Cairo Talking Heads
teeth & tongue will be in Cairo very soon.
this blog will document their encounters in the cairosphere.
teeth & tongue don't speak arabic at all, they are too lazy.
however they would like to be other people's voice.
record yourself saying anything in arabic you want to hear from us.
use the recorder on the right, but don't tell us what it means.
teeth & tongue will repeat your speech as identic as possible and put it back on this blog, following the talking heads principle.
teeth & tongue, as a membrane of you, thank you.
some of the posts contain large audiofiles, so be patient if you have a slow connection.
use headphones and the Mozilla Firefox internet browser for best results.
find your way and make your own sound mix.
Here some links to audio recordings made during our presentation of the Cairo Talking Heads project on thursday 29. march at the Sphinx Agency in Cairo.
These are live readings in Arabic by Hoda Hussein and Ashraf Ibrahim.
Thanks to everyone who came to that evening !
THALAAT HARB (include one text by teeth & tongue, translation by Dina Kabil and excerpts from a post by activist blogger Sandmonkey)
CHLOREE (Zara) by Teeth, translation by Hoda Hussein
SHAABI WEDDING by Teeth, translation by Hoda Hussein
Enjoy and keep posted for some pictures from the performance and more informations about that evening.
The activist bloggers consider their blogs as an extension of the street and also the street as an extension of the virtual space of the internet. We use the blogs to organise the demonstrations, invite people to join in and then go and demonstrate, get arrested and report about that on the blogs. The popularity of my blog do have an effect on my own daily live. Sometimes people recognize me on the street and congratulate me for doing this. Most of the activists are bloggers and also friends. Our faces are well known by the state security, that’s why we cannot just meet and demonstrate peacefully. Our goal is to wake up the street to claim for a real freedom of expression. We believe that generally people feel solidary even if they are afraid to join us. The foreigners who come to witness what happens here are useful to us, because they report about these events and give us more visibility outside of Egypt.
25th of March
Whenever someone would stop, they would tell them they couldn't stand where they were standing and that they had to move along.
When we try to cross the street towards them the police wouldn’t let us, and then they do allow us to cross the street but not get on the otherside of the pavement, forcing us to go back and cross the street again.
I hear Salma say: "Fuck this" and start running across the street towards the square with the other girl
Right before they reach the square they are tackled by the police who swarms on them from every direction.
All the whole the police officers are pushing us to move forward.
Plainclothed police thugs run after him and hold him and start to pull him towards the Paddywagon.
Picture by Amr Abdallah.
One of his friends is being grabbed as well and thrown in the same car with him, and then the car starts moving taking them to an unknown destination.
The other demonstrators break free and walk towards Talaat Harb square, while chanting slogans.
The police encircles the protesters.
They push the protesters together and beat them.
On top of the sound of the battle, you can hear distinct female screams.
The egyptians walking on the street stand there, some of them take their cellphones out and use their cameraphones to videotape what's going on while joking about it. I really hate them at the moment.
As if they were not hearing the same screams we are hearing.
R. yells at the police, while H. grabs her and M. pulls on them both, and Alia is trying to reason with the officers behind us.
When we finally reach the other side we see the big Police Paddywagon leave and move. I look around me and notice that besides the 10 people who have been joining me on the other side, I am surrounded by foreigners. But all the egyptians are gone. The Police selects the egyptians from the big mob and throw them and only them into the paddywagon. Anyone who looks foreign they let go. This mean that Bassem and Hosam, alongside of Malek and Salma, have been all arrested.
Malek getting arrested. Picture by Nasser Nouri.
He seems really disturbed. He urges us to move faster and to get him inside the syndicate as fast as possible, so we hussle and we get him in. Alia notices that he isn't acting like his usual self. To any of our inquiries about what is wrong with him, he keeps silent, sullen.
The number of SS soldiers starts to increase.
It isn't a good sign.
Many of the foreign journalists, now satisfied with the story they had, start leaving the area.
It also isn't a good sign.
We notice that the police doesn’t let her egyptian companions through.
