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While you were fasting.

It takes weeks if not months for us to post projects we work on; this one however is very different. This week I tagged along with the wonderful people of “Smile in a Box” an initiative geared towards securing poor families with food items and hot meals during the month of Ramadan. I say this project is different because I think that not a lot of people in Jordan recognize just how bad things are for the poor here . Coupled with the fact that even the affluent part of society has been hit hard by the economic crisis and thus less people are donating money and time for such causes, I hope that this will help raise awareness and prompt you dear readers to perhaps help out with this cause or any other ones that you feel is well worth your money and time. This effort will never come close to solving the injustice our brothers and sisters face, but it will, at least for a few days, put a smile on their faces.

For many families, trash is a major source of income and food, people go through it mainly for bread, they then put it out in the sun so it dries and eat it with tea so it become softer.

This is dinner . Long term impact on health is very destructive , as most of this bread comes straight from the trash cans.

Kids prepare to get their food packages and hot meals.

The east has a spirit that is seldom seen in West Amman.

every woman and child in this picture is either an orphan or a widow.

one of the widows showed me this picture of her dead husband. He left four kids behind and because of our" laws", his kids were not granted citizenship since he was Egyptian.

This hit me the hardest, one man, age 67, with 11 people to cater for including a mentally disabled girl. He gets around 60 jod from the ministry of Social development , ( $90) per month.

From the camps with Hip Hop

The last time we posted something Hip Hop it was about our work with some of the top artists in the industry, guys like Nas, Damian Marley, Jay Electronica, Eryka Badu and Mr. Porter; today we take you to the other side of what we do. The underground side of things.

This time our journey took us to AL- Hussein refugee camp in Amman, to document the wonderful work done by Danish group of DJ and MC’s, a project whose “ Overall aim was to include a marginalized group of young Palestinian boys and girls in the global youth culture of dj-ing and give them the possibility to make it their own.” The project also teaches kids how to write their own lyrics and verses.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this group is, and how important their work is in bringing hope, compassion and understanding to a marginalized part of our society, but honestly if I have to explain it to you then I am talking to the wrong audience. All I can say however is thank you. There is a lot of effort, time, hard work and travel that goes into this,  to go through all that in order to bridge cultures closer and for the love of music ,is humbling to say the least.

Two Jordanian artists helped the Danish crew at the workshop, and these two happen to be some of my favorite people in the Jordanian artistic scene. Ustaz Sam (whom you have probably seen in the Arabs Got talent show on MBC, and Damar, Jordan’s finest beat maker), I admire these guys not only because of their artistic talents but because they understand the social and community aspects of their work and are always willing to help others in the community.

What impressed me the most was the communal brotherly feeling of the workshop, the kids don’t speak English very well, yet they formed a beautiful bond with the Danish DJ’s and rappers. To me that’s what hip hop is all about, that unexplainable bond between people from different background, races, cultures and countries coming together to make music and share a wonderful experience. The only bond being their shared humanity and music.

I guess that tough upbringing conditions make kids understand the world around them a lot better and at a younger age. I say this because when I heard the kids rap, they spoke of some real serious problems they face in their daily lives, some talked about the conditions in school, others talked about how religion is taught at schools and others talked about how hard it is to do something different in society. I mean a couple of these kids were wearing Che Guevara t-shirts, for them to draw parallels between Che and Hip Hop and their own personal conditions shows a level of maturity that is seldom seen in kids that age.

Finally, we would  like to thank the Danish team for allowing us to tag along and for all the love and kindness they showed the kids. We  hope to continue working together in the future and build the project further.

THE LEICA-MAGNUM EVENT.

It was a beautiful summer evening in Paris, the weather was simply amazing, the event was held at one of the nicest palaces I have seen, the typical Paris story would dictate that I now go on and talk about the beautiful lady sharing that evening with me, instead I was surrounded by two Jordanian from the city of Karak, oh yes and a selection of some of the finest photographers in history!

Che, Nasser, the Vietnam war, the construction of the Berlin wall, the Six days war, Arafat, King Hussein, Sadat, Nixon, are all iconic personalities and events in mankind’s history, when one thinks of them, one often thinks of them in relation to an image, most these images were taken by Magnum photographers with Leica cameras.

