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Baby Arabia


Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 6:30pm
Center for Korean Studies Building

Thailand (2010, 80 minutes)
Thai w/English subtitles

Directors: Panu Aree, Kaweenipon “Salim” Ketprasit, Kong Rithdee
Cast: Jamilah Boonmalerd, Supachai Luanwong, Suriyah Madtorhead, Umar Baby, Geh Baby

Baby Arabia follows one of the oldest Thai-Muslim bands specializing in the subcultural genre of Arab-Malay music – the bouncy ethnic cross-pollination of Arabian melodies, Malay throbs,Thai Luke-thoong kicks, and a bit of Latin tempo. We meet Geh, founder of the band who taught himself to play the accordion 35 years ago. Geh is joined by Umar, a former Qur’an teacher and now a guitarist with a knack for Egyptian numbers. Fronting their band is Jamilah, a husky-voiced, humble diva who teaches the Qur’an during the day and sings Arabic songs at night while wondering if the world of melody can be both faith-bound and joyously secular. Baby Arabia plays cover versions of classical as well as contemporary Arab and Malay music (though the band members do not speak those languages) and they’ve been touring mosque fairs, circumcision rites and weddings at Muslim communities around Bangkok and the Central Region for more than three decades. Though some Islamic scholars question their brand of worldly merry-making, claiming that it’s against the law of the religion, the humanizing power of music and irresistible exuberance of their songs provide a definitive counter-argument. -Panu Aree, Co-director Baby Arabia

Free and Open to the Public