The red tomatoe and the head-bangers
It was me, my wife, daughter, sister and my niece at the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Al Balad radio, a local community radio station in Amman. At first it look just like any other events, people huddling together in droll kind of conversations, that occurs when you meet strangers.
After congratulations, self-congratulations and plenty of patting on the shoulders and back, we were led to the theater that was to say the least had tight seating.
There we listened to the story of the radio station, and how it was a new and innovative in the late 1990s. The MC, who stressed on the idea that the radio station is about new media freedoms and broadening free expression, told the expectant guests that she had a great surprise for them. Everyone looked on as if they were about to receive a cherished prize.
And they did, a three men and a women trio, a surprise that was being broadcast live, blasted across Amman. The name of the group roughly translated, means "a band without limits", and a band with no limits it was, especially with the young woman in her bright red dress hopped on stage.
My Mohajababes entourage had on the Islamic Hijab, yet here we were listening, and unexpectedly, to less-than-famous group playing rock intertwined with Arab music. Back in the UK, I used to remember, you "freaked out" at these live concerts, dancing, hip-hopping, head banging, here it was a solemn affair. The host said earlier there was plenty of potential there.
Nevertheless, the people in the audience tried to interact and show interest. They so-called listeners of Al Balad, and many others including journalists, roared to the incredibly loud noise being heard on stage, and broadcasted live.
I felt we were in an American TV programs, the show was stage managed, and we were jolted from our seats by the rounds of applause and hollering from the audience who jeered in unison at allocated time slots or hits, like when the head of Radio Al Balad came on stage and during the Arabic rock foursome. The band was made up of four people that included a Lebanese, who was not able to make it, a Jordanian, a Palestinian and the indelibly brave Egyptian female singer, who looked every bit like a tomato!
She was completely in red, wearing a just-above-the-knee dress, red stockings and small black shoes, which should have been sparkling red instead. The overall look was a mixture of sorts. The scene from the start looked curious to say the least. I couldn't help but start to have fits of giggles.
The rest of the Mohajbabes, a term I pinched from a book which meant trendy Islamic wear, though these relations were nothing like the ones in the paperback, were wondering why I was in fits and starts.
They thought I was laughing at the music that deviated between rock and at times heavy metal which I thought was especially unsuitable for the kind of Arab audiences listening. These are reared on good old/or new Arabic pop, and some 'soft' western song.
There was the deep rhythms, musical acoustics, synthesizer and guitars, and of course the head banging by a group member, who also later on enchanted us with one of his rocky songs in Arabic. The audience might have been just as bewilderingly confused as me, and my "hijabi" entourage.
Every time I looked at the singer the pitch of giggles increased, it was her red dress that appeared to be yanked up at the side, lifted and tucked away under her underwear! It was not of course, but my wild imagination ran wild. Certainly, it seemed to be the case from the angle I was sitting at.
I was told afterwards this is the hip fashion, she is supposed to be a star, and an unconventional one at that. The other "Arabic rock stars" were a bit scruffy with jeans, just like the type of singers you see in the West—after all it was music regardless of whether we understood it or not.
I kept thinking of a woman cartoon character with her big face, urbane hairstyle, short skirt, well-rounded chest, slyly moving about in suggestive ways. We were being introduced to a new kind of music that is boisterous, but we did not seem to connect.
I was middle aged and was quickly feeling old, my wife was went down a couple of years and so was my sister. In the end, it was my young niece who got up to go, we followed one-by-one. If it was for the young, the two I had with me needed a bit of getting used to.
We were told that this community radio station—one of 17 that have come to exist in Jordan in the last 10 years—aims to produce a more professional media that appeals to local people. It is about raising local issues that affect you and me, and introduce us to creative and high-class music.
From what I had been listening to I failed to see what was creative and innovative about a rock concert designed to appeal to an audience that was very much entrenched in its own musical tastes. Maybe this is the new Middle East, the world is driving us to create, and keep throwing down our throats.
I can't say we were excited, for we couldn't get out soon enough. In the car it was laughter all the way home, something which shot our adrenalin upwards to new heights and to no ends. I do believe it was the attire of the female I singer with the red all over!