) werewolf pack agrees to meet with a hunter under the premise of discussion of a treaty. Said hunter uses the guise of peace to capture and blind the werewolf leader by the classical Greek method. The moment of the leader being blinded  triggers a spin into insanity and obsession with the acquisition of strength and power. This crystallizing moment cements both characters on a destructive path, and the choir beseeches “Dona eis requiem” in the background.

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