Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The concept of 'Gheera'

The iraqi-arabic word 'gheera' is hard to translate, an offspring of the distinct Middle Eastern mentality, the closest Western word to it is 'honor', but it lacks many of the connotations that makes it different from 'sharaf' which is the literal 'honor' in Arabic.

The Iraqi 'Gheera' comes directly from the classical Arabic 'ghayoor', I haven't heard it being used in other Arabic dialects, it stems from the same human feelings of 'pride' and 'honor' but it is also much more than that, perhaps the 'gheera' has its roots in the Beduoin-descendant importance of protecting the family, especially the women. a 'ghayoor' or an 'abu il gheera' is the proud, honorable William Wallace type of person.

The dilemma of translating 'gheera' came to me when I was trying to translate the following poem, I normally consider patriotic Iraqi songs hypocritical, but apparently, everything can be great if it's done well. and this performance have never failed to stir me, even the over-the-top, bullshitty parts, Hussam al-Rassam, currently Iraq's favorite singer, did an especially good job here, somehow I feel every word and actually the first two times it literally brought tears to my eyes on the 'children sleep on their empty stomaches' line, as you can see in the video, I was not the only one feeling this way, not to mention the way he lays down his issues with our Arab countries in a tone that conveys despair, pride, majesty, sadness all at the same time. It's almost flawless, except for the smiling bimbo at 3:30, but oh well.
This performance is actually a medley of three different 'mawaweel', in short a mawal is a small vocal performance of a poem Iraqi (and maybe Arab) singers perform before jumping headlong into a song, the mawal is usually painful and exquisitely worded, but the subject matter of the mawal and the song can be totally unrelated, for example, you can sing a mawal about the pain and suffering you feel when torn away from your country and then jump headlong into a song about stolen chickens.

Other things of note is that translation often fails to preserve the direct essence and brilliance of the mawal, especially if there is wordplay, for example the first verse which ends with 'dates', 'command' and 'pass us by' is in Iraqi-Arabic 'tamurna', 'timurna' and 'tumurna'. a wordplay often used in Iraqi mawaweel. I have tried however to convey its meaning to the best of my humble capability as someone who earns his bread by translation.

Enjoy it, it's really important.

Fair and well for those who our dates they eat
and we obey your wishes when us you command
for entirely the Basra leans when us you pass by
and Shatt al-Arab greets thee heartily...

May the Lord ails you, my country, O the cradle of civillizations...
I embrace you even if thou embrace the knives themselves....
For I wish to speak, and who is he who believes my fables...
and you, O beloved, bear the anecdotes of Sultans..
The Bread-maker, why do you give your neighbors
while your children sleep on empty stomaches?
And your walls are used but for the slogans, many are the
slogans, few are the walls...

and here you cry alone, and no one shares you tears...
For you need not a tear shed without honor (gheera)
When the horses broke into stride, you calmed their fears
and preserved them, their thrones, kings, and tribes.
Who has not quenched from Kirkuk's oil?
but who invites me on his table today?
I address he who drank Irbil's yoghurt
and he who ate the bread of Sowayra
and he who consumed Thi-Qar's masguf
and he who uttered but the single utterance
and I bemoan for Saladdin isn't present
nor is the Qaqa, nor is Ibn al-Mugheira!
O Sa'ad, do you see Rustam, at the doorstep?
On the Euphrates, his rank and file march
I address those who slept by Abu Nuwas
Lo! How the Tigris remains captive today!
O Ali! O Father of al-Hasan! Dulfiqar is sheathen, and of your
dome the cowardly chips a stone?
I remember when they clinged to my clothes
and yesterday when the peninsula preserved its pride
Yesterday, when my helmet rebound a thousand bullets
the Arab Gulf is my sea, and I didn't flee
I hold thee accountable for all that happened to me
and everyone's sin lies in the corner of his eyes
for I am Iraq, and my name shatters the heavens.

*The poet who wrote this, Samir Sabah, was imprisoned by Jordanian authorities shortly after its release, he was only released after human right organizations intervened, ironically, this concert was in Jordan.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Who Am I?

The last comment at my last post set a wheel in motion in my brain, it's not that i have time to post right now actually ; i'm working two jobs and i'm really beat...but anyway, I thought I'd drop in a quick explanation regarding a few accusations made by a few loving or otherwise readers.

First, Annie, I don't really support the occupation, but that doesn't require my support for its withdrawal necessarily. The only thing that I really understand right now is that there is no really clear, 1-2-3 way out in this fucked up political condition anymore, in fact, there are only guys who are looking for their own interests. That could mean turning a blind eye to horrible atrocities and creating a pan-Arab hero out of a bloody tyrant, or simply focusing on that tyrant's atrocities all day long perhaps as a justification to cover today's crimes. People like t to hear what they want to hear, seeing people become simplistic entities with cartoonish views of right and wrong has taken out a huge chunk of my faith in human nature. The thing is, if the owner of this blog knows one thing, then it's that nothing is really for sure anymore, it's a huge unjust, unfair mess, be it history, social conduct, politics, secularism or religion. Also, the person known as Anarki13 once said that i'm a know-it-all twat, in fact, what you are witnessing is really just soul-searching, that hopes at getting somewhere in the end. All i did in my recent posts is just copying transcripts of what well-known authors have said, i didn't bring anything out of my own pocket. However, I must say that I've always thought of you as somebody who never listened to anybody's opinions and actually never even took the views of anything seriously but his for that matter, including my own views. So judge not, okay?

Talk about being konfused... :)