Thursday, June 19, 2008

Assyrian Dancing Penguins

I have always enjoyed fusion culture, where aspects of east and west or European and Asian blend in strange ways.When I was in Italy, Mickey Mouse was very popular. Even adults read Mickey Mouse on the buses and trains. In Italy Mickey Mouse is known as "Topolino". When I was there, they had "Close Up" toothpaste. They pronounced it "Klozay Oop".
In Japan, if something is cool, it is "kuru". Le Weekend is a term that has made its way into French, much to the consternation of language purists.
My favourite example of "fusion" is this dance sequence from the movie "Happy Feet" with a sound track of an Assyrian singer named Evin Aghassi. He sings in both Arabic and Aramaic. During a tour in Syria, the crowd was so crazed with joy at seeing him that they picked him up on their shoulders and walked with him through the streets. What made this unusual was that Aghassi was sitting in his Mercedes at the time.
Assyrian remains one of many languages without a homeland. Assyrians are scattered across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with some still living in Iran. Communities also exist in Sweden, Germany and Detroit as well as other places in Europe and America I heard of an Iranian yeshiva student who listened to Talmud being read and required no translation into Farsi or English. Although modern spoken Aramaic is a different dialect than Talmudic Aramaic, there is considerable overlap. A couple of million people speak Aramaic all over the world. A larger number speak Arabic and other languages but continue to use it as a liturgical language. Although they are split between different denominations, the Assyrians are a Christian ethnic group.
I am showing this video of 'Happy Feet " with an Evin Aghassi sound track for the benefit of my readers. Hebrew , Aramaic and Arabic are all members of the same linguistic family. This video showcases the beauty of the Chaldean language in its modern form. I ran this video back in February when my site had almost no viewers at all. I hope my readers will enjoy it.

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