For many years, the Arab world has been facing major upheavals, largely influenced by changing media consumption patterns and the growing popularity of reality TV shows. These transformations have a considerable impact on young people and their perception of reality. The values that were once predominant among this youth, characterized by a spirit of criticism, resistance and militancy, now seem to be emptied of their meaning.
This new era is characterized by the culture of immediacy, a growing disinterest in reading as a source of reflection, which has a profound impact on the dissemination of ideas and critical thinking. The priorities are reversed, what was considered normal once becomes abnormal today. Ahlem Mostghanmi, the Algerian writer, took a satirical and sad look at the plight of youth in the Arab world during her trip to Lebanon in the 1990s. She depicted this phenomenon with a pen that mixed irony and compassion, highlighting the social and cultural transformations taking place and expressing concern for the consequences on youth.
Ahlam Mosteghanemi, a renowned contemporary Algerian writer and poet, occupies a place of influence in the world of Arabic literature. In 1997, she published a hard-hitting article titled “Singers’ Lands Are My Homeland,” which was an incisive critique of the Arab world and retains its relevance to this day. We have chosen to translate and share this article, which shines with its grandeur and depth, and which continues to resonate strongly in the current context.
Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s article
“I arrived in Beirut in the early 90s, when Cheb Khaled was reaching the heights of international fame. Only one song propelled him to fame, titled: “Didi“. This song fascinated the Arab population day and night. Many weddings are celebrated, fashion shows take place to the rhythm of this song, Beirut dances at night and goes to work in the morning.
I have just arrived from Paris, with in my hands a manuscript entitled “The Memory of the Body”more than four hundred pages that I carved word after word for more than four years, trying to expose half a century of history of independence struggle for Algeria, to save our past and make known our glories and our suffering in the Arab world.
In Beirut, when I revealed my identity, some people jokingly teased me saying: “Ah… you are from the country of Cheb Khaled!”, finding in this man who wears an earring and appears on television French with her dog, having no answer to any questions other than stupid laughter, a kind of relief for my sorrows. And immediately the question arises: What does “Didi” mean? And when I also confess that I do not understand its meaning, The questioner expresses his regret about our loss of greatness as Algerians, resulting from colonial influence and our ignorance of the Arabic language!
After facing difficulties in solving this “Didi” riddle, spending considerable time apologizing to friends, strangers, taxi drivers, the Egyptian gas station worker, my hairdresser for my ignorance and my illiteracy, I decided not to reveal my Algerian identity any more, to be at peace.
What did not sadden me was that a singer, with only two words, or rather a two-letter song, attained fame and gains not reached by any Arab writer devoted to writing during a lifetime, as much as it saddened me to have come to the East at the wrong time.
In the 1950s, the Algerian was associated with the country of Emir Abdelkader, in the 1960s with the country of Ahmed Ben Bella and veteran Djamila Bouhired, and in the 1970s with the country of Houari Boumediene and the million martyrs.
Today, the Arab is associated with his singers, and with the one who represents him in “Star Academy”. Thus, until recently, I received praise as an Algerian from those who liked the girl who represented Algeria in “Star Academy”, and I consoled myself by imagining her situation in the event of defeat, because the defeat of a singer in such a competition has become a national tragedy
Before Israel’s last war in Lebanon, I watched with frustration the depressing messages broadcast on television music programs. At that moment, I had in my mind, the voice of “Stalin” which resounded calling the Russian people to resistance through the radio, as the Nazis were at the gates of Moscow, proclaiming: “Defend your country, the country of the poet Alexander Pushkin and the writer Nikolayevich Tolstoy”.
I joked to myself that if Israel invaded Lebanon or Egypt today, we would have no way to mobilize young people and awaken their patriotism, except to broadcast calls and messages on music channels , saying to defend the country of Lebanese singers Haifa Wehbe, Elissa, Nancy Ajram, Marwa, Ruby and their sisters… I can’t think of any other names than these to generate enthusiasm and bring crowds together.
I’m not kidding when I tell you this. For four years, Mahmoud Sawarka, the former Egyptian prisoner who spent twenty-two years in Israeli prisons and has been called Egypt’s longest-serving prisoner, walked out without finding anyone waiting for him among the “masses” for whom he struggled. He deserved no more than a little box in a newspaper, while security officials at Cairo airport had to smuggle ‘Star Academy’ singer Mohamed Attia after injuries caused by the influx of hundreds of young men and women who continued to flock to the airport each time a flight arrived from Beirut.
In countries once associated with heroes and now associated with kids, not to say nonsense, I read in a newspaper that it took weeks for Mohamed Khalawi, the former student of “ Star Academy”, only to walk surrounded by five bodyguards who never left him. Perhaps the young artist took the title of “leader” seriously, which his comrades attributed to him. At the same time, the great activist Djamila Bouhired, was traveling between Algeria and France in economy class, loaded with provisions and food for her only son.
I don’t hide from you that I cried and felt shame realizing that someone like her doesn’t travel first class, while the youngster from the “Star Academy”, used to being invited on TV sets boasts of only traveling in a government plane made available to him because he has carried the name of his country high.
I have neither power nor strength, only with the help of God… Ah… and still ah… There are still people who ask me the meaning of the expression “Didi”! “
Presentation and translation by Nabil MATI