It defintely isn't a good sign.
We are being trapped here.
Some of them get into cabs and order the drivers to follow the Paddywagons to bloody God knows where.
You are a travelling stranger.
I am a stranger who never travelled.
Why is it like that ? I will anwser with a poem of mine.
Here's Tongue's Talking Head version of Rami's contribution. we thank him a lot for that!
It makes me think about a piece of music that I brought with me from Zanzibar. (he plays it). They are singing in Swahili, an African language that has a lot of Arabic influences. To me it’s like if it where a song in Arabic. It sounds like Arabic without being it, like your work. What we are hearing is a tune from a CD I bought from a taxi driver, one of most beautiful music I ever heard. Zanzibar was a place where I felt very much in peace. The architecture, the streets, an island, a small piece of Africa which has fallen down in the sea, a Muslim population, speaking an African language, such a mix, a lot of Indians, Persians, British people… After their revolution in the 40’s, some socialist stuff, the mix of the culture was even obligatory…
Les musiciens de Zaar ne sont que vingt-quatre dans toute l’Egypte. Il ne reste de cette véritable espèce en voie de disparition juste trois femmes chanteuses, trois joueurs de tambura et une vingtaine d’autres musiciens. Si tu poses la question à Mousama la chanteuse : « Mais ta fille, elle apprend ce que tu fais, ? Elle répond : – Non, ma fille, elle est diplômée. – Et ton fils Hassan ? – Non, mon fils est chauffeur de taxi. » Combien de fois on s’est disputé sur leur manière de se vêtir. Moi je les trouve d’une beauté incroyable avec leur taha longue, avec le mendil, là, sur la tête, avec ce look, avec les oreilles dont on voit un petit bout, les galabeyas, leurs manières de se poser devant toi. Mais je les vois arriver avec le foulard, le hijab, que moi j’appelle philippini, importé des Philippines, et avec une espèce de robe, qui n’est ni une robe ni une galabeya, mais un truc modernisé, élégant. Alors je lui pose la question : « Pourquoi arrives-tu avec ce hijab pour l’enlever dès que tu redeviens toi-même et le remettre à la sortie ? – Parce que nous, nous sommes développés. » Je m’attendais à l’entendre répondre que c’est Dieu qui l’a commandé. Ici, dans les journaux, on parle une de la montée de l’islamisme, des rues où l’on trouve de plus en plus de femmes voilées. En réalité, porter le voile, pour Mousama, ce n’est pas obéir à l’Islam, c’est démontrer son accession à un statut social différent. Une analphabète, une paysanne, une femme du Zaar, une gitane montrent ainsi qu’elles se modernisent en changeant de classe. Elles adoptent le voile couvrant toute la tête, cette tenue imposée, distribuée le plus largement et qu’a introduite l’Arabie saoudite, avec toutes les contraditions que cela implique. Pour les couches populaires, la religion est une question dont elles abandonnent aux intellectuels le soin de débattre.
Urbanisation et métissages
Lors des fêtes populaires, les mulids, on observe des mélanges entre musiques coptes et musulmanes. Des musulmans participent aux mulids des saints chrétiens et, inversément, des chrétiens aux mulids musulmans. Pareillement, dans certains passages de la musique soufie, on trouvera sur les mêmes mélodies des paroles qu’inspirent différentes croyances. Le Zaar a gardé cette composante préreligieuse, faisant peu de cas de l’orthodoxie. On s’y laissse posséder par des esprits chrétiens et des esprits musulmans. Un croyant chrétien cherchera un esprit musulman, et un musulman un esprit chrétien.
Au centre d’un rituel Zaar, on trouve le patient : les musiciens, le public d’amis, tous sont là pour lui, pour lui donner du plaisir, et se lâchent. Ce qui dérange les intellectuels. Mais le passage des traditions ancestrales à des pratiques actuelles s’effectue sans pour autant changer la fonction sociale de la musique. Le service de soulagement, de guérison, qu’offrait le Zaar, est aujourd’hui pris en charge par d’autres formes. Quelqu’un comme Ghibril, qui récite le Coran dans la plus ancienne mosquée du Caire, arrive ici avec sa culture saoudienne, marquée par l’enfer, le mal, la culpabilité, la punition et le chagrin. Il prie sur un mode si triste et cassé que le public finit par pleurer hystériquement. La nécessité du soulagement demeure.