Though they have shared over 60 years of history together, the relationship between Leica and Magnum was never formalized and that was the purpose of this event. Leica also introduced its new M9 model , and btw Leica if you are reading this Laith and I still demand that we get a couple of those.

The event began with panel discussions about the challenges photojournalists face in today’s world vis-à-vis technological developments such as phone camera, twitter and facebook. The panel included, representatives from the media , Leica , Magnum .  Leica had asked us to nominate a blogger to participate in this discussion and our choice was Jordan’s own Naseem Tarawneh, founder and contributor to http://www.black-iris.com/ and 7iber.com.  As evident by the video Leica put out and  feedback we got from the attendees, that was indeed a very wise choice. I take immense pride in what this young man and his team has managed to do in reference to social media in Jordan and the Arab world, and to see him debate his point of view with such knowledge and confidence was simply awesome.

After the debate, the attendees were invited to a reception dinner and that really was when the fun began, as Laith and I began debating on how to best approach photographers whom we have admired for so long . Do you go up to them and introduce yourself and try to show them your portfolio? Do you wait for a Leica contact to introduce you? We really did not know.

To our surprise it was they who approached us! And I think they did so because of two things, first Naseems excellent contribution to the discussion panel .I also think people were curious to know what three Jordanians were doing at such an event.

Here is the interesting thing about great photographers, while most people would recognize their work, their rarely know how the photographer looks like .  So, Laith, Naseem and I were talking when a gentleman appraoched us and asked  if we were all from Jordan . He then he asked us if we were Palestinian background .

The man soon followed that question with tales of shooting in Amman before and during Black September in Jordan.  He told us of shooting with President Nasser during wartime, of shooting with King Hussein during the course of his 40 plus year rule,  of shooting at the offices of Nayif Hawatmeh, George Habash and so on and so forth. The man only introduced himself as Bruno and at one stage, I leaned towards Laith and asked him, “ That cant be Bruno Barbey can it?” soon we asked him, and when he told us he was he reached to get out a business card as if to verify it!

Bruno soon introduced us to Rene Burri, whose first words to us were “ Keffak Habibi “ which in Arabic means “ How are you beloved “ and he too shared with us some remarkable stories about Che Guevara, Castro, Nasser, and King Hussein among others.

This wonderful experience made me realize a few things, first and this goes out to all aspiring photographers, reach out man, if you are fond of a certain photographers work, reach out to them, most of the time you will get a positive response, in the past two years we have gotten some wonderful responses from some of the best photographers in the world, whether it was the Mochilla crew out in LA, Ron Haviv from VII or Magnum in this case. What drives most of these photographers is the search for a better understanding of the world and to capture truths that are seldom seen in mainstream media, so they always welcome additions to their ranks.

Second and this is geared to people in the Middle East, we should no longer contend of being able to say ” the best in Jordan” or “the first to do so and so in the Middle East”, aim for the stars son.  At that event I saw first hand how we have bloggers capable of going head to head with photo editors of some of the top publications in the world. The same applies to filmmakers, musicians, writers, producers etc. Stop comparing yourselves and your work with fellow Arabs or people around you, strive for your work to be on the same level of the best who ever done it.

Third,  hearing all those wonderful tales about modern Middle Eastern history from, people who were there to witness it, was exciting but it also made me sad, because after all these years, that work has never been shown in our region. Take the work that was done by these photographers in Jordan in the 1960’s and 70’s as an example, most of these events are not even taught in school curriculum in Jordan, and today in the Middle East as we work to shape our future, much of that narrative is missing, its missing from the minds of the people, from the speeches of the reformers and most certainly from the official narrative, so how can we proceed properly and learn from our mistakes of if we even refuse to talk about them?

Lastly, while there have been many great Arab or Middle Eastern photographers in the past and present, none have made it to agencies like Magnum or VII, this is important because most of the significant work in photography has been done in the middle east but it has been missing our own take on the narrative. I hope to see one of us make it one day and I have a feeling that we will witness that soon.

Jean Jacque, thank you once again man, not in our wildest dreams did we ever think we would have this opportunity.

Behind the scenes scenes. Making of ACT II , Nas and Damian .

