Tolan, Children of the Stone

by Dan Connell
published in MER276

Sandy Tolan, Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015).

Two stories, two dreams: one realized, the other dashed.

A boy born to a fragmented, impoverished refugee family living under harsh military rule is mesmerized by the sound of a violin and vows not only to master the instrument but also to start a school to share its liberating beauty with others. And he does it.

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Palestine, Adrift at the Met

by Bayann Hamid | published November 11, 2014 - 10:31am

Opera is dying in New York. Or at least it was until last month.

Youth of the Gulf, Youth of Palestine

by Ted Swedenburg | published May 31, 2014 - 10:19am

I recently came across two accounts of Arab youth that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. One is Kristin Diwan’s issue brief on youth activism in the Arab Gulf states for the Atlantic Council, and the other is a documentary by filmmaker Jumana Manna on Palestinian “male thug culture” in East Jerusalem. The film is called Blessed, Blessed Oblivion.

Egypt's Music of Protest

From Sayyid Darwish to DJ Haha

by Ted Swedenburg
published in MER265

The culture of protest associated with the Egyptian uprising has attracted a huge amount of media coverage -- much of it, unfortunately, partial and superficial. Partial, in that it privileges hip-hop to the virtual exclusion of every other kind of nationalist and protest music sung by musicians and crowds during the 18 days of the original Tahrir Square occupation, January 24-February 11, 2011. Superficial, in that it fundamentally misapprehends the role of music in the revolt.

Music, Fate and State

Turkey's Arabesk Debate

by Martin Stokes
published in MER160

In a violent act of vengeance, the kind of crime of honor which fills Turkish jails and the pages of the tabloids, a lorry driver in Istanbul catches his wife and boss in flagrante delicto, shoots them both and flees to his home village. The police surround the village house. The man surrenders and is taken away. He had left his village to find work in Libya, but through a series of accidents and chance encounters while being detained at the employment agency in Istanbul, he found work in a haulage firm and eventually set up his own business. Drunk and confused one evening, he was seduced by his next-door neighbor, a single woman, who eventually pressured him into marrying her.

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Syria's Radical Dabka

by Shayna Silverstein
published in MER263

A clip circulating on YouTube begins with two sets of feet stepping on a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, defaced with a blood-red X and tossed on the ground. It soon becomes apparent that “dirty Asad” lies inside a ring of protesters, who circle the head shot stomping rhythmically -- on the downbeat, in repeated or alternating steps that rock backward and forward, left and right -- to a rollicking tune in the background. The video is captioned, “The Sweetest and Finest of Syrian Dabka.” [1]

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Protest Song Marocaine

by John Schaefer
published in MER263

A familiar song accompanied the massive protests that began on February 20, 2011 in Morocco.

The song, “Fine Ghadi Biya Khouya” (Where Are You Taking Me, Brother?), was first released in 1973 by Nass el Ghiwane, the venerable folk-pop group that continues to dominate Moroccan popular music -- its aesthetics and social conscience. It resurfaced in a 2003 cover by the band Hoba Hoba Spirit. And it was broadcast again in the background of the 2011 demonstrations that had much in common with the uprisings across the Arab world, but which in Morocco never became a revolt.

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Festivalizing Dissent in Morocco

by Aomar Boum
published in MER263

The website of Morocco’s National Tourist Office, a government organization, advertises the North African country as a land of cultural festivals and moussems (traditional fairs honoring a saint). According to the Ministry of Information, about 150 such festivals take place each year. The Ministry of Tourism describes these gatherings as occasions for Moroccans to celebrate the diverse cultural identities of the country as expressed in all artistic fields.

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Culture, State and Revolution

by Sonali Pahwa , Jessica Winegar
published in MER263

The Arab uprisings have brought major challenges, as well as unprecedented opportunities, to the culture industries. According to a flurry of celebratory news articles from the spring of 2011 onward, protest art is proliferating in the region, from graffiti in Egypt to hip-hop in Morocco to massive photographic displays and political cartoons gone viral in Tunisia. These articles then adopt a predictably ominous tone to express the concern that resurgent Islamist forces represent a danger to arts and culture writ large.

The Grand (Hip-Hop) Chessboard

Race, Rap and Raison d'Etat

by Hisham Aidi
published in MER260

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