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Cairo Pop

Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt

Daniel J. Gilman
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Cairo Pop
    Book Description:

    Cairo Popis the first book to examine the dominant popular music of Egypt,shababiyya. Scorned or ignored by scholars and older Egyptians alike,shababiyyaplays incessantly in Cairo, even while Egyptian youth joined in mass protests against their government, which eventually helped oust longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. Living in Cairo at the time of the revolution, Daniel Gilman saw, and more importantly heard, the impact that popular music can have on culture and politics. Here he contributes a richly ethnographic analysis of the relationship between mass-mediated popular music, modernity, and nationalism in the Arab world.

    BeforeCairo Pop, most scholarship on the popular music of Egypt focused on musiqa al-ṭarab. Immensely popular in the 1950s and '60s and even into the '70s,musiqa al-ṭarabadheres to Arabic musical theory, with non-Western scales based on tunings of the strings of the'ud-the lute that features prominently, nearly ubiquitously, in Arabic music. However, today one in five Egyptians is between the ages of 15 and 24; half the population is under the age of 25. Andshababiyyais their music of choice. By speaking informally with dozens of everyday young people in Cairo, Gilman comes to understand shababiyya as more than just a musical genre: sometimes it is for dancing or seduction, other times it propels social activism, at others it is simply sonic junk food.

    In addition to providing a clear Egyptian musical history as well as a succinct modern political history of the nation,Cairo Popelevates the aural and visual aesthetic ofshababiyya-and its role in the lives of a nation's youth.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4279-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Music, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Note on Transliteration and Pseudonyms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction: Good Music, Bad Music, and Youth Music
    (pp. 1-32)

    In late December 2010, I sat in a café with Zayn, an Egyptian professor of music at one of Cairo’s state universities. “Originally,” he declaimed to me between sips of Turkish coffee and deep inhalations of tobacco, “there was no Arab music. Arabs originally had poetry, though, which was like music to them as auditory culture. But there is, however, Egyptian music, going back thousands of years.”¹ This was not a practice lecture but foreground for his larger point: that contemporary Egyptian pop music does not deserve to be called “Egyptian.” He indicated the wall-mounted television set in a corner,...

  7. 1 “My Patience Is Short”: Youth Talk about Grandpa’s Music
    (pp. 33-76)

    Egyptian political movements and philosophies over the past hundred years are weighty subjects in their own right, and have been widely analyzed. It would be foolhardy to tackle them in their entirety here. It is necessary, however, to gloss several major developments of the last half century in order to elucidate how politics and popular culture have moved along somewhat parallel tracks.

    In 1952, amid rising public discontent with the corruption and ineffectual governance of King Farouk, Egypt’s monarchy was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by a group of dissident junior officers known as the Free Officers. The Free Officers...

  8. 2 “Oh, My Brown-Skinned Darling”: Sex, Music, and Egyptianness
    (pp. 77-124)

    As in a great many nationalist contexts studied by anthropologists, Cairene understandings of Egyptian nationalism are shot through with intertwined notions of sex and race. This imbrication is so thoroughgoing that the three phenomena, as they operate in Cairo, are fundamentally inseparable and, when regarded separately, incomprehensible. This fact remains true even when Cairenes are loath to acknowledge their own racialized thinking; race, unlike nationalism and sexuality, is a relatively difficult topic for Cairenes to broach outright and forthrightly. (Although there is, as one may expect, a good deal of reluctance to engage in frank discussions of sexuality, Cairenes of...

  9. 3 “The Hardest Thing To Say”: Taxonomies of Aesthetics
    (pp. 125-166)

    Waḥid and Baligh, denizens of Café Horreya,¹ a well-known coffeehouse popular with expatriates and leftwing Egyptian intellectuals (Conant 2010), spent months trying vainly to convince me that I was wasting my time by focusing onshababiyya,finding it incomprehensible that I would pursue such a project when I came from the West (especially America), whose music they admired far more. Waḥid adored the British classic rock band Led Zeppelin, and often sat at Café Horreya attempting to perfect his Robert Plant impersonation. Baligh was a fan of the American heavy metal band Sabotage. Just as they shook their heads in...

  10. 4 “A Poem Befitting of Her”: Ambiguity and Sincerity in Revolutionary Pop Culture
    (pp. 167-202)

    My friend Alice, whom I had met through her Evangelical church youth group in 2008, hoped and expected to gain employment after graduation by virtue of her skills and, as I suspect, with the additional asset of her family’swasṭa,especially within the somewhat rarefied Evangelical community that, by her family’s own claim to me, maintained close cultural and economic ties with their coreligionists in Great Britain and the United States. Sure enough, when I met up with Alice several years later during my postdoctoral research, she was working in an entry-level administrative position for an American company that maintained...

  11. Epilogue: On the Counterrevolution
    (pp. 203-210)

    The public euphoria over Hosni Mubarak’s forced departure from office proved shortlived. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the transitional government comprised of senior military officers that succeeded Mubarak’s administration after the governmental shakeup precipitated by the January 25 uprising, soon began to reconsolidate power in the hands of the old guard. The military in Egypt has not always represented a clear ideological perspective, but by 2011, the upper echelons were strongly identified with the secular neoliberal political stance of the ousted regime, known after Mubarak’s ouster asal-fulul(the remnants). Since 1991, the Egyptian Armed Forces has...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 211-228)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 229-230)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-240)
  15. Index
    (pp. 241-256)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-257)