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Jiha helped people express their views

Jiha whose wit , fun and jokes still attract the attention of laymen and specialists alike in the Arab and Islamic World has not yet won the title he deserved.

The man represented the collective conscience of the Arab people for long period of time and centuries after his death . The Arab jiha , different from Egyptian and the Turkish Jiha , was born in the seventh century A.D. in the Arabian peninsula.

 He spent almost all his life in Kufa , Iraq . without any doubt the Turkish Jiha (Nasruddin Khouja) followed the footsteps of the Arab Jiha and benefited to a great deal from the rich legacy of the Arab Jiha left behind.

 Nasruddin Khouja was born in 1130 and died in 1200 A.D. The Turks paid much care and interest to their jiha and built a big mausoleum for him which is now a tourist attraction .With the passage of time the character of Jiha turned into a myth and an epic . Making fun, satire and practical jokes are the main characteristics of the Arab Jiha who turned into an inexhaustible source for modern Arabic satirical writings launched by Tawfik Al-Hakim and other Arab writers.

 Many people used to tell stories criticizing rulers pretending that they were Jihas' stories lest they should face punishment .

Jihas' character or even his name played an important role in helping people express their views and ideas regarding the ruling classes.

  Zainab  Makhlouf

Charming Symbol of Ramadan

One of the main charming symbols of the Holy Month of Ramadan in Syria is represented by the Mosaharati, a man who roams streets and alleys, especially in Old Damascus to awaken people for having a meal before the start of their fasting day.

Historically speaking, the Mosaharati is one of the oldest, most deep-rooted traditions found in Ramadan. The vocation first appeared during the Abbasid era. In the Fatimid era, the ruler issued a decree asking people to sleep early during Ramadan, while some soldiers were appointed to knock on people's doors and waking them to have their Sohor meal. Since then, the mosaher has been a basic characteristic of Ramadan in all Arab countries. Despite the decline of this tradition, especially in modern cities, the mosaher is still one of the many charms of the holy month of Ramadan and has become a constituent of its folklore to which people feel nostalgia just like other charms of Ramadan which started to be obsolete.

In the past, the Mosaherati used to go to a high place, beat his drum and cry calling on people to wake up. But as the city was expanded and enlarged, every neighbourhood started to have its own Mosaharati. As he reaches each house, he stands in front of it and calls its residents by their name names. The Mosaharati is greatly respected in his neighbourhood. He is considered to be a wise man capable of memorizing all the names of the quarter.

The people of the neighbourhood used to give the Mosaharati some food in the past, but nowadays he is given some money by the end of the holy month.

The Mosaherati usually should have a beautiful and thrilling voice to chant some songs that help in making people wake up.  He sings rhyming tales to wake people.  Among the most famous chants is "Awake, oh faster and praise God Almighty. Welcome Ramadan, month of amnesty."


Fahd Ballan: the voice of the mountain

Syrian and Arab people still remember the late great Syrian actor and singer Fahd Ballan, who was renowned for his national songs that call for adherence to land and love to the homeland and people. He started singing early in his childhood, and he used to sing at weddings and popular parties held in his village and nearby areas in Sweida city. Like most of his generation of artists who started their careers in the early sixties, he was exposed to a world of influences of those decades of music glory which was realized at the hands of important musicians such as Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Riyad al-Sunbati , Mohammad al-Qasdabji and many others. His voice and looks made him a symbol of masculinity and won him many acting roles in his youth. He was called by many music critics as the singer of manhood.

 In 1957, he tried to join the Syrian Radio but he failed in the interview for the first time as he tried to imitate Abdel Wahab and Farid al-Atrash. But later, he managed to pass when he sang songs based on the heritage of his city.

Ballan’s first song was composed by Soheil Arafeh in 1959 celebrating the first unity in modern Arab history between Syria and Egypt.

The song was followed by many national and romantic songs that gained him wide reputation all over the Arab world. In Egypt, Ballan achieved remarkable success as great singers and composers such as Mohammed Abdul Wahab and Abdul Halim Hafez admired his talent and unique singing colour.

Fahd Ballan had an amazingly strong and beautiful voice. Many people think that some of his songs including "Larchab Haddak Yal Motor" and "Irkibna Al Houssan" constitute the basis for the type of Arabic music that was later known as "songs from the mounts". Ballan’s voice was so sonorous and earthy like the land from which he came. It has its own effect, as he played with his tongue and basically, every part of his mandibles to create a very self-distinctive voice that even Umm-Khulthoum herself has said once that it was, "a new voice, nothing's like his voice in the Arab world".

Following his great success as a singer, Egyptian film production companies presented him with great offers to act in many films.  He starred in fourteen films along with Dureid Lahham, Nihad Qalei’ and the Lebanese singers Sabah and Najah Salam.