L’idée du Makan, c’est de constituer une archive pour les générations à venir, mais c’est aussi un lieu où il y a place pour la fonction sociale de la musique. On te fera t’asseoir ici comme si tu étais chez quelqu’un, on t’offrira une hospitalité que tu ne peux pas simplement consommer sans participer.
Tu vois ce qu’on va te faire !
Qu’est ce qui se passe en Europe ? En Italie c’est le régime de la télé. Et en France ? Le pacifisme du guerrier. Israël ? Y en a marre de discuter, on n’en peut plus. Même s’il existe des associations juives en France qui condamnent la politique israélienne et des personnalités critiques comme Moustaki, même s’il est nécessaire de faire des distinctions, de ne pas condamner tous les citoyens israéliens, il ne faut pas oublier que peu d’entre eux choisissent la déobéissance civile. La question de la justice, de la justice internationale et de sa crédibilité, est en jeu. Or, personne n’a intérêt à l’appliquer, car le pouvoir a besoin de se créer un ennemi afin d’asseoir sa domination, et ainsi de diviser le monde en camps opposés. Or la culture est une, c’est la culture humaine. Et quant au conflit des cultures, je n’y crois pas, c’est une machination : depuis les croisades, l’ouest a construit l’islamisme. Ce « camp »-là, malheureusement, mord à l’hameçon. Quand le dominateur veut imposer sa présence, il commence par montrer sa force en tuant. C’est ce qui se passe avec les films de Ben Laden, avec les films de Guantanamo, avec les films d’Abu Graib. Qui a diffusé ces images ? L’impact sur ceux qui ont vu ces photos est traumatisant et effrayant. L’Amérique affirme par-là qu’elle est la plus forte : « Nous allons te faire ça, toi jeune Irakien, sors pas de chez toi, tu vois ce que qu’on va te faire ? »
There is something beautifull in this idea that I can’t express. I think you mean to transfer the human beeing’s feelings. Like if someone would like to talk to the others, to communicate. During this process you move to the position of the other and the other takes your position, it’s a kind of exchange of positions… the great idea : How to accept the other ? How to adapt to the other ? this is a good starting point. The sentences that you are repeating are almost all incorrect, but what matters is the feeling, you can feel some words that I say and that touches you, so this is perfect. My only objection is why did you choose Teeth and Tongue ? To me those words mean the language itself.
Kareem Amer is a young man who has questions and he is right to ask these questions. In his blog he attacked the people’s faith. What happened to him would never have happened if he hadn’t lost the sympathy of the public opinion and of his relatives. This was a mistake. One can have some opinions but one should recognize that we are in a very religious society. As a European you have been surprised by the reactions in the Islamic world against the publishing of the Danish caricatures, but for me it was obvious because I know the mentality here, in spite of the fact that I believe in the same conception of freedom of expression like you. I just know that this can be dangerous here. In the case of Kareem, he has been punished because of the action itself of publishing his opinion. The mentality of the people here needs to develop. The people who denounced him to the police where from the Al Hazhar University. Personally I’m against this trial and against his punishment. My opinion is that it’s the El Hazhar University that should be punished because they denounced Kareem’s ideas to the police, rather than discussing them with him. During the trial Kareem said that he believes in God and that he’s not atheist, but that he has a critical opinion about religion, so we should not punish him for that, but rather discuss these ideas. To be an atheist is a very difficult issue here in Egypt.
Most of the people from the activist bloggers scene are friends of mine. They do a lot of good things. There are two examples where they played an important role: the recent scandal about a case of torture in a police station and cases of sexual harassment that happened at the end of last Ramadan in Cairo. They helped to widen the space of freedom. The government arrested Kareem as an example for the rest of the bloggers. This trial will affect them a lot because the government is using Kareem as a way to stain the bloggers reputation in the eyes of the public opinion, accusing them of spreading atheist ideas, which is against the society. So in the future the bloggers will have to face this prejudice even if they write in favour of more human rights.
