Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt

Article excerpt

Gilman, daniel J. Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt. Minneapolis, Mn: university of Minnesota Press, 2014. 257 pages. Paper $25.00

Daniel Gilman's book is not about music, or a book on music as an art, rather it is an anthropological study that explores the interconnection between music and politics. It focuses on the genre that Egyptian youth tend to prefer to all others, musiqa al-shababiyya.

Although the connection between pop music and politics in Egypt, and the Arab World at large, is long and deep, as the author noted, few academic studies had been dedicated to explore this connection. The book claims that it is the first study of the connection between pop music and politics, which might be true if we only consider English language studies.

It is significant that the author lived in Egypt between December 2006 and June 2011. This allowed him to experience not only the critical years leading up to the ouster of Mubarak, a time of increasing activism in Egypt, and to witness the first part of the Egypt revolution, but also what the author characterizes as counterrevolution.

The book introduces pop music as one of three genres that can be differentiated in terms of the political, social, and cultural moment. According to this typology, the book treats three different types of music; musiqa al-tarab (music of enchantment), sha'bi (folk music), and shababiyya (youth music). The first genre, performed by iconic singers like Umm Kulthum and Abd al-Halim Hafiz, is usually the most sophisticated in terms of both music and poetry among the three. …

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