Popular Music and National Culture in Israel

Popular Music and National Culture in Israel

Popular Music and National Culture in Israel

Popular Music and National Culture in Israel

Synopsis

A unique Israeli national culture--indeed, the very nature of "Israeliness"--remains a matter of debate, a struggle to blend vying memories and backgrounds, ideologies and wills. Identifying popular music as an important site in this wider cultural endeavor, this book focuses on the three major popular music cultures that are proving instrumental in attempts to invent Israeliness: the invented folk song repertoire known as Shirei Eretz Israel; the contemporary, global-cosmopolitan Israeli rock; and the ethnic-oriental musica mizrahit. The result is the first ever comprehensive study of popular music in Israel.

Motti Regev, a sociologist, and Edwin Seroussi, an ethnomusicologist, approach their subject from alternative perspectives, producing a truly interdisciplinary, sociocultural account of music as a feature and a force in the shaping of Israeliness. A major ethnographic undertaking, describing and analyzing the particular history, characteristics, and practices of each music culture, "Popular Music and National Culture in Israel "maps not only the complex field of Israeli popular music but also Israeli culture in general.

Excerpt

The study of Israeli culture is one of the most challenging fields of inquiry among those relating to the investigation of nation-states that arose during the twentieth century. Irrespective of a scholar's field, be it the social sciences or humanities, the extreme complexity of the Israeli case always calls for an interdisciplinary approach. The intricate web of contrasting human factors, backgrounds, memories, ideologies, and wills that shaped Israeli society and its modern culture (what we call “Israeliness”) can be better interpreted if approached simultaneously from various disciplinary perspectives. This is certainly true of our topic: Israeli popular music.

Our interdisciplinary collaboration began in the early 1990s, when Regev, a sociologist, had completed his doctoral dissertation, which was the first attempt to interpret the rise of Israeli rock by using the theoretical tools of the sociology of art. Seroussi, an ethnomusicologist, had, in collaboration with other colleagues, studied only one aspect of Israeli popular music, “oriental ethnicity. ” We arrived at the study of Israeli popular music from widely different perspectives and believed that the study of popular music would be enlightening for the understanding of contemporary Israeliness. Concluding that only a major ethnographic undertaking could possibly map out the complex field of Israeli popular music in its entirety, we embarked on this project around 1993. A major grant from the Israel Science Foundation (formerly managed by the Israel National Academy of Sciences) for the years 1994–97 and the assistance of several colleagues and graduate students enabled us to accomplish some of the significant goals of this encompassing ethnographic endeavor. Additional grants came from the Shein Institute and the Silbert Foundation for Israel Studies, both at the Fac-

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