Freedom of speech
Generally I’m free to write anything because there’s no censorship for the licensed newspapers before the publication. Afterwards other newspaper can attack both your company and you as a person, calling you a gay, a junkie or an adulterer, they may bring you down, insult your parents and even sue you. If you criticize someone, in particular a businessman owning a newspaper, he would let it attack you in turn. That’s the same with the security department. It disposes of the possibility to respond violently to you through the press. It’s also the case with some parties, for instance the Muslim Brotherhood. They possess their own newspapers. In front of them you will be like naked. When you’re boxing it’s not allowed to hit under the belt, here you have no belt. Three years ago it happened to me. I wrote something about Muslim Brotherhood. I wasn’t syndicated. Without discussing the issues I was speaking about, they called me an immoral person in their articles and insulted me on the street, saying that I belong to the security department. For a journalist, to be treated as a spy is the worse injury regarding your reputation. So it’s very dangerous to express oneself about religion because you can easily not only loose the sympathy of the public opinion, but also the respect other intellectuals owe you, especially if you question the faith. You can challenge the ideas or attack personally a sheikh or any important person but not the faith, the prophet or the holy things. Neither other prophets like Jesus elsewhere. I would never do it in a direct way because it touches other people’s freedom. Only a long experience would teach you how to deal with the public opinion and to measure the very tiny difference between faith and ideas. Laws, traditions and habits cross themselves, their limits are not clear, but they exist. It’s like a vast sea you can always sink into and then at every moment be accused to insult religion. It’s a highly fuzzy area. Furthermore critical views on main appointees or military topics, all what regards national security issues lead you into jail. But anyway the Egyptian laws are so tight in all matters that even if you’re speaking about the public water distribution services, you could appear in court.
Karim Amar is an Egyptian blogger who has been arrested and sentenced to four years of jail because of his critical writings and position.
This is a scandalous case of repression here in Egypt, among 1000.
Everybody should sign the petition.
To be aware of the complexity of the affair and learn more about the Egyptian activists' blogosphere, check the following links:
Accordingly to the Talking Head principle here is our contribution.This a sample of the post that Kareem published on the 23th October 2005 and that led him into jail. (see the english translation of karim's whole post HERE)
My finger is diving in the seas of passion
Opening my hymns, singing the last thing I wrote about her
Going into the crazy world of her eyes
Climbing up to the dream
To her star which stayed in the night of her childhood desert
But when the monster sweeps the suns from the café of my blood
She leaves my soul without a shelter
And in my hand the reminds of the last stars
Teeth caught the rhythm but not really the letters or the phonemes. He only touched the words through rhythm. He plays the real game, because the whole Arabic poetry has been written in this rhythm that is a meter, a timeline that is not related to the syntax. Although the modern poets use western rhythms now, only a few like me still write in the old one. So, one can say that he caught the rhythm in my voice, considering it as music, as a row of musical units or pieces. Altogether my poetry becomes abstract, so that I only understand 50 percents of the word-centred meaning.
Tongue concentrated more on the letters. They are more precise. His pronunciation is better. He caught the units of the words, the contours of which become here sharper, as if he knew them. Tongue really imitated my voice. I understand more than 70 percents, except regarding some letters that are particularly difficult to pronounce and that he should work on, if he wanted to learn the language. The combinations of letters reach very deeply into the language, they are also hard to be seized. But sometimes Tongue did touch them and in that case his voice relied on the very background of this text that is the Koran and its particular combinations and formulas. They are rare, beautiful and I was keen on imitating it, especially in that sentence which says, “when the monster sweeps the suns from the café of my blood” [tahshufushumuseh].
