Thursday, 10 December 2009

Lost in translation?

Lebanese sensation Haifa Wehbe has been in trouble over allegedly racist lyrics penned by an Egyptian. Wehbe claims she had no idea that the line 'I want my Nubian monkey' was a slur rather than a reference to a popular Egyptian street game. The furore has inspired this piece by Nesrine Malik, in which she discusses racism in Egypt more generally (naturally, the comments veer from the reasonable to the outrageous and back again).

To me, the whole controversy highlights how careful western dancers who don't speak Farsi/Turkish/Arabic/Darsi etc need to be when selecting music. Even instrumentals aren't a completely safe option: Turkish belly dancer Ozgen has an amusing/cringe-inducing story about a tribal dancer he saw performing to music that is traditionally used in Turkey to accompany circumcisions. I don’t know if he said anything cutting to her about it afterwards. Ba-DOM-dish. Thank you. I’ll be here all week – try the veal.

As unpleasant as this controversy about Wehbe's lyrics is, it makes a nice change from the last time a Lebanese pop star and an Egyptian got any kind of coverage in the British press. If anyone knows how Moustafa's appeal against the death sentence is going, let me know.

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