Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world

Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world
Farah Chamma is a UAE-based Palestinian poet. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 12 April 2022

Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world

Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world
  • Farah Chamma: ‘My work is about freedom in all its forms’

DUBAI: It’s going to be a busy year for the young UAE-based Palestinian poet Farah Chamma. Chamæleon — a poetry and electronic music project Chamma founded with the Brazilian producer Liev — is set to perform at festivals in Portugal and Holland, while her solo show, “Poems without Bread,” is to launch in Dubai before the summer. She’s also recording a second season of “Maqsouda,” a Sowt-produced podcast with the Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck. And, if that’s not enough, she’s also performing at the Festival Poésie Moteur in Belgium on April 9.

“It’s too much,” Chamma says with a laugh. “This is why I’m overwhelmed. But I’m trying to go with the flow and find the right time for everything.” That means working remotely with Liev, who is based in São Paulo, and trying to imagine how Chamæleon’s debut EP, “Uncanny Valley (Vol 1),” will work on stage. It also means balancing her full-time job at Sharjah’s House of Wisdom with a spoken-word career that has been integral to her life since she was a teenager.

Chamma first burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old at The Poeticians, a Dubai-based poetry group founded by the Palestinian filmmaker and writer Hind Shoufani. It was her online performances of “How Must I Believe?” and “The Nationality,” however, that catapulted the then-19-year-old onto the global stage and set the tone for much of what would follow. Now her new solo show, “Poems without Bread,” will bring together much of Chamma’s colloquial work in a single performance. The show will feature 10 pieces, including her latest, “Falastini Ana,” which was released as an animated video on YouTube last October.




Music is playing an increasingly important role in Chamma’s work. (Supplied)

Created by the Palestinian artist Ahmed Khalidi and accompanied by music written and performed by Maruan and Ismael Betawi, “Falastini Ana” was originally commissioned by Action for Hope and is in many ways indicative of how Chamma’s poetry about Palestine has changed.

“It feels more like my story now,” she says. “It feels more like the Palestine in my daily life. And one of the shifts has been that the nostalgia has changed. The nostalgia is becoming more tangible.”

Although the bulk of her poetry has focused on Palestine, the themes of Chamma’s work are broad. Sexuality, emotions and social justice all feature strongly, while a perpetual questioning drives much of her writing. “It’s not just Palestine — but Palestine is core because it happens to be where I’m from. I miss it, I talk about it, I have family from there, it just comes up more. But I really think it’s about freedom in all its forms. How do you free yourself from everything? Even sexuality is about freedom. It’s always about people being well in their bodies, in their minds, in their land and I just filter out all that other noise, you know?”




Chamæleon is a poetry and electronic music project Chamma founded with the Brazilian producer Live. (Supplied)

Music is playing an increasingly important role in Chamma’s work. With Chamæleon, which explores the intersections between spoken word and musical textures, the sounds are electronic and ambient. With the Betawi brothers, they are more traditional — the poetry is performed in the Palestinian dialect and set largely to oud and violin. Both projects have added elements of visuals or animation.

“It was never intentional,” explains Chamma, who was born in Dubai and lives in Sharjah. “The poetry was not written to be set to music, but I think it started with the most obvious instrument in Arabic poetry — the oud. But that wasn’t enough, so we started experimenting. I think rap really helped me understand rhythm, poetry and music. Music works because it enhances the experience. And I don’t think it’s about poetry set to music. I’m starting to see it as a genre in itself. It’s a musical experience.

“This is why it’s enjoyable, because it doesn’t give more weight to one element over the other, unless you really want to give weight to the words at a particular moment,” she continues. “It’s about how the whole thing sounds and it’s so much more freeing to enjoy the sound of everything, rather than thinking of it as a poem set to music. I don’t think it’s an accompaniment any more. It feels like a marriage of both elements.”

Chamæleon’s debut EP was released in February and an album with the Betawi brothers is currently being cooked. “There’s momentum now and I’m very content with what’s happening,” says Chamma with a smile. “With these two groups I’m completely comfortable and safe. And we’re thriving together.”


Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery
Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia. (Instagram)
Updated 30 January 2023

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

ABU DHABI: Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants MENA list in a ceremony held in Aby Dhabi on Monday night as Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabbed the overall top spot.  

The ranking is voted on by a body formed of 250 restaurant experts in the region, known as the Academy. Each member casts seven votes for those that are – in their expert opinion – the best dining experiences in the MENA region.

The top 10 consisted of eateries from around the region, with a heavy showing from Dubai, including Moonrise in Dubai at number 10, Zooba (Zamalek) in Cairo at number 9, Fakhreldin in Amman at number 8, Kinoya in Dubai at number 7, George & John in Tel Aviv at number 6, 3 Fils in Dubai at number 5, Ossiano in Dubai at number 4, Fusions by Tala in Manama at number 3, Trèsind Studio in Dubai at number 2 and Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai at number 1.

“Also crowned The Best Restaurant in the UAE, this Dubai establishment is the restaurant embodiment of three brothers from Aleppo, Syria. The dining experience here is focused on storytelling, where every flavour, ingredient and technique has played a special part in the trio’s story. The atmosphere, with the rhythm set by the work in the two-storey kitchen overlooking the dining space, is fun, indulgent and at times nostalgic,” the organization posted on Instagram shortly after the announcement.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s best restaurant, the organization posted: “Under the leadership of chef Ian Pengelley, (Myazu) is a spot where harmony reigns in texture, aromas and flavors. Some dishes push the envelope of gastronomic craftsmanship while others focus on Japanese fan favorites, but all are set apart by a sophisticated presentation that has become part of this restaurant’s DNA.”

 

The eatery ranked number 18 on the list, just after Tawlet Mar Mikhael in Beirut.

Meanwhile, the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef Award 2023 went to Palestinian chef Salam Dakkak and this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Chefs' Choice Award went to Moustafa Elrefaey of Zooba in Cairo.

 


Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  
Updated 30 January 2023

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

DUBAI: The 2023 Sundance Film Festival — which took its final bow this weekend in Park City, Utah, after its first in-person edition since 2020 — saw three Middle Eastern films winning awards, including “The Persian Version,” “Shayda” and “Animalia.”  

Iranian American director Maryam Keshavarz’s “The Persian Version” won the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the US Dramatic Competition.  c

The film follows a large Iranian American family gathering for the patriarch’s heart transplant when a family secret catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past.   

It was one of three films at Sundance this year to be directed by Iranian women, the others being “Joonam” and “Shayda.”  

Noora Niasari’s “Shayda” took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film follows Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, who finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. But when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Animalia (@animaliathefilm)

The third regional film to win an award at Sundance is “Animalia” by Morocco's Sofia Alaoui, who took home the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. The film follows a young mother-to-be as she experiences an alien invasion with a sense of dread that slowly turns into liberation.  


Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab
Updated 30 January 2023

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

DUBAI: Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas has a well-documented penchant for Arab designers. The Indian star, who crossed over into Hollywood, has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Zuhair Murad and Nicolas Jebran, to name a few. 

Now, Chopra has taken to Instagram Stories to share a photograph of her latest look — a glittering get up by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.  

“When your fit deserves a closet selfie,” she captioned the casual snap.  

The jewel-toned look consisted of a floral midi dress paired with a matching bomber jacket.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

The former Miss World, who is married to US singer Nick Jonas, has sported Arab designs in the past and is also known for championing up-and-coming brands.  In 2021, Chopra made an appearance in Dubai and opted for a striking, saffron-colored design from sustainable Moroccan couture house Benchellal. 

The orange air mesh blazer dress featured a draped shawl cape and pockets and was plucked from the label’s ninth collection. She wore it with slim-fitting black trousers and pumps. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

Chopra also supported rising US Lebanese label Monot in 2021 by showing off a white, custom draped dress by the label during a product shoot for her haircare range.  

The actress and entrepreneur walked the red carpet at the second iteration of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival in December 2022 in a lavish gold gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran, complete with a matching overcoat.  

Arab designers have increasingly become the “go-to” for Indian celebrities at major events. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ami Patel (@stylebyami)

Ami Patel, one of India’s leading celebrity stylists, previously explained Bollywood’s love affair with Middle Eastern design talent to Arab News, saying: “I think Middle Eastern designers understand the Indian body type and silhouette very well. They know exactly what Indian celebrities want and cater to them.” 

