Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Storytellers - a dying breed?

While I was undertaking my Master of Science in Global Affairs at NYU and covering topics that ranged from crisis negotiations to developing countries in the political economy, all I wanted to do was escape into a great story.

Battlestar Galactica quenched my thirst for the fantastical, but I remained hungry. I was hunting for a good translation of Arabian Nights (but too many people told me that the English version missed a few beats and was far from exact). So years later I stumble upon The Hakawati, and I am enthralled and enchanted by this book! (I am still in the midst of it).

Al-hakawati is a Syrian term for a poet, actor, comedian, historian and storyteller. Its root is hikayah a fable or story, or haka, to tell a story; wati implies expertise in a popular street-art.

There is something magical about the live performance of storytelling, an art we still practice on children, but deprive ourselves of as adults. (I'd love to sit in a little cafe and listen to old tales of love, betrayal, adventure and war weaved together like the patterns on an antique Arabian carpet).

Miguel Piñero, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café ignited spoken word in NYC through melodic and rhythmic poetry (often unleashing politically charged expressions of protest).

Since then, many masters have taken the stage, but not in the cliff-hanging, old fabled Hakawati sense. (We went to see Saul Williams at Cargo in London and he blew us away. Even I popped my spoken word cherry in NYC on 1 January 2000).

New Advertising, at its best, helps tells the story of our culture. Has the Hakawati evolved into the modern communications professional?

As I was pondering all this, I came across this event tonight, so I will check out a Western Hakawati (the beauty of synchronicity).

In a time of market crashes, recession, job cuts, mortgage crises, nightmares in Gaza, etc., etc., I think we could all use some bewitching and engrossing stories. What do you think? What stories are you telling or reading? What's your escape?

Rabih Alameddine starts the novel with: "Listen. Allow me to be your god. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story."

I'm all ears.

No comments:

Post a Comment