I know I am being redundant and repetitive but it is something that I feel I have to mention all the time because, well ,its just the right thing to do. .

Once again , we would like to thank our good friends and partners  @Leica and @ mochilla for opening up doors to opportunities we know we would not have without them. Special thanks go to Jay electronica for the trust and support he showed us by choosing to work with us , to have our work associated with one of the most sought after rappers in the game is an honor that we hope we can live up to. To the different photographers, editors , directors and producers we worked with this past month , B+ ,Eric Coleman,Michael Park, Byez,Luke Lynch,Jerry Henry ,Andrew Barchilon,Paul McCarthy and Will Quantic, thank you for making this job so much fun and so much easier . For family and friends , we love you.

Last month’s work took us from South Africa to Manchester, first to  document  the making of one of the most anticipated hip hop albums in history, Jay Electronica’s ACT II . a couple of weeks later , with the same partners in crime, mochilla ,Immortal helped document Nas and Damian Marley tour in Europe, including the opening night at Wembley Arena with the magical Erykah Badu.

Working , shooting and building  with some of the best musicians, rappers, producers and photographers in the industry  has been surreal at moments, like hearing one of the best beats I have heard in my life drop in a studio in South Africa at 8 am in the morning or standing in the pit in Manchester ,few feet away from Nas and Damian with an M9 , my mind not really grasping what I was capturing .

Did not talk much about South Africa but I think this video that we along with Eric Coleman , shot, edited and produced gives of good indication of how things went down.

Ta7ya Al Gomhoriya Feat MC Amin.

I did this project with the permission from one of my favorite Arab Mcs , MC Amin, I have been waiting for the right moment to release this mini project and I think the time has arrived.
The idea from the project came as I was editing the images while listening to a CD Amin had given me after a photo shoot, I started noticing that my images reflected the same message that Amin had in his lyrics .
Many thanks for my brother Amin for his permission and here is to our brothers in Egypt who have truly done themselves proud.

Lyrics:-

Chorus:translation:
Long live the Arab republic of Egypt whose good people, don’t understand their situation , modern ways of living is all they seek
my nation nation my nation my nation, you have all my love and heartbeen calling it out and yet you remained the sameand the problem is that situation is not letting me remain calm any longer
Verse 1I stood infront of the Palace and looked at the people in Egypt, trying to figure the system , found too many issues to be counted, got shook when I found conversations I become fond of , ones are not found at home, get it stupid?Verse 2Blind imitation in Egyptian youth has become the normHigh school , grade school and graduates kids says they want to become this and that with no sense of direction , calmly look with me and examine this world.Verse 3look at the foreign world thatss invading the republicevery side, every corner invaded with satanic thoughtsthrew our breath of air in the middle of watermade the people think in a different world , forgot out eastern traditionsVerse 4At times when dialogue is needed: in conversations and behavior , in thinking, in expression and in estimation , instead we got extremism, freakiness and blurred vision( pictures shows writing of the world comparing women who don’t wear Hijab to adulterers )Verse 5listen up and pay attention to that son of ++++ of an operationthere are sad people, there are miserable people , there are people who their minds locked in safes and the mind is left to be a decoration inside of a showcaseall wake up and focus with me with my tight words
instead of chilled times and laughter , we got regrets and anger.Verse 6he wants to be free and she wants to be freehe wants to live on another planet and she wants to leave the barrel said a hundred million times , but no one paid attentionthere is something wrong , thats for sure but what is it ( sign in picture read, the route of the idiots )
verse 7
look at where i am coming from, all say who it isshame on you if you don’t know , stay with me listeningMC Amin, a human from the people or you can call me an egyptian from the egyptians that are coming to flip the scalesmy attack is like that of a dragon look at me with two eyesyou will understand everything i have been wanting to say for years , but for right now, all i want to say is good morning to the Egyptians
chorus
my nation nation my nation my nation, you have all my love and heartbeen calling it out and yet you remained the sameand the problem is that situation is not letting me remain calm any longer

to the best of my mental abilities under the influence of the flu

واقف فى القصر, بتفرج على الناس فى مصربشوف اية النظام, لقيت حاجات كتير ملهاش حصرو اتخضيت لما لقيت حوارات كتير ليها اتشديتمش جوة البيت ولا فى الغيط, افهم بس يا عبيط
التقليد العميانى فالشاب المصرى بقى شئ عادىشاب فى ثاناوى رجل مخلص او طفل فى الاعدادىيشوف يقول انا هبقى كدة من غير لا حادى ولا بادىطب عالهادى تعالو معايا نبص كويس فى الدنيا دى

