Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Music and Media in the Arab World

Music and Media in the Arab World

Edited by Michael Frishkopf
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Music and Media in the Arab World
    Book Description:

    Since the turn of the twentieth century the dramatic rise of mass media has profoundly transformed music practices in the Arab world. Music has adapted to successive forms of media dissemination—from phonograph cylinders to MP3s—each subjected to the political and economic forces of its particular era and region. Carried by mass media, the broader culture of Arab music has been thoroughly transformed as well. Simultaneously, mass mediated music has become a powerful social force. While parallel processes have unfolded worldwide, their implications in the Arabic-speaking world have thus far received little scholarly attention. This provocative volume features sixteen new essays examining these issues, especially televised music and the controversial new genre of the music video. Perceptive voices—both emerging and established—represent a wide variety of academic disciplines. Incisive essays by Egyptian critics display the textures of public Arabic discourse to an English readership. Authors address the key issues of contemporary Arab society—gender and sexuality, Islam, class, economy, power, and nation—as refracted through the culture of mediated music. Interconnected by a web of recurrent concepts, this collection transcends music to become an important resource for the study of contemporary Arab society and culture. Contributors: Wael Abdel Fattah, Yasser Abdel-Latif, Moataz Abdel Aziz, Tamim Al-Barghouti, Mounir Al Wassimi, Walter Armbrust, Elisabeth Cestor, Hani Darwish, Walid El Khachab, Abdel-Wahab Elmessiri, James Grippo, Patricia Kubala, Katherine Meizel, Zein Nassar, Ibrahim Saleh, Laith Ulaby.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-603-2
    Subjects: Music, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction Music and Media in the Arab World and Music and Media in the Arab World as Music and Media in the Arab World: A Metadiscourse
    (pp. 1-64)
    Michael Frishkopf

    The extended title of this introductory essay encapsulates the idea that the volume you’re now reading is itself an instance of the phenomenon—the intersection and interaction of music and media in the Arab world¹—it purports to study and represent, and thus constitutes a valid object of analysis in its own introduction. In other words, this book is about itself, at least in part. Or, inasmuch as most humanistic writing is already metadiscourse, perhaps this introduction could be regarded as a meta-metadiscourse on music and media in the Arab world.

    For when ‘music’ is broadly construed to include ‘discourse...

  6. Historical Reflection

    • 1 A History of Music and Singing on Egyptian Radio and Television
      (pp. 67-76)
      Zein Nassar

      In Egypt, radio and subsequently television have played an essential role in disseminating music and singing to the public. Local radio existed in Egypt at least since a royal decree issued on May 10, 1926, which allowed for the establishment of local radio stations in Cairo and Alexandria. In the late 1920s, Egyptians and foreigners established numerous private radio stations in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, following radio’s widespread popularity in Europe and America. Finally, on July 21, 1932, the Egyptian government decided to establish Egyptian Radio (al-Idha‘a al-Lasilkiya li-l-Idha‘a al-Misriya). By the end of December 1933, at least eight...

    • 2 Arab Music Videos and Their Implications for Arab Music and Media
      (pp. 77-90)
      Moataz Abdel Aziz

      The late 1800s witnessed the beginnings of theater production in the Arab region, at a time when theater involved the use of audiovisual aids that complemented stage drama. The advancement of theater arts gave more weight to the visual and musical dimensions of stage production. In the early 1900s, music played an important role in Arab theater. Exposure to Western cultural sensibilities led to the utilization of some Western musical elements. As musical theater developed, new formats were adopted, such as the operetta (a miniature opera production) and the musical play. Many stage productions were accompanied by music groups, singers,...

    • 3 Arab Music and Changes in the Arab Media
      (pp. 91-96)
      Mounir Al Wassimi

      Enormous changes have taken place in the field of Arab music, due to the phenomenal developments brought about by satellite channels and new modes of recording and telecommunications media. In this chapter I shall try to address the impact of these changes on musical composition and song recording, from the standpoint of an observer and active participant in the music field, in the periods before and after the advent of new communication technology.

