Lighten up Lebanon! Comedian behind 'Gangnam Style' parody faces death threats from Saida

Published December 6th, 2012 - 01:30 GMT
During the shooting of the video in Saida (Photo: Al-Akhbar)
During the shooting of the video in Saida (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

After the parody song ‘Oppa Saida Style’ went viral last week, some Saida hardliners accused the performer Wissam Saad of “promoting sex” and slandering their city, and even made threats on his life.

As the famous Korean pop song ‘Gangnam Style’ is approaching a billion hits on YouTube, the Lebanese parody, ‘Oppa Saida Style,’ in reference to the southern city of Saida, has became somewhat of a phenomenon since it aired last week. 

The song, which was originally shown on the last episode of the satirical show Chi.N.N on al-JadeedTV, soon spread like wildfire online and across social media networks. Many Lebanese, and particularly Saida natives, loved the song, which got its own hashtag on twitter, #OppaSaidaStyle. But the song had its critics too, and some of the criticism took a dangerous turn. 

The imam of one Saida mosque decided to overlook all the pressing problems facing the community and the city and instead dedicated his sermon last Friday to condemning the fictional character featured in the music video, Abu-Talal. The satirical Abu-Talal, played by performer Wissam Saad, a graduate of the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Cairo, made his first appearance more than two years ago on an al-Jadeed comedy show.

Some hardline Islamists in the city even issued death threats against Saad over the song. Others accused him of “promoting sex” in Saida and mocking its people. They said he is “obsessed with nakedness and undressing” and called on Saida’s two MPs and Muslim scholars to “put a stop to this farce.”

Saad initially refused to respond to what he called “uncivilized” accusations because he did not want to blow the issue out of proportion.

He did, however, talk to Al-Akhbar, about what it was like to come under fire for a parody song.

“I am from Saida; I live in the city and spend my days in its neighborhoods and alleyways,” he said, stressing that he never intended to turn his city into an object of ridicule.

“After the Beiruti character of Abu-Abed and the southern character of Um Taan, Abu-Talal gave Saida residents their own special character,” he said.

Saad thinks that his song turned a spotlight on the city “at a time when it is absent from most people’s radar.” He said he made others aware of the true nature of the people of Saida “including the accomplished Lebanese actor Ahmad al-Zein.” 

The reason Abu-Talal went viral was because he used comedy to address real issues affecting the city, from the economic problems to traffic, political disagreements, and the infamous landfill.

“If it is true [that the song is offensive], how come the city’s politicians did not voice their indignation?” Saad asked rhetorically.

Who among Saida’s young men does not know about the cruising in the nearby town of Abra, and Saida’s most prominent tourism site, the landfill? And who wasn’t able to somehow get his hands on alcohol there? Who doesn’t know the kidney beans that are sold by vendors along the corniche? And who doesn’t look back in nostalgia on the good old days when the security situation was better? Saad, who considers himself a son of Saida, spoke from his own experience and that of many of Saida’s residents.

The idea behind the song came from Chi.N.N’s producer and one of the show’s hosts, Salam al-Zaatari, who also happens to be from Saida. Zaatari wrote its lyrics along with his co-host Fouad Yamin. In addition, at least three people on the show’s team are from Saida, not to mention that Tahsin Khayyat, the owner of al-Jadeed.

The Saida native being portrayed as an idiot is just another stereotype that the Lebanese like to tease each other with. In reality, the average Saida resident has a sense of humor, as well as his or her fair share of concerns and problems resulting from many years of marginalization, a message that came across loud and clear in the ‘Oppa Saida Style’ video.


By Nadine Kanaan


What do you think of Wissam Saad's parody? Has it gone too far or are critics overreacting? Leave us your comments below!

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