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Tue Mar 11 06:59:37 MST 2003
With an Ear to the Ground, Singer Gets Arab World's Beat
By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 11, 2003; Page A12
It took just a few chords screeching from a battered stereo before
Mahmoud Barghouti popped around the corner and shouted to the music
vendor in downtown Amman: "Turn up the volume. Turn it up! Turn it up!"
Up it went and out poured the lyrics of the Arab world's newest and most
popular hit, "The Attack on Iraq."
"Enough!" demands the singer, an Egyptian named Shaaban Abdel-Rahim.
"Chechnya! Afghanistan! Palestine! Southern Lebanon! The Golan Heights!
And now Iraq, too? And now Iraq, too? It's too much for people. Shame on
you! Enough, enough, enough!"
At that, Barghouti broke into a satisfied smile. "It's really
wonderful," he said, as he stood outside his clothing store along Amir
With a blend of anger, fear and humor, wrapped up in the staccato
vernacular of Cairo's streets, Abdel-Rahim has once again demonstrated
his knack for touching a popular nerve in the Middle East, this time
ahead of a possible U.S. attack on Iraq. By doing so, he has created an
overnight sensation in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere, another
sign of the emergence of Arabic pop music in recent years as an arena
for dissent and protest over Israeli and U.S. policy.
"I can't talk, he can't talk," Barghouti said, pointing to his
colleague, Bassem Maali, as they listened to the song. "The people are
afraid to talk, but Shaaban sings. It's 100 percent there. He sings
through the music what people are saying in the street. He's not scared."
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