Saturday, February 28, 2015

the long reach of the sunniphilly beard

aljazeera |  Overseas the moustacheless, bushy beard is not so identifiably hip-hop and has caused considerable controversy, with security officials in Europe and the Middle East mistaking the Philly for a jihadi beard. In February 2014, for instance, Lebanese police arrested Hussein Sharaffedine (aka Double A the Preacherman), 32, a Shia rapper and frontman for a local funk band. Internal Security Forces mistook him for a Salafi militant and handcuffed and detained him for 24 hours. In Europe hip-hop heads such as French rapper M├ędine — a Black Powerite who wears a fierce beard that he calls “the Afro beneath my jaw” — complain of police harassment. French fashion magazines joke now crudely about "hipsterrorisme." European journalists are descending on Philadelphia to trace the roots of what they call la barbe sunnah and Salafi hipsterism.

But there is more to the story than these superficial inquiries. The synergy between Islam and black music in Philadelphia has a long history. As such, the global spread of the moustacheless beard cannot be understood in isolation from the rich blending that took place between various strands of Islam and music in black America.

City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia’s Muslim elders are quick to list the jazz greats who lived in or came out of the City of Brotherly Love since the 1930s — John Coltrane, Lynn Hope, Pharoah Saunders, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, George Jordan and the Heath Brothers. Many of these artists had an intimate relationship with Islam. Saxophonist Hope was featured prominently in Ebony magazine’s famous 1953 article on Muslim jazz artists, sitting on the floor of his Philadelphia home smoking hookah with his two young sons in fezzes.

“The history of Islam in Philadelphia is reflected in the music. Some artists were openly Muslim, others more private,” says Imam Nadim Ali, a celebrated jazz deejay and community leader who spent his youth in Philadelphia. “We knew Pharaoh Sanders as Abdulmufti. One of his first albums from 1966 was called “Tawhid.” Likewise, George Howard was a great funk/smooth-jazz artist. Kenny G co-opted his style. We knew Howard as Tahir — I grew up with him in West Philly. But when he died, his family buried him in a Christian cemetery. This sometimes happens when converts to Islam don’t leave a will.”

Jazz artists in the 1940s and ’50s came to Islam through the Ahmadiyya movement, a heterodox Islamic movement that emerged in 19th century India and developed a significant presence in Philadelphia. As the Nation of Islam gained followers, it cast its cultural influence on the music scene. Sun Ra, who lived in Germantown for 25 years, for instance, was not Muslim. But he claimed to be a distant cousin of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad and was inspired by the movement’s teachings. Sun Ra traveled to Cairo and collaborated with Egyptian drummer Salah Ragab, recording numbers such as “Ramadan in Space Time.”

As members of soul and R&B groups such as the Delfonics, the Five Stairsteps, the Moments, Kool & the Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire embraced Islam in the 1960s, the dialogue and tensions between Sunni Islam and the Nation of Islam found expression in music in various cities. In Philadelphia old heads recall Kool & the Gang’s visiting from New Jersey in the early 1970s to perform songs such as “Whiting H&G” (a reference to the frozen fish that the Nation of Islam was selling) and “Fruitman,” both tracks praising the Nation of Islam’s economic initiatives and dietary rules. Even non-Muslim artists paid homage to what they saw as a positive movement that taught self-reliance. Philly native and Grammy-winning crooner Billy Paul never embraced Islam, but he recorded an album called “Going East” in 1971 and gave a shout-out to Muhammad and Malcolm X in his 1976 track “Let ’Em In” — perhaps the first popular song to sample a speech by Malcolm X (“You’ve been misled/ You’ve been had/ You’ve been took …”), years before hip-hop artists began doing so.

Urban renewal
At the heart of these decades-old attempts to use faith and art for community building stands Luqman Abdul Haqq, a real-estate developer who has harnessed the energies of diverse Muslim groups to revitalize Philadelphia’s southeast area. Better known as Kenny Gamble, he is the founder of Philadelphia International Records and is considered one of the fathers of disco and R&B — specifically, a subgenre called the Philadelphia sound. In the 1970s, with longtime partner Leon Huff, he recorded dozens of hits for artists such as the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass and Patti Labelle, producing almost 200 gold and platinum records.

In the early 1990s, Luqman moved back to Philly and established Universal Companies, a nonprofit that includes a housing-development initiative, a charter school and a social services agency. Universal has since refurbished more than 1,000 homes and created enclaves where Muslims own businesses and live near mosques. “We are continuing the cultural revolution that began among African-Americans in the 1960s, a cultural revolution based on Islam,” he says. “The Nation of Islam was a vehicle that came to the need of African-Americans, teaching do for self.”


Ed Dunn said...

No one can argue/dispute the point being made at 1:00 in the video....