      In the past, state radio and television were responsible for most musical production in Egypt, and remained so until the end of the 1970s. State-owned radio and...

    • 4 Music and Television in Lebanon
      (pp. 97-110)
      Elisabeth Cestor

      This chapter examines various forms of interaction between television and professional musicians in Lebanon. By following recent historical events, primarily from the 1960s until the present, we can better understand the present situation and the effects of the relationship between music and the moving image on contemporary Arab societies. In particular, I focus on the important role Lebanese women singers have played in social life and the media world since the end of the civil war and the development of satellite channels.

      Lebanon’s first television channel, the Compagnie Libanaise de Télévision (CLT), began broadcasting in 1959.¹ This channel was financed...

    • 5 Mass Media and Music in the Arab Persian Gulf
      (pp. 111-126)
      Laith Ulaby

      The advent of recording and broadcast technologies had a profound impact on music making in the Arab Persian Gulf.¹ Unlike many other parts of the world, however, the arrival of mass-mediated music accompanied a period of dramatic economic, social, and political transformation in the region. This chapter presents an overview of mass media technologies, their musical ramifications, and the interplay of music mass media with concurrent societal developments from the early twentieth century to the present. Throughout, I focus on local Gulf musical genres. Collectively, these genres are sometimes known assha‘bi(literally, ‘folk’ or ‘popular,’ from sha□b, or ‘people’).²...

  7. Cultural Critique, Cultural Analysis

    • 6 Critique Music of the Streets: The Story of a Television Program
      (pp. 129-136)
      Yasser Abdel-Latif

      Since its inception in 1998, I have worked for Nile Variety Entertainment (NVE), one of several specialty channels launched around the same time. NVE was based on the model of MTV, offering primarily music and songs. It operates under the aegis of a sector of Egyptian state-owned television known as the ‘Nile specialized channels,’ today comprising about ten satellite channels in all. Each of these channels concentrates on a particular field, such as news, sports, drama, or culture. The establishment of such a sector within the framework of the state-owned Egyptian media establishment represented one direction in the government’s attempt...

    • 7 Analysis Whatʹs Not on Egyptian Television and Radio! Locating the ʹPopularʹ in Egyptian Sha‘bi
      (pp. 137-162)
      James R. Grippo

      There are over fifty thousand taxis operating in greater Cairo (Nafie 2004), their horns beeping incessantly while they stop and start, turn and dart, as if part of a surreal bumper car race. The ubiquitous black-and-white Cairo taxis are something of a cultural icon to Egyptians and foreigners alike. Often decorated according to tastes that range from the ridiculous (faux leopard-print dashboard covers and flashing colored interior lights) to the sublime (ornate Qur’ans, Christian iconography, amulets, and beads), the vehicles say a remarkable amount about the driver.¹

      Adding to this rich texture, taxi drivers are perhaps the most culturally diversified...

    • 8 Critique Ruby and the Checkered Heart
      (pp. 163-172)
      Abdel-Wahab Elmessiri

      A video clip is a short movie comprising a jingle, a dance, and a dramatic theme. It is a far cry from the world of song as we once knew it, it must be said at the outset, for this is all a video clip contains.

      Yet there was a time when listening to a song was a multidimensional experience in which the listener could appreciate lyrics, music, and performance. Not unlike the video clips of today, most were admittedly about romantic love, but some were about mothers, nature, or human relations in general. Singers performed the classical Arabic poems...

    • 9 Analysis The Controversy over Satellite Music Television in Contemporary Egypt
      (pp. 173-224)
      Patricia Kubala

      A headline in the Egyptian national daily,al-Ahram, reads: “The Music Video Clip Is a Heated Cultural Attack that Is Destroying the Family, Ruining [Our] Youth, and Promoting Adultery,” and another claims, “Female Video Clip Singers Are Behind an Increase in Divorce!” (Magid, 2004; “Mughanniyat al-fidyu klib wara’ ziyadat al-talaq” 2005). In the Egyptian radio and television magazine,al-Idha‘a wa-l-tilifiziyun, Egyptian pop music superstar Amr Diab declares, “I’m afellah(peasant) … and I’ve forbidden my children from watching video clips” (Nur al-Din 2005). The opposition newspaperal-Wafdworries, “In the Age of the Video Clip, When Will We See...

