Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 9th, 2013

King of Romance? Fadl Shaker kind?

Fadel Shaker success was a dream come true for this tough port city of Sidon on the Mediterranean coast: a poor kid whose honeyed voice and ballads of love and heartbreak rocketed him to wealth and fame far from the gun-ridden neighborhood where he grew up.

Shaker’s early life in many ways resembled the script of an Arab television melodrama. Born to a Lebanese father and a Palestinian mother, he grew up in a poor neighborhood adjacent to the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon. He never finished high school, but his neighbors discovered his musical talent early and booked him to sing at weddings.

Fadel Shaker became a superstar, hailed as “the king of romance,” his songs wooing masses throughout the Arab world. He bought a vast, 3-story villa with a swimming pool overlooking the city, cars, a private orchard and a beachfront restaurant where he performed at parties.

Last year, in a move that has baffled fans and friends alike, he renounced popular music as forbidden by Islam, grew a scruffy beard and took up with a hard-liner sheik.

A few weeks ago, during a deadly turf battle with the Lebanese Army in a Sidon suburb, he denounced his enemies as dogs and pigs and boasted that his group had killed two men (implicitly from Hezbollah).

Fadel has not been seen in public since, and is believed to be in hiding from the authorities in the (Palestinian) refugee camp near where he grew up. (The military compared blood samples from the family members of Fadl with the unrecognized dead, but the sample showed negative)

BEN HUBBARD Published in NYT this July 27, 2013 Once a ‘King of Romance,’ Now an Angry Militant

The transformation of Mr. Shaker, 44, (pronounced SHACK-er) from a baby-faced crooner to an angry militant has left many here dumbfounded and others angry, and raised dire questions about how the civil war in Syria has inflamed splits in Lebanese society.

The transformation of Fadel Shaker has raised dire questions about how the civil war in Syria has inflamed splits in Lebanese society.

“We were all shocked,” said Ahmed al-Naaj, a waiter in Mr. Shaker’s former restaurant. “Why would a famous singer that the whole world knows change all of a sudden like that?”

Bilal Hussein/Associated Press

More recently, Mr. Shaker has grown a scruffy beard and has taken up with the hard-line sheik Ahmad al-Assir.

The New York Times

While even those close to Mr. Shaker cannot fully account for his turnabout, most people here see it as yet another symptom of worsening sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

For years, many in this majority Sunni Muslim city have complained of the growing clout of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that is Lebanon’s most powerful political force. But the civil war in neighboring Syria brought relations to a new low, with Hezbollah intervening to support President Bashar al-Assad and the Sunnis backing the rebels fighting for his overthrow.

Those issues clearly rankled Mr. Shaker, a Sunni, and accelerated his militancy.

“God willing, we’ll take what we deserve with our own hands, because there is no state, there are no judges, there is nothing,” he threatened in a live television interview shortly before his disappearance. “We’re living in the jungle.”

As his fame spread, he gave larger concerts in Lebanon and abroad, releasing albums and music videos that made him a household name throughout the Arab world. His hits included romantic ballads like “O Absent One,” “I Forgot to Forget You” and “Come, My Love.”

His former chauffeur, Hani al-Sin, said that Mr. Shaker had been religious but not zealous. He prayed, but his restaurant served alcohol, and Mr. Shaker liked to play cards, which some strict Muslims consider sinful.

The first changes came gradually.

A few years ago, he informed the restaurant staff without explanation that alcohol would no longer be sold there. Some of his friends attributed the decision to family pressure. His mother was devout, and his older brother, Abdel-Rahman, had joined the Sunni militant group Jund Al-Sham.

In 2010, Mr. Shaker took the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. He accepted fewer performances after his return and announced last year that he would sing pop music no more.

Other signs of religiosity followed. He let his beard grow and performed religious ballads at mass rallies held by Sunni groups in support of the Syrian rebels.

He also took up with a local firebrand sheik, Ahmad al-Assir, who had gained notoriety for calling for the disarming of Hezbollah and orchestrating media stunts to draw attention to his cause. Sheik Assir also spoke in support of Syria’s rebels and once traveled to Syria, where he was filmed firing a machine gun from a rooftop.

Mr. Shaker became a regular at Sheik Assir’s mosque and appeared with him in public and on television talk shows. During one interview, Mr. Shaker sang a jihadist anthem, declaring, “Do not cry for me if I fall, for death does not scare me and I intend to die a martyr.”

Underpinning Mr. Shaker’s new activism was a sense of Sunni empowerment. Lebanon’s Sunnis have complained of marginalization, and many have taken inspiration from their brethren in Syria to assert themselves in Lebanon.

Samih Arnaout, a longtime associate of Sheik Assir’s mosque, said the sheik explained his outspokenness with an Arab proverb: “Every rooster crows atop his pile of trash.”

The sheik felt that the Sunni political leaders were failing to defend their community. “So he said, ‘I’m going to crow,’ ” Mr. Arnaout recalled.

Other Sunni leaders feared such activism would create a violent backlash and sought to steer Mr. Shaker away from it.  Ahmed al-Jardali, a leader in the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sidon, said he tried to persuade Mr. Shaker to focus his piety on spiritual songs.

