Rai Ride Rising

by David McMurray , Ted Swedenburg
published in MER169

Two Algerian rai tunes make the top ten of the Village Voice music critics’s poll in 1989. Rai is now heard daily on college radio from the University of Pennsylvania to Oregon State. Urban dance clubs with “world music” nights feature rai discs along with their usual mix of reggae, salsa, zouk and ju-ju. Tower Records stocks rai cassettes and CDs in its nationwide outlets. What, in the words of Marvin Gaye, is goin’ on? Why are post-liberation Algerian pop singers winning a wide Western audience while an earlier generation of popular Arab singers like Umm Kulthoum, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Fairouz never did?

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Rai, Rap and Ramadan Nights

Franco-Maghribi Cultural Identities

by David McMurray , Ted Swedenburg , Joan Gross
published in MER178

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Improvisation and Continuity

The Music of Sabreen

by Joost Hiltermann , Kamal Boullata
published in MER182

Sabreen is considered the premier Palestinian musical group performing today. Influenced by Western rock and jazz, their distinctive style blends traditional Arab rhythms and instruments with subtly political lyrics reflecting the current active resistance to Israeli occupation. Two members of Sabreen, lead singer Camelia Jubran and founder and composer Sa‘id Murad, spoke to Kamal Boullata and Joost Hiltermann in Washington. Translated by Dina Jadallah.

Tell us about the history of Sabreen.

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A New World Order, A New Marcel Khalife

by Elliott Colla , Robert Blecher
published in MER199

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Al Miskin International/Tainted Love

published in MER201

What is up in Egypt? In Cairo, Mustafa Bakri, was deposed as editor-in-chief of al-Ahrar following the failure of the mutiny he led in the halls of the Liberal Party to depose of its leader, Mustafa Kamal Murad. Bakri stormed the party headquarters with 600 armed followers and had himself voted president. For a few days, two versions of al-Ahrar competed for space on the newsstands. Bakri’s paper made a vain stab at seeking Mubarak’s support by turning even more obsequious than the state-run press. Meanwhile, deposed party head Murad published his own loyalist edition attacking the Bakri cult of personality before the police finally moved in and ended Bakri’s short reign. What triggered the coup?

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Zionist Lesbianism and Transsexual Transgression

Two Representations of Queer Israel

by Yael Ben-zvi
published in MER206

The music of Dana International, a transsexual singer committed to queer issues, often parodies mainstream Israeli culture. Her latest song, “Diva,” was recently selected by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority to represent Israel at this May’s prestigious European song competition, Eurovision. [1] As Dana prepares for Eurovision, Michal Eden, another member of the Israeli queer community, is running in Meretz’ primaries for the Tel Aviv city board elections. Representing Tel Aviv queers in general and Klaf [2] (the Kehila Lesbit Feministit [the Lesbian Feminist Community]) in particular, Eden will run as a member of Meretz, the left Zionist party in Israel.

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Troubadours of Revolt

by Ted Swedenburg
published in MER258

Rami ‘Isam, a 23-year old pony-tailed singer for the so-so rock band Mashakil, based in Mansoura, showed up at Tahrir Square on January 28, 2011, guitar in hand and ready to join the pro-democracy revolt. His music soon became an important component of the Tahrir scene, as the insurrectionists set up sound systems to broadcast recordings and a stage for speeches and performances. ‘Isam went on stage and also circulated in the square, strumming for demonstrators taking a break from the struggle.

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Burj al-Barajna Dispatch

by Reem Kelani
published in MER210

After making my way through the rubble and squalor of the overcrowded refugee camp near Beirut’s International Airport, I arrived half an hour late for my appointment with Umm Muhammad, a local living repository of Palestinian folk song traditions.

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Cartel: Travels of German-Turkish Rap Music

by Alev Çınar
published in MER211

“You are a Turk from Germany.” The words are from the song “Sen Turksun” (You Are a Turk) by German-Turkish rap group Cartel. Cartel shot to prominence in 1995 in Germany and Turkey with their album, “Cartel,” which within a month of its release sold 30,000 copies in Germany and 180,000 in Turkey. The “Cartel, Number One” video aired repeatedly on Turkish television and quickly hit the top of the Turkish pop charts. Every Turkish station and newspaper wanted to interview the group, which fascinated the Turkish public with its aggressive style, its ingenious music that combined rap with elements of Turkish musical genres, and its lyrics. For example:

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The Song Does Not Remain the Same

by Ramin Sadighi , Sohrab Mahdavi | published March 12, 2009

Starting in the late 1990s, and especially following two stories by CNN's chief international correspondent, the British-Iranian Christiane Amanpour, Westerners were treated to a slew of articles and broadcast reports aiming to “lift the veil” on Iran. Amanpour’s second story revolved around “youth and the party scene.” She visited the house of another hyphenated Iranian to show a group reveling in youthful abandon, toasting each other with alcoholic drinks to the tune of playful music, and so consuming two illegal items of consequence in the Islamic Republic. With youth, it seemed, came merriment and rebelliousness.