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Watani Al Akbar (My Greater Homeland)

Urok Shirhan

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Memories for Forgetfulness Elsewhere | IV. The Persistence of Resistance in the Actualization of Memories From the Past Watani Al Akbar (My Greater Homeland)
Urok Shirhan
2015

11 Minutes

Date
Repeat: Wednesday, February 16

This work is a ventriloquist intervention on the 1960 operetta Al Watan Al Akbar (The Greater Homeland), composed by Mohammad Abdel Wahab and sung by leading Arab singers of the time. It is considered the anthem of Pan-Arabism as advocated by Gamal Abdel Nasser, then president of Egypt, who is said to have commissioned the production. In this video, the artist replaces the voices of the operetta’s protagonists with her own. Through this gesture of activation, she asks to what extent we may regard past political movements—particularly those we deem to have “failed”—without nostalgia’s anesthetizing and depoliticizing effects. The task is neither to undermine nor glorify history, but rather to activate and “liberate” certain narratives, activities, images, and ideals from the chokehold of the petrified past.

An English translation of the operetta lyrics can be found at the bottom of this page.

Urok Shirhan's Watani Al Akbar is presented within The Persistence of Resistance in the Actualization of Memories From the Past​, the fourth of five chapters in Memories for Forgetfulness Elsewhere, an online film program curated by Irmgard Emmelhainz for e-flux Video & Film. The program streams in five thematic group screenings each two weeks long, and will be accompanied by two live discussions.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

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Al Watan Al Akbar (The Greater Homeland)
Composer: Mohammed Abdel Wahab
Vocalists: Abdel Halim Hafez, Sabah, Fayda Kamel, Shadia, Warda, Nagat
Year of production: 1958
Released: 1960

Translation by Urok Shirhan

Chorus
My homeland my beloved, the greater homeland
Day after day its glories become greater

And its victories fill its life
My homeland becomes greater and is liberated
My homeland, my homeland

Verse 1: Abdel Halim Hafez
My homeland, you fill my heart with your love
My homeland, oh homeland of the Arab people
My homeland, you fill my heart with your love
My homeland, oh homeland of the Arab people

You who have called for the great unity
After you have seen the beauty of the revolution
You are great, and greater by far
Than all of existence, than all of eternity
Oh my homeland

Chorus

Verse 2: Sabah
Oh beautiful glory that fills our hearts
Oh beautiful victory that adorns our flag
Oh beautiful glory that fills our hearts
Oh beautiful victory that adorns our flag

Oh beautiful unity that gathers our peoples
Oh beautiful, most beautiful tune in our lives
Oh beautiful unity that gathers our peoples
Oh beautiful, most beautiful tune in our lives

Oh tune that flourishes between the oceans
Between Marrakesh and Bahrain
Oh tune that flourishes between the oceans
Between Marrakesh and Bahrain

In Yemen and Damascus and Jeddah
The same song for a most glorious unity
The unity of the entire Arab people

Chorus

Verse 3: Faiza Kamel
Our nationalism, we protect it
Our lives are candles surround it 

Our nationalism, we protect it
Our lives are candles surround it

A paradise smiles upon the peaceful
And a hell revolts upon its enemies
A paradise smiles upon the peaceful
And a hell revolts upon its enemies

Look at Beirut after the aggression
Where is the colonisation and the tyranny?
Look at Beirut after the aggression
Where is the colonisation and the tyranny?

The people are greater and stronger
And the story of Port Said is repeated
The Arab people lived and triumphed

Chorus

Verse 4: Shadia
My homeland, oh most precious homeland in the universe
My homeland, oh fortress of freedom
My homeland, oh most precious homeland in the universe
My homeland, oh fortress of freedom

You build with those who build
And you are the demolisher of slavery
You build with those who build
And you are the demolisher of slavery

Your voice is yours, free and Arab
Not an eastern echo or a western echo
Your voice is yours, free and Arab
Not an eastern echo or a western echo

You, whose sand is the apple of my eye
You, whose air is the fragrance that revives me
You are my beloved, my Arab homeland

Chorus

Verse 5: Warda
My homeland, oh revolution against their colonialism
Fill your Algeria with fire to destroy them
My homeland, oh revolution against their colonialism
Fill your Algeria with fire to destroy them

If we are all martyred in you
Our mountains continue to fight them
If we are all martyred in you
Our mountains continue to fight them

We will end the colonisation with our own hands
Its time and era is no longer of our world
We will end the colonisation with our own hands
Its time and era is no longer of our world

Not in Algeria nor in Oman
Will the revolution against the tyranny end
Only until the victory of the Arab people

Chorus

Verse 6: Nagat
My homeland, oh paradise that people envy
For its glories and its charms
My homeland, oh paradise that people envy
For its glories and its charms

You, whose canals returned to you
And you protect the world’s goodness
You, whose canals returned to you
And you protect the world’s goodness

Raise your dam and accept its wealth
Produce, plant and build in its light
Raise your dam and accept its wealth
Produce, plant and build in its light

You, whose highness we worship in our hearts
Oh homeland, always sovereign
Homeland of glory, my Arab homeland

Chorus

Verse 7: Abdel Halim Hafez
My homeland, moving toward your victories
You, whose life is a life of glory

My homeland, moving toward your victories
You, whose life is a life of glory

In Palestine and our revolutionary south
We will accomplish your freedoms
In Palestine and our revolutionary south
We will accomplish your freedoms

We are a homeland that protects and does not threaten
We are a homeland that preserves and does not waste
Homeland of glory, oh Arab homeland

Chorus

Category
Nationalism, Music
Subject
Middle East, Propaganda, Memory
Return to IV. The Persistence of Resistance in the Actualization of Memories From the Past

Situated at the intersection of performance, visual arts, and critical theory, Urok Shirhan’s practice explores the politics of image, sound, and speech in relation to power and affect. Working with sound, video, and writing, her projects entangle with found materials and narratives, both historical and current, often as informed by her family’s history of political migrations. Her latest body of research considers the role of sound (and the voice in particular) concerning forms of collectivity, dissent, and belonging. Recent presentations include the Mosaic Rooms (London), Onassis Stegi (Athens), Casco Institute (Utrecht), and MoMA PS1 (New York).

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