"You Are Still Among Us"


There are now several Rafiq Hariri music videos in rotation in the Middle East, at least on music shows with Lebanese producers and VJs. An interesting example is "You Are Still Among Us," performed by a young woman singer named Michaella (some of her videos here, though not the Hariri video), which is only partly hagiographic. It is also a call for "The Truth" about Hariri's murder, which most Lebanese blame on Syria; many suspect that the facts of the murder are being covered up by the current government's inquiry. Michaella's video mixes images of the late ex-prime minister with visuals of a growing Beirut crowd of white-clad figures converging on the St. Georges Hotel area, where Hariri was killed. These figures in white are apparently intended to evoke other Lebanonist martyr-victims.

The overtly political use of the music video in the Mideast is testament to the form's current cultural importance in the region. There are numerous examples of such political videos. For instance, pro-Palestinian music videos, which portray Israeli forces as the brutalizers of children, are well known.

A particularly interesting example was a recent song extolling Arab nationalism; what was interesting about the video was its assumption that Arab nationalism was losing its popular appeal. That video was a group effort, rather like "We Are the World," and featured a collection of popular singers; most of those I recognized were either from the Gulf or from Egypt. The lyrics urged listeners to recall and recapture the sense of unity and purpose that—according to the song—Arabs once shared but that the song assumes they have now lost.

The Arabist video is quite long, and features numerous historical montage sequences. Among them are sequences involving Egypt's Nasser, who set the catastrophic model of modern Arab nationalism. The video also features archival montages of military conflict. That footage might include wars involving Israel, though even the 1973 war is associated with the demonized (by Arabists) Sadat. It's surely not footage of Nasser's war against Yemen. Maybe it's Suez.

Note: This entry has been updated since its original posting.