The Arab Avant-Garde
Music, Politics, Modernity
Publication Year: 2013
Chapters delve into genres and modes as diverse as jazz, musical theatre, improvisation, hip hop, and heavy metal as performed in countries like Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and the United States. Focusing on multiple ways in which the "Arab avant-garde" becomes manifest, this anthology brings together international writers with eclectic disciplinary trainings--practicing musicians, area studies specialists, ethnomusicologists, and scholars of popular culture and media. Contributors include Sami W. Asmar, Michael Khoury, Saed Muhssin, Marina Peterson, Kamran Rastegar, Caroline Rooney, and Shayna Silverstein, as well as the editors.
Published by: Wesleyan University Press
Series: Music Culture
The Arab Avant-Garde
Contents, A Note on Transliteration
Introduction: “Arab” “Avant-Garde”
From Alexandrian female heavy metallers and Beiruti jazz trumpeters who sample the noises of warfare to migrants into the avant-garde enclaves of Europe and North America, Arab culture has long offered up a wealth of exciting, challenging, and varied musics. Theirs is not a singular scene, a coherent body of interconnected performers. ...
Part I: Alternative Modernities: Norms and Innovations
1. Transforming Space: The Production of Contemporary Syrian Art Music
Decades after this vanguard performance of “serious” music in the “the oldest continually inhabited city in the world,”1 the risks taken in pursuit of a space for contemporary Syrian art music continue to push the boundaries of musical creativity and expressive culture in Damascus. ...
2. Balancing Integration and Disintegration: Amir Elsaffar and the Contingent Avant-Garde
The avant-garde is so constitutive to our notions of modernity and culture that rarely is this term subjected to systematic definition within academic discourse. In this, the avant-garde is a key paradigm of the notion of cultural modernity; to define it would require stepping outside the epistemic boundaries of modernity and postmodernity. ...
3. Multisited Avant-Gardes or World Music 2.0? Musicians from Beirut and Beyond between Local Production and Euro-American Reception
The latest tracks, songs, sound montages, and noises from the Arab world, Asia, Africa, and Latin America seem to contain revolutionary meanings. On theoretical grounds, these musics suggest reconfigurations of “modernity.” They are small but passionate attempts to reshape the world into a place where “modernity” is not “Euro-modernity” ...
Part II: Roots and Routes
4. The “People’s Artist” and the Beginnings of the Twentieth-Century Arab Avant-Garde
This chapter concerns a musician who lived a few months short of thirty-one years (1892–1923). Sayyed Darwish grew up in poverty and held a day job as a laborer. At the age of sixteen, he was “discovered” and, from there, went on to change the face, and some of the internal organs, of Arab music forever. ...
5. Challenging the Status Quo in War-Torn Lebanon: Ziad Rahbani, the Avant-Garde Heir to Musical Tradition
Sometimes music history evolves predictably, sometimes it takes unexpected paths. When one of the Arab World’s most prominent composers, the late ‘Assi1 Rahbani of Lebanon, married the preeminent singer Fairuz,2 it came as no surprise that their son, Ziad3 Rahbani, would turn out to be a talented artist who would make a significant mark on the history of Arab arts. ...
6. A Look at Lightning: The Life and Compositions of Halim El-Dabh
As an agricultural engineer, Halim El-Dabh met with physicists and engineers to find a way to use sound and light to divert the flight path of bees away from crops—sound as repellant. There must be a way to apply these techniques to music and composition, he thought. ...
Part III: Political Deployments of the Avant-Garde
7. Sonic Cosmopolitanisms: Experimental Improvised Music and a Lebanese-American Cultural Exchange
In February 2007, five Lebanese musicians traveled to the United States to perform with American musicians and dancers as part of the Tabadol Project. With funding from the U.S. Department of State, the Tabadol Project was cultural diplomacy as cultural exchange, a project of international understanding through the arts. ...
8. Activism and Authenticity: Palestinian and Related Hip-Hop in an International Frame
First, a shimmering cymbal sound with two soft beats from the kick drum over a dark screen bearing the film’s title: Local Angel (2002).2 The film begins with this pause, and then all of a sudden there is a violent explosion of sound synced to flashing strobe lights. ...
9. Noise and Its Formless Shadows: Egypt’s Extreme Metal as Avant-Garde Nafas Dawsha
In January 1997, Egyptian authorities jailed nearly one hundred Egyptian university students, all part of the local metal scene.1 The event registered briefly in Western newspapers, which portrayed the curiosity of a conflict between young Egyptians a decade late to the heavy metal trend and a bumbling government overly suspicious of Westernisms ...