First to my surprise I found it clever, but now I see how sensitive this idea can be, because the emotion I’ve put into this poetry has moved into the voice of someone who ignores my mother tongue. It’s amazing how the spoken language keeps the feeling, even transferred through their blind performance. Although they can’t speak Arabic some word stay understandable and moreover the emotion. I don’t know how they managed to transmit my expression, not only my words but also my voice with both my particular way to pronounce phonemes and my rhythm. Of course something remains lost, which is a certain singular belonging to a culture, as a native speaker. So it’s neither the same profound sadness nor the same shallow I spoke out, but what I can hear here is my own expression that has been abstracted.
The Baron: The Baron came to Egypt and said he has a brilliant idea, that he wants to construct his own city. He chose this place here, it was all desert. He was employed in a company of architects and made a lot of money, he was very smart. He committed suicide in 1942 because he was sick, he had cancer.
At that time, there were a lot of european architects building in Cairo, mixing european style with islam style. His palace is indianstyle, it’s beautiful, it’s huge, it’s like haunted. Imagine it : a palace from Cambodgia in the desert in the the middle-east. But now you can’t enter it, there’s no one living there. The wife of Mubarak, Susanne Mubarak, she’s crazy about that house and its huge garden, she wants to renovate it. If you talk about the president or his family, it’s like… gods… nobody can touch it. I can’t do anything you know. Some opinions they say that Mubarak is good because he manipulates these things for many years, he was smart you know, but the system is corrupt. He talk about to leave his position for his son, the businessmen they want that, they want the things to be stable, to make business you need to have a stable position you know, far from fondamentalism, from islam, terrorist or other, so you have terrorism from this side and corruption from the other side and normal people who pay the shit, who are struglging to be better, they have no chance.
This area was very quiet before, dark and cold. It’s the problem of Cairo, the emigration from the villages. They come with their tradition of islam and their mosques. I will show you, in any empty place they put mosque, and you know chicken and all that stuff from the village. It’s becoming a little bit dirty, that’s the problem of Cairo.
You see that mosque ? before it was a garden, like an Italian piazza, very nice.
They talk about that for a long time here in egypt, how to be oriental, not European. Some egyptian artists, they used to put folklore in their art, but you can’t present folklore like art. comtemporary art is not folklore. I’ve made egyptian painting and drawing like that, but a very friend of mine, he is artist too, he said don’t do that again.
Ash: To live in Europe is not that easy, because you’re in 3 circles : arab, muslim, poor, lazy… these stereotypes and people look at you as a foreigner and maybe a youg teenager from neo-nazisme he will look at you because you have black eyes or black hair he will shoot you for no reason.
The Baron: I know that you fight the movies with movies, because you see all the news and tv…so your respond is the movie. Painting is like poetry, something more metaphysic, like the Baron’s palace, it belongs to another world you know, but vide ois from this world, the same shit, the same world, there is nothing in that world, that’s my idea i don’t know…it’s boring. Reality is not in that world, reality is metaphysics.
Ash : here there are no CCTV. Here their are really deep in hiding themselves. We don’t know how they look like in fact.
This is the national democratic party, they have this type of advertising. It says : a new future, a new tomorow, we are together… which is crazy, we would like to get rid of 25 years ruling the country and he thinks that he will be permanent here… and he is 78 years old. It’s a sad joke you know. On the portraits that you see on the streets Mubarak looks very young, but now he is a very old man. Now they try to hide his image from the people, because the people around him they know that the people are fed up with him so they try bring the image of his son Gamal to prepare for transition. Anyway Gamal doesn’t look very different from his father. Both I hate them in fact.
Tongue to Ash about the Baron’s paintings : Do you recognize any arabic influences?
Ash : Yes, it’s the irony that he has and also the dramatic, the sadness and the violence. He expresses what he feels and lives here with these fearness and crisis.
Tongue : Oppression?
Ash: silence, yeah.
Tongue : Any arabic patterns?
Ash : I think not.
The Baron : I thought about showing rolled paintings in a corner.
Tongue : What will you offer as a statement at this exhibition around Occidentalism?
The Baron : My theme is the grotesque.
Tongue : The carnaval ?
