MADONNA’S FAKE REVOLUTION: EUROVISION, CULTURAL HEGEMONY AND RESISTANCE

June 2, 2019 – 5:16 am

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Madonna performed at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 finals in Tel Aviv on May 18 despite calls for her to boycott the event. Her new album arrives on June 14. By Ramzy Baroud.

Rim Banna, a famous Palestinian singer who translated Palestine’s most moving poetry to song, passed away on March 24, 2018, at the age of 51. Rim captured the struggle for Palestinian freedom in the most dignified and melodious ways. If we could imagine angels singing, they would sound like Rim.

When Rim died, all Palestinians mourned her death. Although a few international outlets carried the news of her passing at a relatively young age, her succumbing to cancer did not receive much coverage or discussion. Sadly, a Palestinian icon of cultural resistance who had inspired a whole generation, starting with the First Palestinian Intifada in 1987, hardly registered as an event worthy of remembrance and reflection, even among those who purport to champion the Palestinian cause.

Compare Rim to Madonna, an ‘artiste’ who has stood for self-aggrandizing personal fame and money-making. She has championed the most debased moral values, utilizing cheap entertainment while catering to the lowest common denominator to remain relevant in the music world for as long as possible.

While Rim had a cause, Madonna has none. And while Rim symbolized cultural resistance, Madonna symbolizes globalized cultural hegemony – in this case, the imposition of consumerist western cultures on the rest of the world.

While Rim Banna had a cause, Madonna has none. And while Rim symbolized cultural resistance, Madonna symbolizes globalized cultural hegemony - in this case, the imposition of consumerist western cultures on the rest of the world.

Cultural hegemony defines the US and other Western cultures’ relationship to the rest of the world. It is not culture as in the collective intellectual and artistic achievements of these societies, but as a set of ideological and cultural tools used by ruling classes to maintain domination over the disadvantaged, colonized and oppressed.

Madonna, along with Michael Jordan, the Beatles and Coca-Cola represent far more than mere performers and fizzy drinks, but also serve as tools used to secure cultural, economic and political dominance as well. The fact that in some cities around the world, especially in the Southern hemisphere, Coca-Cola “flows more freely than water” speaks volumes about the economic toll and political dimension of cultural hegemony.

This issue becomes critical when a pro-Israel Madonna decides to perform in Israel, as she has done repeatedly in the past, as part of the Eurovision contest. Knowing who she is and what she stands for, her decision should not come as a surprise; after all, in her September 2009 Tel Aviv concert, she sang while wrapped in an Israeli flag.

Of course, it is essential that artistes of her caliber and the contestants representing 41 different countries, are reminded of their moral responsibilities towards occupied and oppressed Palestinians. It is also important that Israel is confronted regarding its unrelenting efforts to mask its apartheid and war crimes in Palestine.

Indeed, the whitewashing of Israeli human rights violations using art - also known as “art washing” - should not be allowed to continue when Gaza is under siege, where Palestinian children are shot and killed daily without remorse and without the least legal accountability.

This is why such artistic events are important for the Israeli government and society. Israel has used Eurovision as a distraction from the blood and gore that has been taking place not far from that venue. Those who labored to ensure the success of the event, knowing fully how Israel is using the brand as an opportunity to normalize its war against Palestinians, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

But, on the other hand, should we be the least surprised? Aren’t such global music events, as Eurovision, at the heart of the western-centric globalization scheme of cultural hegemony, whose sole purpose is to enforce a capitalist view of the world, where western culture is consumed as a commodity, no different from a McDonald’s sandwich or a pair of Levi’s jeans?

Israel has used Eurovision as a distraction from the blood and gore that has been taking place not far from that venue. Those who labored to ensure the success of the event, knowing fully how Israel is using the brand as an opportunity to normalize its war against Palestinians, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Calling on 60-year-old Madonna to refrain from entertaining apartheid Israel can be considered beneficial as a media strategy, for it helped highlight, although momentarily, an issue that would have been otherwise absent from news headlines. However, by placing so much focus on Madonna, and whatever human rights’ values she supposedly stands for, we also take the risk of inadvertently validating her and the consumerist values she represents. More, in this Madonna-driven trajectory, we are also neglecting Palestine’s cultural resistance, the core drive behind Palestinian ‘somoud’ – steadfastness – over the course of a century.

In response to her critics, Madonna answered, “I’ll never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be.” In the eyes of many who are ignorant of the facts, such an answer may appear as if an ‘empowered’ response to those who are trying to sway a genuine, pure artiste from following her calling.