CNu said...

as always, superb eye Ed. what were they calling out at the end with the grecian gown and the little ionian cap on the girl? also, talking about appropriation, what do you think about the juxtaposition between the source and this Medine knockoff

Ed Dunn said...

I cannot agree with you there - Chief Keef is definitely an original and everybody copying off Keef and that one video. The thing with Chief Keef style is he portrayed an authentic South Side of Chicago black youth culture marginalized by white privilege opportunities but they still going to be around starting shit. The industry wasn't ready for that kind of organic Chief Keef blowup as these other rappers go about with their fake portrayals of the life while these South Side of Chicago cats were really about on that life and was just raw - that was the stuff they don't like, snitch cats, playing both sides. You cannot talk that and then drop "Maybach Music" every 3 minutes on your track.

I would compare Medine more to Immortal Technique who points out the hypocrisy of racism and how Zionists portray Islam with stories after stories of hypocrisy. Medine is more for pointing out stuff and programming further radicalism while Chief Keef is another expression of hip-hop that flaunts that we here and don't give a f*ck what you think either...

Ed Dunn said...

We have not reached "peak beard" as many data scientists predicted. I think clean shave is extinct as well as fades as urban barbershops are dropping like flies over the past few years. But something from the article stood out to me:

"The early 1990s saw the rise of a conservative Salafi movement in Philadelphia and other urban centers..Spearheaded by young Americans who had studied in Saudi Arabia, Salafi preachers spoke out against Sufi practice and music in general.."

Are these Arab men or African-Americans as the article fail to point out this important point - I wonder how the expats who moved to Ghana feel about the kufi dashiki Libya-loving COINTEL victims still here talking about Afrocentricity..just curious...

Constructive_Feedback said...

EXTREMISTS..................against WHOM?

Based on the shootings at the CIAA basketball tournament this past weekend - it is clear that 'Hip Hop Voice Of The Street Pirate" is not the "radical/revolutionary genre" of music that it thinks that it is.

Even "Jasiri X" who believes that he is a "conscious radical" can't escape the bindings of American progressive fundamentalism that would have him criticizing Obama for continuing Western Imperialism, so instead Jasiri is exclusively focused upon "The Police" in America these days.

Constructive_Feedback said...

Brother Ed:

Are you pointing to "No Burqa" is hypocritical relative to "The Catholic Nun" outfit?

From my perspective of the City Of Philadelphia:

* In the 1970s through the 1990's the Philadelphia Catholic Schools proved to be a sanctuary for Black parents seeking to avoid the inferior public schools in their community to offer educational hope to their children.

As the White Catholics traditional Catholic church parishioners began to leave the city and more "laity" began teaching in these schools and thus demanding Full Salary and Benefits - the economics of these schools changed.

Those "Nuns With Cover" who gave their life to the church and who lived off of a basic stipend and not a salary began to be a scarce resource to educate the new crop of students.

Today the Catholic Church Of Philadelphia has closed some former powerhouse schools that caused even those of us who had moved away 25 years ago to gasp. (Think the Chicago Public Schools closing).

My basic point is: To focus on the Nun and the "Covered Muslim Woman" misses the larger point about the material "Social Justice" that the Catholic nun had radiated into the "Non-Catholic Community".

IN MY OPINION - the argument should go beyond a piece a material worn by a woman per the man-made religious rituals - and instead look at the "FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES" that the community claims for itself (example: QUALITY EDUCATION AS THE MEANS FOR ACHIEVING SOCIETAL EQUALITY" and then look at the effectiveness of a given body of thought to compel the men and women who will carry out this mantra to "YIELD THEIR SELFISH WANTS" to the "CHURCH/ COMMUNITY".

Is a woman who wears "Indian Virgin Hair" on her head, purchased from a Korean - and then who is seen protesting on the television news - telling the masses that her community is being "Under Resourced" and that she needs to compel people to VOTE as the means of shaking loose more resources from the state - a WOMAN OF MORE CONSCIOUSNESS than one who wears a burqua?

FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

CNu said...

One need look no further than Kief and the other little scrawny baby boys to see that the Lord of the Flies is a piss poor substitute for The 300 - nevertheless, there's is the soundtrack of rebelliousness.

CNu said...

Why are your protestant evangelical xtian denominations incapable of producing the concentric circles of praxis that make roman catholic and orthodox civilization (school) possible?

Vic78 said...

The Protestant evangelical xtians aren't about anything. You know they really believe in the rapture. So that may get in the way of supporting future generations. Jesus can come back at any moment so there is no future. What do they need schools for?

Israel Became A Gangster State When Its Lawbreakers Became Its Lawmakers

NYTimes  |   For decades, most Israelis have considered Palestinian terrorism the country’s biggest security concern. But there is another ...