‘Hello you’: Israeli-UAE joint song a YouTube hit

Israeli singer Elkana Marziano, 28, speaks during an interview with AFP at his home in the central Israeli city of Giv'at Shmuel, in front of a screen showing the video clip of a song on which he worked in collaboration with Emirati artist Walid Aljasim (image on screen), on October 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 18 October 2020

‘Hello you’: Israeli-UAE joint song a YouTube hit

  • Marziano and Aljasim had collaborated over the Zoom video-conferencing service
  • The duet has clocked more than 1.1 million YouTube views since it was posted on September 30

JERUSALEM: The scene cuts from Dubai to Tel Aviv, the lyrics switch from Arabic to Hebrew to English and the song is a slightly kitsch electro-pop duet by artists who, for now, remain apart.
The normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has produced its first musical collaboration: “Ahlan Bik,” or “Hello you” in Arabic.
“This is a historic moment,” said Israeli singer Elkana Marziano, whose duet with Emirati artist Walid Aljasim has clocked more than 1.1 million YouTube views since it was posted on September 30.
Marziano, 28, is a former winner of Israel’s version of The Voice, a singing competition TV show, and an Arabic speaker influenced by the Mizrahi culture of Jews from the Arab world.
He told AFP that he and Aljasim had collaborated over the Zoom video-conferencing service, with some parts of the song recorded in Dubai and others in Israel.
“The understanding was immediate,” Marziano said of the partnership.
One online commentator, who posted under the name Shaked Sharon, said: “With this song, you feel the new Middle East.”
In August, Israel and the UAE announced that they had reached a US-brokered deal to normalize ties, following years of discreet economic and security cooperation.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved the UAE deal on Thursday.
Bahrain ultimately joined the pact known as the Abraham Accords signed at the White House last month, making it and the UAE the third a fourth Arab states to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.
Israel signed a peace agreement with neighboring Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has boasted that the Gulf deals highlight shifting priorities in the region.
The right-winger has insisted that more Arab states want ties with Israel even though its conflict with the Palestinians remains unresolved.
The UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has said the pact “opens the way to a new era of cooperation.”
Palestinian leaders have condemned the deals and called on the Arab world to withhold establishing ties with Israel until it reaches a viable peace with the Palestinians.
While some YouTube commenters have celebrated “Ahlan Bik,” others have condemned the song and Israeli-Emirati normalization, while calling for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The song was written by Doron Medalie, who also wrote “Toy,” which won the 2018 Eurovision contest in Israel.
The chorus — “I hear you friend far away, far away” — is repeated in the three languages, while the music video’s action pivots from Marziano dancing with friends in Israel to Aljasim in Dubai.
Marziano said that peace was a common theme in Israeli music, which has regularly been in conflict with its neighbors since its founding in 1948.
He said it was a “personal victory” to see young Israelis and Emiratis interacting online to discuss the song on his YouTube page, adding that he is planning a live concert with Aljasim when the coronavirus pandemic ends.
“I am very moved by the idea of singing this song, and others, on the same stage (with Aljasim),” Marziano told AFP.


Mysterious monolith in US desert reportedly disappears

Updated 29 November 2020

Mysterious monolith in US desert reportedly disappears

  • The shiny, triangular pillar was spotted on November 18 by baffled local officials
  • Some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken

LOS ANGELES: A mysterious metal monolith found in the remote desert of the western United States, sparking a national guessing game over how it got there, has apparently disappeared, officials said.
The Bureau of Land Management in Utah said Saturday it had received “credible reports” that the object had been removed “by an unknown party” on Friday evening.
The bureau “did not remove the structure which is considered private property,” it said in a statement.
“We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office.”
The shiny, triangular pillar which protruded some 12 feet from the red rocks of southern Utah, was spotted on November 18 by baffled local officials counting bighorn sheep from the air.
After landing their helicopter to investigate, Utah Department of Public Safety crew members found “a metal monolith installed in the ground” but “no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.”
News of the discovery quickly went viral, with many noting the object’s similarity with strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Others remarked on its discovery during a turbulent year that has seen the world gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, and optimistically speculated it could have a different function entirely.
“This is the ‘reset’ button for 2020. Can someone please press it quickly?” joked one Instagram user.
“Somebody took the time to use some type of concrete-cutting tool or something to really dig down, almost in the exact shape of the object, and embed it really well,” Nick Street, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety told the New York Times.
“It’s odd,” he added. “There are roads close by, but to haul the materials to cut into the rock, and haul the metal, which is taller than 12 feet in sections — to do all that in that remote spot is definitely interesting.”
Some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, a US artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011.
His son, Patrick McCracken, told the Times recently that his father had told him in 2002 that he would “like to leave his artwork in remote places to be discovered later.”
Although officials had refused to disclose the object’s location out of fear that hordes of curious sightseers would flock to the remote wilderness, some explorers had been able to track it down.
Instagram user David Surber said he trekked to the monolith using coordinates posted on Reddit.
“Apparently the monolith is gone,” he posted later.
“Nature returned back to her natural state I suppose. Something positive for people to rally behind in 2020.”