Dubai-based Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali, who just unveiled his latest collection on the sidelines of Paris Haute Couture Week, agreed, telling Arab News in a previous interview: “Bollywood stars are also celebrities in the Middle East world.” 

“Since the Middle East is actually aligned with the industry, they are definitely keener on dressing Indian stars and even willing to customise and size outfits for our actors,” added Rai, in a bid to explain why stars such as Chopra, who started off in Bollywood, have an affinity for Arab designs. 


Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia
Winnie Harlow attends the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Scott Garfitt)
Updated 29 January 2023

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted in Saudi Arabia this weekend attending the Formula E Diriyah E-Prix.

 The model was part of the thousands of fans who watched on as 22 of the fastest electric race cars ever built raced for the second time this weekend.

 “The experience at Formula E is unmatched and I’ve really enjoyed the vibe, people, atmosphere, and racing. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia a few times and always have a great experience, so I love that Formula E is in Diriyah,” Harlow said in a released statement.

“Living in a more sustainable world and being able to enjoy motorsports at the same time is incredible,” she added. 

Harlow rubbed shoulders with the likes of John Legend, Martin Garrix, Miguel and French Montana, who performed at the event’s after-race concert series.

Netflix series “Emily in Paris” star Lucien Laviscount was also in attendance.

“I’m a massive fan of motorsport and anything to do with cars. Seeing the new GEN3 race car on track for the first time was insane,” he said in a released statement. “It looks like a fighter jet on wheels and sounds like it’s from a sci-fi movie. Formula E are leading the world in electric car innovation. I’m in line for an electric vehicle and this has really given me a taste.”


Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  
Updated 29 January 2023

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

DUBAI: It would not be an understatement to say that we are living in the golden age of television when it comes to sheer diversity in terms of content. That much is evident when a Dungeons & Dragons game that started out in someone’s living room is now a full-blown animated series on a massive streaming platform — and it has returned for a second season.   

 “The Legend of Vox Machina” is based on the hugely successful D&D actual play series Critical Role, in which players livestreamed themselves playing the tabletop game. The adult animated series made fans in its debut season for its ability to carefully balance juvenile humor with immense character depth, set against a lore-heavy fantasy setting.   

Season two builds on that promise and comes back even stronger with greater character arcs for its seven main characters: Half-elf rogue Vax’ildan (Liam O’Brien), his ranger twin sister Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey), half-elf druid Keyleth (Marisha Ray), gnome bard Scanlan (Sam Riegel), goliath barbarian Grog (Travis Willingham), his BFF gnome paladin Pike (Ashley Johnson) and human gunslinger Percy (Taliesen Jaffe). This is an impressive feat to achieve given that the episodes have a run time of under 30 minutes.   

The new season picks up exactly where season one left off — with a group of large and ancient dragons attacking the city of Emon. Our motley crew of mercenaries/heroes, clearly underqualified for the job of defeating these powerful beings, must now go on a continent-hopping jaunt to retrieve magical artifacts that will help them in this mission.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by FanologyPV (@fanologypv)

It is helpful here to remember that “TLOVM,” unlike any fantasy series or movie that you may have watched so far, is not based on a book or video game: It is based on a story created by a group of friends as they played a game over several years, albeit with an audience watching on Twitch and YouTube.   

And, hence, what makes the animated show such an engrossing watch, despite having a story that may seem familiar to most fans of fantasy media, is that “TLOVM” manages to accurately capture the bond between the players and translate it into endearing television.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by FanologyPV (@fanologypv)

And while the personal stakes are dialed up to 11 this time around, the larger plot is not ignored either. As big as the emotional punches are, they are matched in intensity with the beautifully realized action scenes and set pieces, which will again feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a role-playing game with their friends.   

With Critical Role announcing that they will also be animating their second campaign, Mighty Nein, for Amazon, and if you are a fan of all things magic, camaraderie and epic battles, there has never been a better time to tune in and let “Vox Machina” enthrall you.