“Someone like Fadel could send a message much better than someone holding a rifle, so it was important for us to try to put him in the right place,” Mr. Jardali said. “But then the problems started and it was too late for him to choose a different direction.”

Last month, clashes broke out between the Lebanese Army and gunmen inside Sheik Assir’s mosque. Each side accuses the other of instigating the violence, and Sheik Assir’s followers claimed that Hezbollah fought alongside the army. More than two dozen people were killed in two days and more than 100 were wounded, most of them soldiers.

The sheik and Mr. Shaker have not been seen since, but in a video posted online, Mr. Shaker, his beard specked with gray, raised two fingers and spoke into the camera.

“We sent home two corpses for you yesterday, you dogs, you pigs,” he said. Someone off camera told him 16 soldiers had been wounded, and he responded, “May God increase their number!”

Mr. Shaker’s pride at fighting the army enraged many of his fans, and other prominent musicians denounced him.

“Sure, you can give up music and decide to be religious, but that doesn’t mean you can shoot at people,” said Azzam al-Mal, 20, who was fixing a computer in a small music store in Sidon’s old stone-walled market.

The shop’s owner said that he still sold Mr. Shaker’s CDs, but that many fewer people asked for them.

Little remains of Mr. Shaker’s former life. He sold his restaurant months ago to a man who changed the name and put alcohol back on the menu.

Gunmen ransacked his villa and came back later to set it on fire. A neighbor said that they had returned 3 times in one day to make sure the flames had taken and that repeated calls to the fire department had brought no help.

The villa is now a charred shell, its facade stained black with smoke, its windows shattered and its elaborate living room strewn with rubble. Underneath a curved staircase sits a baby grand piano, strangely untouched by the flames.

Standing in Mr. Shaker’s bedroom upstairs, where springs jutted from a burned mattress and a black chandelier hung overhead, Mr. Sin, the driver, shook his head.

“Even I have no idea what changed him,” he said. “How did he benefit from all of this?”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 28, 2013, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Once a ‘King of Romance,’ Now an Angry Militant.

Why using research-led insights affect behaviour change?

U in Point of View posted this July 24, 2013:

The wise David Ogilvy said, “The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, don’t say what they think and don’t do what they say”.

But if traditional market research is ineffective, how do you know why people behave as they do? How can you find out their motivations and triggers?

And how can you build behaviors and encourage change?

Research-led insight and eating at work – food for thought

Research has shown that healthier eating at work impacts on productivity and creates a happier and healthier team. We’ve achieved significant success in building positive eating behaviours in the workplace.

Eating can obviously be an emotional issue, so we used a variety of insight gleaning techniques to get to the heart of this behavior.

What were people really eating?

Why were they eating badly at work?

And what could we do to encourage them to build different behavior?

The Uscreates approach

To answer the above questions, we used traditional interviews, round-table discussions and surveys. But we also gave our target market some interesting tasks designed to uncover actual as opposed to reported behavior.

The tasks were designed to encourage people to engage with the research, uncover barriers to change and provide inspiration to the design phrase of the process.

Amongst other things we gave out cameras and asked staff to take a picture of their lunch, someone else’s lunch they wished was theirs, and an image of their eating companion (if any).

We gave them a budget, and asked them to buy food they felt represented the eating culture of the office.

Finally, we ran a collaborative event which involved our clients and staff members in generating ideas to improve eating behaviours.

The proof of the pudding…. (Healthy pudding obviously)

Our innovative solutions to encourage behaviour change around eating at work involved an honesty fruit bowl system, visiting chef, health lunch pack delivery service, health and nutrition MOTs and staff eating area re-design.

These solutions all came from the insights gleaned during our initial consultations, and were tailored to the people, offices and issues affected.

For one of our clients, one year (later?) on, 23% of employees rated their lunch “healthier”, and 73% are eating at least two portions of fruit/vegetables at work per day: a measurable and powerful result.

(My hypothesis is “How people are communing in their eating habit and the duration for finishing eating are much more important than the quality of the food or ingredients… Take time to chew well and relax with your work companions…)

Research-led insight – an effective and efficient use of your marketing budget

As we’ve seen, using research-led insight you can be sure that you are getting a thorough understanding of the issues affecting your target market.

With our eating example, we discovered how people eat, when, why and with whom.  We heard the truth, got to the core of barriers to change, and were able to translate this insight in to creative solutions that worked.

Having deeper understanding and insight in to the real life behaviour of your target market in situ is very powerful.  We’ve found that it leads to greater creativity in strategy and communication.

Sometimes a little insight goes a long way; it can provide the hook, answer the problem or highlight that opportunity that you need to succeed. And – if you read this and are trying to be SMART, you’ll also find that research-led insights make it easier to measure your results.

We love research-led insight (and we’re really good at it too)

In our experience, research-led insight is invaluable to any forward thinking business. It requires creative thinking, analysis and superb people skills.  It’s hard to do, but, done well, there’s nothing like it for uncovering deep insight into employees, customers or users and building new behaviours.

Thanks to research-led insights, the creative and collaborative approaches we use lead to engaged participants and compelling measurable results.

Do you have any great examples of research-led insights?

What behaviours are you trying to change in employees, customers or users?

Join our conversation now




August 2013

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