In fact, Madonna is an expert in appearing as if morally-guided, yet never translating such morality to anything meaningful in reality. In a speech described as “powerful” by Rolling Stone Magazine, Madonna declared during a Women’s March in Washington DC in 2017 “to the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny. Where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people.”

Of course, Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian women – who have paid a heavy price for Israeli Occupation, war and marginalization – are not to be included in Madonna’s false revolution. And the chances are, shortly after she sings and dances in a jubilant, apartheid Israel, she will once more take on many platforms as if the Rosa Parks of revolutionary art.

While it is important that we keep the pressure on those who engage and validate Israel politically, economically and culturally, these efforts should come secondary to embracing Palestine’s culture of resistance. Behaving as if Madonna’s stage shenanigans represent true culture, while ignoring Palestinian culture altogether, is similar to academics addressing decolonization from the point of view of the colonizer, not the colonized. The truth is, nations cannot truly rid themselves from the colonial mindset without having their narratives take the center-stage of politics, culture and every other aspect of knowledge.

“The intellectual’s error consists in believing that one can know without understanding and, even more, without feeling and being impassioned,” wrote Italian anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci. This entails the intellectual and the artist to feel “the elementary passions of the people, understanding them and, therefore, explaining and justifying them.”

The truth is that appealing to Madonna’s moral sense without immersing ourselves passionately in the art of Rim Banna will, in the long run, do Palestinians no good. Only embracing Palestine’s culture of resistance will, ultimately, keep the self-serving, hegemonic and cheap cultural messages of the Madonnas of this world at bay.

Note: Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a PhD in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. The above article was posted at CounterPunch.

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RIM BANNA 1966-2018

Rim Banna (8 December 1966 – 24 March 2018) was a Palestinian singer, composer, arranger and activist, who was mostly known for her modern interpretations of traditional Palestinian songs and poetry. Banna was born in Nazareth, where she graduated from Nazareth Baptist School.

Banna first achieved popularity in the early 1990s, after recording her own versions of traditional Palestinian children’s songs that were on the verge of being forgotten. Many such songs and rhymes sung by Palestinian families again today are said to be thanks to Banna’s work in preserving them via her recordings.

Rim Banna also composed her own songs and adds melody to Palestinian poetry. Her message was often focused on the suffering of Palestinians, particularly those at the West Bank. Her music is described as “haunting, emotional, at times bordering on kitsch.” She describes her music as a means of cultural self-assertion:

“A part of our work consists of collecting traditional Palestinian texts without melodies. So that the texts do not get lost, we try to compose melodies for them that are modern, yet inspired by traditional Palestinian music.”

In this way, Banna did more than mimic the traditional techniques and representations of the pieces she interprets. She blends them with modern singing styles because

“Oriental singing techniques are mostly ornamental… But my voice is more two-dimensional, thicker. I try to write songs that fit my voice. I want to create something new in every respect. And that includes bringing people elsewhere closer to the music and soul of the Palestinians.”

She performed live in the West Bank and reached audiences in Gaza through live webcasts. She performed her first concert in Syria on January 8, 2009 and also performed in Tunisia on July 25, 2011. Her first concert in Beirut took place on March 22, 2012.

Banna died in her hometown of Nazareth on March 24, 2018 following a nine-year struggle with breast cancer. - From wikipedia

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  1. 8 Responses to “MADONNA’S FAKE REVOLUTION: EUROVISION, CULTURAL HEGEMONY AND RESISTANCE”

  2. Israel isn’t even in europe

    By bob on Jun 2, 2019

  3. More American and Israeli bashing. As monotonous as the dumb comments in the music section.

    By Woody on Jun 2, 2019

  4. Rumor has it Madonna prefers Big Uns

    By U L E on Jun 4, 2019

  5. Rumor has it Rim Banna preferred Big Uns too .

    By U L E on Jun 4, 2019

  6. As Monotonous as Woody Is Intellectual!

    By Woody's Woody on Jun 4, 2019

  7. Mr. Baroud, get your facts straight if you’re going to go on a tirade - Madonna’s dancers were hand in hand, one wearing an Israeli flag, one wearing a Palestinian flag, promoting unity. Eurovision was upset because they told her not to have any political commentary. Why you feel the need to create this fictional account while trashing Madonna is your own business, but be certain of this: you’re part of the problem if you don’t recognize those trying to help.

    By philz on Jun 4, 2019

  8. @philz > YES!

    By Len37 on Jun 6, 2019

  9. more dim american ‘celebrities’ doing their THANG - highlighting their delusional selves for all to see

    By Nudge Unit on Aug 21, 2019

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