Singer takes a pop at Bush, Sharon

A controversial Egyptian pop singer, who made headlines three years ago with an anti-Israel song, has released another political hit lambasting George Bush and Ariel Sharon.

    Abd al-Rahim is known for his colourful attire - and lyrics

    Shabaan Abd Al-Rahim's Ya Am Arabi (Oh Fellow Arab) is his third political song after the 2001 hit I Hate Israel and Hitting Iraq two years later in which he attacked the US for invading Iraq.

    This time, he is lashing out at the US president’s pro-Israel policies in the Middle East, along with Arab governments for not standing up to them. He uses cartoons of the US and Israeli leaders in his pop videos to get the message across.

    "I am singing what the people want to hear about America and Israel," Abd Al-Rahim said. "This song is a true reflection to what is really happening." 

    Abd Al-Rahim, who was a laundryman before turning to singing two decades ago, has caused a huge controversy since releasing I Hate Israel.

    Critics accuse him of undermining sensitive political issues with what they describe as "shallow lyrics, low-quality melodies and his funny, colourful attires".

    Mixed message

    The confusion over his image was compounded later in 2001 when he appeared in TV commercials promoting a product of US fast-food giant McDonald’s before the company decided to halt the campaign. 

    His latest song, however, is gaining popularity among people frustrated with the deadlocked Middle East peace process.

    "He is conveying important messages
    to simple people in a simple way"

    Ihab Kamal,
    coffee shop owner, Cairo

    "Shabaan is the only singer who is saying what we want to say," says Ihab Kamal, a 28-year-old coffee shop owner in the Cairo commercial area of Muhandasin. "He is conveying important messages to simple people in a simple way."

    Wearing a flashy red suit with a black shirt and a golden necklace, Abd Al-Rahim sings in Ya Am Arabi: "He (Bush) drew a roadmap for his bothers and children. And formed a quartet to look after his business. The map was never made and the committee never agreed, and this is what his friend (Sharon) wants."

    "America and Israel are two faces of the same coin. They have turned the world into a jungle and put the (bomb's) fuse on," he concludes in the song released in March.

    Caricatures

    In the video, Abd Al-Rahim sings against a backdrop of animated cartoons portraying Sharon as a bully whose acts backfire on him.

    In one scene, he tries to bomb the world, but the bomb explodes prematurely and tears his clothes off. Bush appears chopping up a cake and distributing the pieces among people, with a map of the Middle East in the background.

    "Using animated cartoons with such lyrics has turned the song into a political caricature," said Said Faramawi, a player, writer and a prominent caricaturist.

    "It is good as long as it has successfully conveyed the message behind the song," he told Aljazeera.net.

    Music critic Isam Zakaraia disagrees.

    "Shabaan's songs go along with the deteriorating cultural taste in Egypt," he said. "He is a clown. It's good that people can release their frustration through laughter, but nobody should take him seriously."

    Abd Al-Rahim's songs are written by Islam Khalil, a school teacher who teamed up with him in the 1990s and produced all the political hits.

    Attempts by Aljazeera.net to reach Khalil for comment were unsuccessful.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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