نشوف الدنيا الاجنبية اللى بتغزو الجمهوريةفى كل حتة فى اى جنب بالافكار الشيطانيةرمولنا حاجة الهوا دوبوهالنا وسط الميةخلو الناس فى حتة تانية نسيو عادتنا الشرقية

فالكلام وقت اللزوم فى الحوارات و فى التصرففالتفكير فالتعبير فالتقدير بقى فى تطرفو فى شزوز و مجال الرؤية بقى مهزوزبدل ما تقعد تدحك اتحسر و اضرب انت بوز

اوز يبقى حر و هى عاوزة تبقى حرةعاوز يعيش فى كوكب تانى و هى عاوزة تطلع من الجرةميت مليون مرة قلت و محدش مدينى ودانوفى شئ اكيد غلط بس فين عنوانو

كلو يخلى بالو ان العملية بنت لزينةفى ناس حزينة فى ناس تعيسة فى ناس دماغهة فى الخزينةبس العقل زينة جوة فى الفاترينةكلو يصحى يفوق يركز معايا فى كلماتى المتينة

بصو شوفو جاى منين, كلو يقولى هو مينعيب عليكو مش عارفين, طب خليكو معايا سامعينام سى امين, بنى ادم من البنى ادميناو تقدرو تقولو واحد مصرى من المصريين

اللى جايين عايزين يقلبو الموازيندة هجومى هجوم تنين بصلى بعنيك الاتنينهتفهم كل حاجة انا عاوز اقلها من سنينبس اوانها اهو جة دلوقتى, صباح الفل يا مصريين

تحية الجمهورية العربية المصريةاللى ناسها كويسيين اللى ناسها مية ميةاللى ناسها مش فاهمين, العملية و القضيةدماغهم رايحة فى حتة واحدة, هى الحباة العصرية
تحية الجمهورية العربية المصريةاللى ناسها كويسيين اللى ناسها مية ميةاللى ناسها مش فاهمين, العملية و القضيةدماغهم رايحة فى حتة واحدة, هى الحباة العصرية
بلادى بلادى بلادى لكى حبى و فؤادىبقالى كتير بنادى و الناس كلها عادىبلادى بلادى بلادى لكى حبى و فؤادىبس المشكلة ان الوضع مش مخلينى ابقى هادى
بلادى بلادى بلادى لكى حبى و فؤادىبقالى كتير بنادى و الناس كلها عادىبلادى بلادى بلادى لكى حبى و فؤادىبس المشكلة ان الوضع مش مخلينى ابقى هادى

 

Immortal Entertainment’s 2011 Video Reel

Over the past year and a half, we have been doing a lot of work in video and production especially in the realm of documenting the movement and culture of Arab hip hop, both in the Middle East and the diaspora. We’ve produced 4 music videos for Omar Offendum, C-Mack from Los Angeles, Arabian Knightz from Egypt and Dj Lethal Skillz in Beirut, two of which will be dropping very soon.

So for the beginning of this year  we decided to put together a reel that represents our  filming style and approach, our experiences, our travels, the shows we’ve put on in Amman and Beirut, and the visit of Jay Electronica and Mochilla to Jordan and Egypt.

Make sure you watch the video at the highest quality. Enjoy.

“Operation Lost Art” Arabian Knightz ft. DJ Lethal Skillz teaser

A couple of months ago we headed out to Cairo to shoot two music videos for Arabian Knightz….one of the leading hip hop crews in the region.

“Operation Lost Art” is one of those songs and it is off the new album from Dj Lethal Skillz…we ended up shooting in Cairo and Beirut.

The video should be out in the beginning of next year, but till then here is a little teaser for you along with some stills from the making of the video.

This was our feeling at the end of 3 days of shooting in Cairo.

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