Blues artist Hindi Zahra pays tribute to her homeland

Hindi Zahra during a previous performance in 2015. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Blues artist Hindi Zahra pays tribute to her homeland

DUBAI: Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra recently bought her mesmerizing brand of music to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, where she performed as part of the Rain of Light festival on Friday.
Arab News caught up with the singer, who has been compared the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Patti Smith, before the show to find out more about her foot-tapping style of music and the album that her performances are based on, “Homeland.”
The Paris-based musician pays tribute to her home country of Morocco in the album, which features a mix of English and Amazigh-language tracks.
“It is the country that gave me everything,” the artist, whose stage name is simply her real name inverted, told Arab News.
“It gave me… mixed culture — African culture, Mediterranean culture. My openness toward other cultures comes from my Moroccan roots,” she added.
Hindi was raised on a steady diet of jazz, rock and blues, which she said her uncles collected due to a familial interest in international music.
That could be part of the reason why she is so comfortable performing in multiple languages.
“I am comfortable with both (English and Amazigh), but because I… grew up with a lot of Afro-American music, it was really natural for me to improvise in English.”
In addition to a clear appreciation and understanding of Western jazz and rock music, Hindi spoke fondly about a legendary Egyptian artist whom she said has inspired her.
Abdel Halim Hafez, who worked during the country’s golden age of entertainment between the 1950s to 70s, played an important role in shaping Hindi’s own style.
“I love the way he delivered feelings through music,” she said of the late opera singer who died in 1977.
Imbued with an appreciation for a wide range of international styles, Hindi released her first album when she was 30 years old — even though she says she was ready 10 years earlier.
She waited a decade so she could produce music on her own terms, under her own label, she said.
“I am shocked about the condition of women in the industry, so it was very important for me to be free and to own my music so nobody owns me.”
After all this, her only hope when it comes to performing is “that (the audience) will dance,” she said.
“If I see them enjoying (the) music to the point that they dance, this is the most important.”


Netflix Review: ‘Leila’ offers a frightening fictional glimpse into India under draconian rule

Netflix’s original six-episode series, “Leila,” is an unflinching look at a fictional futuristic India run under a draconian political, social and cultural structure. (Supplied)
Updated 19 June 2019
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Netflix Review: ‘Leila’ offers a frightening fictional glimpse into India under draconian rule

CHENNAI: Netflix’s original six-episode series, “Leila,” is an unflinching look at a fictional futuristic India run under a draconian political, social and cultural structure.

Adapted from Prayaag Akbar’s novel of the same title, and directed by Deepa Mehta (known for bold films such as “Fire,” “Earth” and “Water”), Shanker Raman and Pawan Kumar, “Leila” is set in 2047, a century after the country had gained independence from the British Empire, and is a daring take on what India could become if authoritarianism and radical forces had their way.

India, in “Leila,” is called Aryavarta, a dictatorial state ruled by Joshi (Sanjay Suri) with the help of a ruthless police force, where painful segregation of people on the basis of religion, caste and economic status is routine. They are separated by formidably tall walls to ensure purity of race.

Children of mixed parentage are whisked away from parents, and women who marry outside their religion are sent to places resembling concentration camps, where they are reformed and re-educated.

One of them is Shalini (Huma Qureshi), whose marriage to Rizwan (Rahul Khanna) outside her community is branded a crime. Her little daughter, Leila, is taken away, and her husband murdered.

The series follows the distraught mother as she goes looking for the girl. Hurt and humiliated by a draconian administration which relies on thugs and a highly intrusive surveillance system to maintain order, Shalini befriends a state-appointed minder, Bhanu (Siddharth).

Penned by Urmi Juvekar, Suhani Kawar and Patrick Graham, the series is slightly different from the book, and runs like a thriller showing chases, brawls for water (“Bandit Queen” director Shekhar Kapur had once wanted to make a movie on water wars, but could not) and torturous living conditions in filthy slums.

Qureshi portrays flashes of brilliance as a deeply troubled woman who pines for her child, but her character is often roadblocked in her quest by an unfeeling regime with a zero-tolerance approach to dissent.

Order is enforced through inhuman forms of punishment, and at one point Shalini has to roll over plates of half-eaten food.

With Netflix outside the purview of sometimes rigid Indian censorship rules, Mehta and the other directors have been able to present most graphically a scenario that is well within the realms of possibility.