During the October War of Liberation in 1973, Fahd returned to Damascus and presented scores of national songs through many national and zealous songs that focus on the love of homeland and readiness to offer sacrifices for it.

At the end of the 1970s, he returned to his birthplace Sweida and tried to establish a branch for Actors’ Union there. Throughout his eventful career, he presented about 1000 songs composed by outstanding Arab composers such as Baligh Hamdi, Farid al-Atrash, Filmon Wahbeh and many others. He died in 1997 aged 64, leaving behind rich legacy for generations. The great Palestinian poet Samih al-Qassem described Ballan as a unique artistic phenomenon that could not be repeated.  He died of a brain haemorrhage leaving his legacy that is still loved by Arab audience.


Syrian Drama in Ramadan Focuses on Crisis

DAMASCUS- Defying the hazardous locations and risky circumstances Syria has been experiencing, the Syrian Drama closely touches on people's concerns and will be present during the holy month of Ramadan as usual, according to a Xinhua report published yesterday.

 Many Syrian drama shows, to be screened during Ramadan, will bring to surface the people's concerns and the repercussions of the 28-month-long crisis.

Despite the difficulties behind the filming, the Syrian drama went forward, according to Al-Thawra newspaper.

It recounted that some of the crewmen blanketed the narrow lanes behind the stage to sleep there and some others took the risk and went to hotspots in the country to cover footage.

"This year, some TV series shed light on the current crisis and got deep into its implications to reveal its social and humanitarian impacts, which has made them popularly demanded," the paper said.

Some 22 works will be aired in Syria throughout Ramadan, according to media reports, including a TV series by  famous Syrian director Najdat Anzour: "Taht Sama'a al-Watan" (Arabic for Under the Homeland's Sky), which consists of ten separate three-episode stories concerning the current crisis.

One of its episodes titled "Nezouh," or "displacement," shows the suffering of Syrians who were obliged to leave their homes seeking safer places in the country.

"We love watching Syrian drama during Ramadan.  It's diverse and lovely and fill up our time during the fasting day," Samar Makdissi, a mother of three, told Xinhua.

For her part, Nour Aji, a 30-year-old woman, wished the drama this year touch upon the current crisis more and inspire people to overcome the repercussion of the crisis.

H. Mustafa

Sculpture Workshop At Damascus Citadel

Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions, and is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving (the removal of material) and modeling (the addition of material, as clay), in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials. Since modernism, shifts in sculptural process led to an almost complete freedom of materials and process. A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modeling, molding or casting .

The directorate of fine arts in Damascus in cooperation with the Applied Art Institute in Damascus held a sculpture workshop at Damascus Citadel. The forum will continue through  July 3rd with the participation of 11 artists from different Syrian cities presenting wood artistic works that reflect their views toward life, and the world in general. Syria Times met participants in the workshop who spoke their minds out.

Artist Hamza Yaghi a lecturer at the Applied Art Institute, Department of sculpture, said to ST: " I work with wood, stone and bronze sculpture. by this kind of art the sculptor depicts his inner feelings".

" Every artist in the meeting submitted one wood work that presents his artistic point of view. I do an abstract  work  which reflects the controversial relationship of life in general . what we experience in our social life is a connected relationship between two things as victory and loss , love and hate, etc. so my work which is made of pine consists of a humanitarian situation  ." he added.

 The Director of Fine Art at the Ministry of Culture, and Forum organizer, Imad Aldin Kashoot affirmed the significance of this workshop by saying: " the importance of holding such cultural activity at Damascus Citadel with the participation of 11 prominent  Syrian artists, students of Applied Art institute, is to create dialogue among artists , and to display their works to the audience". The Artist completes his work and leaves the interpretation to the people,  especially that all artists in the workshop have their local and international  experience  and each has his own artistic style".

Kashoot presented a work that symbolizes a face from Syria which manifests the fact that Syria is  the cradle of civilizations, art and culture.

Artist Ibrahim Awad participated in a work that reflects vocabulary, characters, musical dialogue. He sees that music is a harmony among  band and instruments which consist of  a complete work human beings look for.

" Even people need harmony in their relations to be lofty just like music, to achieve love , to quit fighting and live peacefully, to reach a high level of living as human beings".  He said  

Artist Awad , Who has a master degree in art and architecture from Germany, believes that the successful artist is the one who  completes his piece of art but leaves it mysterious, and let the audience translate it. Mystery is a major element  in good work because art is a kind of philosophy ." Art encompasses imagination, simply it is the point of view of the artist toward things". He concluded.

Participant artists are:I mad kashoot, Muhmad bajano,Aktham Abdel Hamid, Ibrahim Awad, Obai Hatoom, Hamza Yaghi, Ghazi Ana,Hisham al-Ghado, Issa Salama, Wael Dahhan, and Waddah Salama.