A satirical and fun Rai funk number with one of my favorite basslines, this was the first tune to actually be composed way back in Jan 2020. Yep, probably while I was waiting to be picked up from the pub by lady love on her way home. So it’s bittersweet, but it’s actually not as dark as some of the other numbers.
The singer is lamenting the fact that he cannot visit ‘El Hend’ which is India in Algerian Arabic (more on that in a bit). Now, as a Pakistani American by way of England and Dubai (rolls right off the tongue doesn’t it?) I was always a fan of the old Hindoostan (the ‘old world’ name for that ancient land). Indian culture is rich and Bollywood is a huge thing. Especially in Dubai where I did most of my schooling. But because of my Pakistani whatever it is, and the wonderful relationship India and Pakistan have enjoyed ever since the subcontinent was carved up by the foolish British, and the identity politics obsessed Pakistani leader Jinnah, well, I am not exactly welcome there. No Pakistani is.
Why? Because I was born in Pakistan. I became a US citizen in 2008 (thanks Uncle W), but because the guvmint ‘helpfully’ lists place of birth on that passport, mine says PAKISTAN. It might as well say ‘CANTTRAVELISTAN’. The Indians look at that and suggest a visit to New Jersey instead. “Lot more Indians, and better food.”
Hence the lament. I am ‘from’ India, that’s who my ancestors were. Hell, anyone born before 1947 (that includes my grandparents) were…Indian. But because of the wonders of religion, politics, war and nukes, well now I am apparently Middle Eastern. Because a lot of Americans think Pakistan is in ‘Arab’. Which is why the song is in Arabic. It’s in Algerian Arabic specifically because I wanted to make a Rai song. Algerian Rai is one of the greased treasures of the musical world. For me, Khaled’s Didi, a giant global hit in the 90s, opened a world of glorious North African funk, a world I am still exploring. It also introduced me to Rachid Taha. More on him in Wa’laah.
I’d long wanted to do my own take on Rai, which has always been political protest music. El Hend is that effort. I wrote the lyrics in English and had the lovely Algerian Death Metal (yes it exists) singer Redouane Aouameur of the band Lelahell help with the Arabic. I think he did a wonderful job of getting the emotion, energy and humor of the singer’s message into what has always been my favorite dialect of Arabic. Maybe some day, I might get to visit India. Until then, Win El Hend?
I was born in a land with no sun and no shadow
They say that this land is arid, but for me it is sacred
My true land though, is the old land
The land they would try and protect
Where is Hend my friend?
Where is Hend my brother?
Where is Hend the ancient?
Where is Hend the beautiful?
This is not your home, they tell me
Even if I am home, I am told I don’t belong
You ask me where I really am from, perhaps you envy me?
I wish to travel to a land I’ve never been to
Where is Hend?
But I am American now
It says so on my passport
Honestly I don’t know, honestly I don’t know
It could be Europe
It could be Africa
It could be Asia
It could be anywhere
Honestly i don’t know, honestly i don’t know
I wish it was the Hend
Where is this Hend?