    • 10 Critique Caliphs and Clips
      (pp. 225-230)
      Tamim Al-Barghouti

      In the summer of 2004 I came to Cairo, back to the good old satellite receiver, only to feel the same misrepresentation, disempowerment, and humiliation I felt watching Fox News and MSNBC. But this is not an essay about American news channels; rather, it is about video clips on Arab entertainment channels!

      It is almost impossible to find one square millimeter of contemporary Arab life where defeat has not expressed itself. By defeat I mean the sum of native-colonial interaction over the last two centuries. Music was traditionally seen as a domain more immune to colonial redefinition and appropriation than...

    • 11 Analysis What Would Sayyid Qutb Say? Some Reflections on Video Clips
      (pp. 231-254)
      Walter Armbrust

      In quantitative terms one could say that video clips dominate Arab satellite television. At any given time as many as a fifth of the free-to-air channels on Nilesat may be broadcasting video clips. Other programming categories that preoccupy observers of Arab satellite television—specifically news, religion, and dramatic serials—are broadcast by fewer specialized channels, and probably receive a smaller proportion of airtime on variety channels.¹

      But the ubiquity of video clips may overstate their popularity. Video clips are free content in an economically troubled business, paid for substantially not by the networks that broadcast them, but by mobile phone...

    • 12 Critique Images of Women in Advertisements and Video Clips: A Case Study of Sherif Sabri
      (pp. 255-264)
      Hany Darwish

      From its outset, the third millennium promised to be the era of mediapar excellence. Satellite television, journals published by various political parties, and network technology pushed communication toward more democratic channels, creating a larger demography of those who have the right to choose.

      On the other hand, this change has also exposed the attitudes of cultures in the developing world that have until recently remained hostage to their own perceptions of themselves and others, without revision for a long time. Such societies have found themselves drawn into a global system without having prepared themselves to develop their own images...

    • 13 Analysis Arab Video Music: Imagined Territories and the Liberation of Desire (or: Sex Lies in Video (Clip))
      (pp. 265-276)
      Walid El Khachab

      The purpose of this chapter is to investigate the way music video–what I prefer to call video music—in the Arab world has become an imagined territory, where the weight of censorship on desire and its manifestations is lightened. New media bring new freedoms: this is especially the case for satellite television (and particularly its encrypted pay-TV channels), where the investment of Capital entitles the consumer to more sex and more unorthodox expressions of fantasy, gender identity, and subjectivity than allowed in other Arab audiovisual products. My preference for ‘video music’ over ‘music video’ stems from the predominance of...

    • 14 Critique The Biographies of Starlets Today: Revolutions in Sound and Image
      (pp. 277-290)
      Wael Abdel Fattah

      It seems that the success stories of Egypt’s female artists are intriguing—to the point of confusion.

      A dark girl called Sherine, who has become the most renowned of singers, was first attacked by the snob elite.¹ Sherine comes from a poor background and was catapulted to the screen amid a wave of manufactured blond beauty. She overcame the crisis of social evaluation to enter another kind of debate: that of morals. Success tempted her to enter the market of cosmetic makeovers, and she reinvented herself as Latina chic, enhancing her original sprightliness. Eyes moved maliciously, on the lookout for...

    • 15 Analysis Real-politics: Televised Talent Competitions and Democracy Promotion in the Middle East
      (pp. 291-308)
      Katherine Meizel

      In 2004 a show calledTalentsdebuted on al-Iraqiya, a localized terrestrial television channel funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.Talentswas the brainchild of the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, specifically a project of their psychological operations team. That a televised talent competition might be used to steer Iraqis away from the anti-American outlook of Arab satellite channels (Garrels 2004) is not so surprising, at a moment when pop culture and politics intersect in a proliferation of similar programming all over the world. It’s not a new idea, and not an Iraqi one, but a descendant of traditions...