Dont take my Harem away

A wonderful resource Arab Kitsch has documented Vaudeville songs based on or around the Middle East themes. "Between 1900 and 1935 the number of popular songs composed on topics pertaining to the Middle East far exceeded those of any other time period in American history until the Persian Gulf War. Between 1905 and 1908 the Salome craze, prompted by the premiere of Richard Strauss' opera, flooded Coney Island and vaudeville theaters with numerous parodies and take-offs (pun intended). This was followed by a spate of songs about the ever-popular Cleopatra. But several other factors, both economic and social, prompted a sustained popular interest in things and people "oriental." The importing of Turkish tobacco prompted cigarette brand names such as Fatimas, Murads, Egyptian Deities and Rameses. Literary groups were memorizing Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Eventually, all would be caught up in the conflagration of World War I in which Turkey joined with the Central Powers against the Allies.
For the lyricists of the day, "oriental" was shorthand for designating anything "east of Suez," or more properly, anything east of Morocco or the Dardanelles. There was no concern for precise geography or national boundaries. Mecca could be in Turkey, Baghdad in Persia, and a Salome dancer named "Princess Oy-Vay-is-meer" could be called a "Hindoo lady."" 


Rusty Kjarvik said…
This is a fascinating and sometimes humorously alluring blog, I look forward to reading more of your insights, connections and derivations based on your unique relationship to form and image as with your gorgeous artwork.

I tried to send an email to, however since it didn't work I'll leave my message here:

Thank you for your encouraging comment on my blog. I am happy to know someone of your artistic caliber enjoys my recent online activity!

I have looked through your works on your webpage admiringly. As someone who has spent considerable time in the Middle East, specifically Cairo, Egypt, as well as the megalopolis of Boston, New York City and Washington D.C., where I am originally from, I feel a resonance with your work and message.

The question I have for you is: when are you going to do an exhibition in Canada?!

I am currently living in Calgary, Alberta and am well involved in Iranian community, with a couple close friends from Iran. One of my friends is a composer and performer of the Iranian barbat / oud at the University of Calgary World Music Ensemble. I sometimes perform with him on darbuka in jazz and cafe settings. We have an upcoming performance at the University concert hall as a benefit for an initiative to help Iranian children with our own World Music Ensemble featuring a virtuoso original improviser on the Chinese zither (who is also my wife, watch I am also currently working on some very interesting creative writing projects with a recent friend from Isfahan.

I am deeply interested in Persian / Iranian culture and continue to learn every day of the struggles that continue every day within their borders.

I'm not sure how organizing art exhibitions works, however I do know there is a vibrant Iranian community here that I think would welcome you and your work with open arms if an event happened to be organized here in the future.

With best intentions.

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