The Baron : There is a constellation linking Brasil, i.e. South America and Egypt, i.e. the Arab World, it’s Portugal.
The faces in this red paintings are screaming, some want to say something, others are singing, they come out of the atmosphere, you can feel the sound. There you can see a horse and a sorcerer, that’s the meeting between East and West.
Ash about cairotalkingheads: You’ll be rich after you’ll have been censored! You’ll have people advertising on your site and you’ll make money out of it.
The Baron : What kind of French is that? It’s irony.
Teeth : You beeing imitated by us : It’s not your language, because it becomes stranged, and it’s not ours, because these are not our articulations. It’s a meeting on a sounding terra incognita.
The Baron : A terra what?
établi de cordonnier bobine
leur pèle un oignon deux
Tant d’yeux sont là, mi-clos. Savent-ils tout ? Cette agitation perpétuelle, où il faut pourtant trouver à loger son calme, ses calculs, son propre territoire.
Un poste de radio plutôt toy corannise lentement, mais est-ce même ça, très nase envoûtant. La ventilation, après les salutations de mise, reprend de la force. Un verset s'ennuie, est-ce ça, l'huile crisse, des mains se tendent, chiffonnent les billets. On se frôle, on fabrique en négociant à voix forte, à grands renforts de gestes, un espace qu’il n’y a pas.
il n’y a pas d’homme blanc marchant pour rien sous le soleil d’afrique
ils s’agitent dans la poussière et se plaignent de ne pas voir
promesse c’est nuage : passage à l’acte c’est averse
que la vie vous vienne, c’est un pigeon qui pond son seul œuf sur un piquet
regardez les cendres, vous connaîtrez de quel feu elles sont filles
The idea is to produce abstract group voices but sometimes I recognise that a voice is coming front and the rest is away. It remind me of Beethoven. Beethoven he is very complicated composer because he has this idea… you know how to walk, if you would like to walk you have to stand once and then a step further and you have to stand and the other…this back and forward work remind me of the human being brain, you can’t think many things in one time. He knows that so you have focus in one idea and the rest is backround. Beethoven he has four melodies in one time, one time he has one melody in front and the rest is in background but it all work together and then it moves to the second bar and third bar and fourth bar and than again and again. It’s allways Beethoven work in this way. This work is remind me of that because sometimes I have a voice coming and the other is a bit lower and then it’s back and then another one is coming, another one is coming, but group of voices you can’t recognise the mistakes and you didn’t recognise one text but I recognise that this text is really have the common idea of any tourist about Egypt and about Arab people that they like the blong girls and they speak about the fighting and violence and old history… first I’m asking myself when I hear something like that, something like, sorry to say it, like kind of racism like we put in a shelf that Arabs they like blond girls, violence and they are voices, very hard voices for fighting and violence. This three things is like kind of stereotypes. You going to prove to the europeans that they have right to judge and to put these people in that shelf that they have sex hunger and violence. What you would like to do with that ? It’s confusing you know. Especially when you speak about Saladin. Saladin is symbol for the Europeans that he is really violence and killed a lot of christian because of the crusades war. When you have this symbol it’s not a name it’s have history. This is what I thought that you’d like to bring me with this text.
"Orientalist : a guy who travelled a lot.
Trapped in the dictionary of accepted ideas.
Flaubert couldn’t write in Egypt, he just wanted to be an eye.
Guilt had already been the romantic reaction to the other.
That’s what I thought when it was my turn to be an idiotic membrane.
I hadn't enough time to improve my skills. Nevertheless I knew WHAT THESE WORDS MEANT – do you?"
rather than discussing the meaning of it, i'd like to know if people can understand anything, recognise elements of their language and contribute by sending us their own soundfiles so that we can repeat it.
the same file, back to original speed. ... any comment ?
This was Roland Barthes' fantasma of giving the Others a place, as he was encountering Japan.
Another Roland, tells you an epic song of the 11th century, explodes his brain while blowing in his horn as he encountered the Others he would only fear.
Now you have teeth and tongue. What the hell can they do? They would let the Others blow through them, as a first step. A new epos ?