As a child, you’re always pestered with the nagging, proverbial question of what you want to be when you grow up. Having read a selection of tales from the Thousand and One Nights, I had reached the point of no return. Looking at a scruffy, turbaned Rachid Taha on the cover of Diwan 2, I saw my new rock star in all his glory. That being said, however, today’s definition of the ‘rock star’ is undergoing a facelift, extending far beyond the traditional notion of the actual rock musician.
Perhaps no other artist within the MENA region has toyed with the notion of the rock star so much as the British-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj. The people featured in Hajjaj’s portraits are a diverse bunch, as colourful and iconic as the works themselves. The idea for the Rock Stars project was conceived in 1998 in Marrakech, where Hajjaj lives for a portion of each year.
I’m not 12 years old anymore, and being Keith Richards isn’t exactly on my list of priorities.
Top 5 Health Benefits of Garlic That Will Surprise You Top 5 Health Benefits of Garlic in Hindi How to Stop Hair Fall Naturally at Home in Hindi 10 Styling Tips You Can Steal from Rani Mukherjee Are Children and Happiness Correlated? On the surface, you say as you’re told, and simply follow the instructions on the tin – especially when you’re old enough to realise that many of the people asking you aren’t really interested in your juvenile fantasies, but are rather looking for a confirmation of their aspirations. What were the exploits of Ziggy and the Spiders compared with those of the death-defying Sindbad, the resplendent Haroun Al Rashid and his witty consort Abu Nuwas, and the ever-present band of jinns, sorceresses, princes, and bandits? Growing up in the West, I took it for granted that rock stars, or one’s idols for that matter, had to meet a number of essential criteria. Writers, visual artists, directors, and other creatives are written about on the same pages as rockers, and the term ‘rock and roll’ has now become an adjective attached to just about everything. In his latest exhibition, My Rock Stars: Volume 1, which was on display this autumn at The Third Line gallery in Dubai, Hajjaj presented audiences with his idea of the rock star, and the concept of rock and roll. True, there are actual rock stars (in the traditional sense) present among Hajjaj’s characters – such as Monsieur Taha and the Moroccan songstress Hindi Zahra – but for the most part, they’re a rather ordinary lot. Whilst there, Hajjaj photographed people he met on the streets for research purposes – snake charmers, male belly dancers, local musicians, henna artists, etc. Reflecting on the work of Hajjaj and others such as Rachid Taha, the primitive notion of the rock star as I knew it is now nothing more than a kitsch novelty, and an anachronism of sorts. He has contributed to such publications as The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Aesthetica, and Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, been interviewed by news outlets including Newsweek and the CBC, and seen his writings republished and translated into a variety of languages.

A University freshman by day and wandering dervish by night, I ravenously sought out as many books, films, and records related to Iran and the Middle East as I could, never knowing where each discovery would lead me. For one, they were either English or American, with a preference for the former; second, they had been on a magazine cover, somewhere or other, and third, they could work a guitar.
However, while the phenomenon of rock stardom has garnered much attention in Western literature, art, and film, it is something less-discussed in the Middle East. In Hajjaj’s signature pop art portraits, we see a stark contrast between the polarities of pop stardom and rock stardom. Within the Arabic soda can frames which have become synonymous with his style, one beholds male belly dancers, boxers, DJs, fashion designers, and traditional gnawa musicians, among others, all clad in funky garb designed by the artist himself, with a palette of colourful backdrops behind them. Rock and roll has always been about so much more than just a genre of music, as its very name suggests; it’s dynamic – a way of life. He is the author of a translation of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyyat, the foreword to Afro-Iran, and a novella. Gradually, in light of my findings, I began to shun my Western identity in favour of my long-dormant Eastern one, as my toothless, former idols regarded me from afar on yellowed record sleeves, their cigarettes dangling from their lips. It had never occurred to me in the slightest that the people I considered rock stars or heroes could be Iranian or Middle Eastern, and that they need not sing songs peppered with vague references to hard drugs. Having followed Taha’s career throughout the years, seeing him as a young punk with his outfit Carte de Sejour, and as a genre-defying peroxide blonde on the cover of Ole Ole, this was a statement, the like of which I’d never seen before. That’s not to say, though, that artists therein haven’t been exploring the subject in creative and novel ways.
Unlike its sibling the pop star, shaped and confined by social expectations, the rock star as portrayed by Hajjaj is something of a free spirit. According to the artist, the flamboyant use of colour in the portraits is a gesture intended to capture the essence of his vibrant childhood in Morocco, which he left for London at the age of 14. Though the various individuals who made their way into Hajjaj’s portraits have all served as sources of inspiration for the artist, it’s interesting to note, in light of his redefinition of the ‘rock star’, the artist’s own rock and roll status. Indeed, if there’s an artist that fits the bill of the rock star a la Hajjaj, it’s Hajjaj himself.
Your checklist includes things like the food she eats, the medicine she is prescribed and the colour of her poop, among other things. Like the first album in the two-part series, Diwan 2 saw the artist give a selection of classic Arabic and Maghrebi standards the raunchy Taha treatment. While he’s become something of a household name in the Middle Eastern art scene, his route was that of the rocker, and one still, despite his recent success, can’t help but notice a trace of rebelliousness and raw authenticity in his work.

Varying in outward form and appearance, they are singular in essence, united by the spirit of rock and roll – a spirit that knows naught else but passion, authenticity, and originality. While getting enough sleep can be challenging, until your baby finds her cosy nook, watch out for the sleeping position.
It was something that was at once in-your-face and edgy, yet firmly rooted in culture and tradition. Though he’s been based in London for the majority of his life, Hajjaj, like Taha (and of course, Hindi Zahra) is undeniably North African, and proud of it. For a hip young guitar slinger (as the saying goes) in his late teens trying to assert his Iranian identity in a strange new world, Rachid Taha became the rock star par excellence.
At the same time, however, he doesn’t deny the English experience – which he has unabashedly embraced – and like his French counterpart, is thus able to create works of art which are every inch him, at once embodying the colour and vivacity of Morocco and the edgy East London aesthetic. You spew out the golden answers by rote, get a pat on the head, and go to bed in the comfort of knowing your parents have yet to disown you, albeit with a sinking, churning feeling in your stomach, full of foreboding. Paediatricians will almost always discourage parents from making infants sleep on their stomach. This has been a cause of concern for doctors all around the world since the revelation of Sudden Infant death syndrome (SIDS). Ashu Sawhney, Consultant, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme, Delhi, says, “Infants should not be put to sleep on their stomach as it increases the risk of SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a phenomenon which results in the death of the infant all of a sudden.
The reason is yet to be medically explained, but infants under four to six months of age are at a higher risk of SIDS and are mostly affected in their sleep. Dr Bijal Srivastava, Pediatrician at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai says,“Several studies state that the cause for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sleeping position of babies. It may lead to mild delay in motor milestones and there are higher chances of torticollis or stiff neck.
As responsible parents, make sure your tot sleeps only on the back to avoid any risks of SIDS at least until the baby is six months old.

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