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Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture

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In this timely, revelatory study, Hisham Aidi examines the secular and religious movements that have recently emerged among Muslim youth in the west as a means of protest against the policies of the “War on Terror.” He interviews artists and activists and reports from music festivals and concerts. He explains how certain kinds of music—particularly hip hop, but also jazz, In this timely, revelatory study, Hisham Aidi examines the secular and religious movements that have recently emerged among Muslim youth in the west as a means of protest against the policies of the “War on Terror.” He interviews artists and activists and reports from music festivals and concerts. He explains how certain kinds of music—particularly hip hop, but also jazz, Gnawa, Andalusian, Judeo-Arabic, Latin, and others—have come to represent a heightened racial identity and a Muslim consciousness that crisscrosses the globe. He describes how Western governments—particularly the U.S. and England—use music in an attempt to deradicalize Muslim youth abroad.


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In this timely, revelatory study, Hisham Aidi examines the secular and religious movements that have recently emerged among Muslim youth in the west as a means of protest against the policies of the “War on Terror.” He interviews artists and activists and reports from music festivals and concerts. He explains how certain kinds of music—particularly hip hop, but also jazz, In this timely, revelatory study, Hisham Aidi examines the secular and religious movements that have recently emerged among Muslim youth in the west as a means of protest against the policies of the “War on Terror.” He interviews artists and activists and reports from music festivals and concerts. He explains how certain kinds of music—particularly hip hop, but also jazz, Gnawa, Andalusian, Judeo-Arabic, Latin, and others—have come to represent a heightened racial identity and a Muslim consciousness that crisscrosses the globe. He describes how Western governments—particularly the U.S. and England—use music in an attempt to deradicalize Muslim youth abroad.

30 review for Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    This book accomplishes the rare feat of being both thoroughly academic and thoroughly well-written and engaging. The author traces the nexus of post-colonialism, pan-Africanism, diasporic Muslim youth movements and various forms of (inherently) politicized music forms in the world today. It is painstakingly researched and is clearly the result of years of both fieldwork and academic study. To me the most engaging aspects of the story were the opening chapters detailing the little-know This book accomplishes the rare feat of being both thoroughly academic and thoroughly well-written and engaging. The author traces the nexus of post-colonialism, pan-Africanism, diasporic Muslim youth movements and various forms of (inherently) politicized music forms in the world today. It is painstakingly researched and is clearly the result of years of both fieldwork and academic study. To me the most engaging aspects of the story were the opening chapters detailing the little-known history of Muslim identity in Latin America. The author transits from visiting nascent Muslim movements in Brazil to delving into rare Ottoman archives detailing the nature of Islamic identity on the continent. The description of Muslim life and Latin America's ideology of "convivencia" - seemingly the repository of lost Andalusian sensibilities - is extremely fascinating and engaging. The detailing of the unique nature of contemporary struggles for Muslim minority communities (such as the demographic representation struggle in the U.S), the attempted instrumentalization of Sufism by Western states as part of a divide-and-conquer strategy of their Muslim communities (which happens to be a direct echo of colonialism) and the intersection between Pakistani Ahmadi Muslims and African-Americans were all particularly fascinating as well. Although I was already familiar with much of the broad history described elsewhere, for me the best part of this book were the hidden gems detailing interesting characters and episodes in both post-colonial, ancient and contemporary history regarding both the Muslim world and the West. Also the author evinces a clear love of hip-hop culture and understanding of the "adversarial" nature of it which makes it so evocative to those, regardless of race, who have felt themselves to be among those on the margins of society. His is not a passing academic interest, he clearly knows his stuff. A similar dynamic animates the broad affection held by minority and Muslim youth for the figure of Malcolm X, the ultimate heroic outsider in Western society. This work was clearly a labour of love and above all I feel a great respect for the monumental work that has gone into it. However all reviews are to some degree subjective and due to the fact that I'd read Sohail Daulatzai's work on Black nationalism and Muslim youth movements quite recently, the retreading of the same ground for me made it drag at certain moments (although at others it was certainly a page-turner). For this reason 4/5.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Dombrowski

    This was an absolutely phenomenal book that went way beyond what I expected. I picked up this book expecting a somewhat scholarly travelogue/outline of Islam in hip-hop in the USA, France, and UK, a brief discussion of rai, and Junoon, framed by a workmanlike presentation of the history of the Muslim diaspora in Europe along with standard reflections on the differences between Islam in the USA and in Europe. Instead, Aidi uses music as a lens to present what is essentially a social histor This was an absolutely phenomenal book that went way beyond what I expected. I picked up this book expecting a somewhat scholarly travelogue/outline of Islam in hip-hop in the USA, France, and UK, a brief discussion of rai, and Junoon, framed by a workmanlike presentation of the history of the Muslim diaspora in Europe along with standard reflections on the differences between Islam in the USA and in Europe. Instead, Aidi uses music as a lens to present what is essentially a social history of Islam in the West during the 20th and 21st centuries. It isn't completely comprehensive - for instance, rai is not discussed at any length whatsoever, and my sense is there is a longer story to tell about jihadi rap than the short notes presented in this book - but one suspects that the author's choices were at least partially motivated by the intuition that those stories are relatively easy to read about elsewhere. The breadth of material covered in this book is remarkable, ranging from Middle Eastern-inflected pop culture in Brazil to taqwacore groups like the Kominas to traditional Judeo-Arabic music in the aftermath of the Algerian War, just to provide a sample. Every chapter includes a deep, nuanced, thoughtful, and informative discussion of the historical and social roots of a given form of music. I learned way more about a much wider range of topics than I expected when I picked the book up. All of the above is great for me as someone who loves social history, but this book is especially important because of the vibrant, sensitive, and compelling picture it provides of young Muslims in the West. The author scrupulously avoids oversimplification while providing ample room for individual voices to stand out. As an example, his presentation of the history, role, and social symbolism of Salafis in the West is amazing, and a model to learn from. I read this book in the aftermath of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, and I think it's especially important in that context. So many people spent so much time on social media trying to find the perfect reaction piece that would perfectly allocate blame to the perfect parties -- and while that kind of reaction is an understandable way to make sense of a horrifying and troubling event, I think it's also incredibly important to respond to tragedies by going and learning something new. Frightened by Ebola? Go read up on the history of West Africa, or on the public health threats posed by emerging infectious diseases more broadly. Angry at Boko Haram? Read up on the history of Nigeria. Angry about Ferguson and Eric Garner? Go read through Ta-Nehisi Coates's narrative bibliography of works underpinning his famous article on reparations and resolve to learn more about the history of race relations outside of the Jim Crow South. In that spirit, this book was extraordinarily helpful - it does not provide easy ammunition for any side of the debates surrounding Muslims in the West, but provides tremendous food for thought and new perspectives.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Means

    Never underestimate the power of music and its ability to bond people. In "Rebel Music," Hisham Aidi explores the cultural and historical connections that Jews, Muslims, North Africans, and African Americans viewed through the lens of music. "Rebel City" provides a rich historical, geographical, anthropological, and sociological context of the role music plays in the modern Muslim society. Furthermore, this book does not villainize Muslim religion and culture; rather, Aidi delves into a culture Never underestimate the power of music and its ability to bond people. In "Rebel Music," Hisham Aidi explores the cultural and historical connections that Jews, Muslims, North Africans, and African Americans viewed through the lens of music. "Rebel City" provides a rich historical, geographical, anthropological, and sociological context of the role music plays in the modern Muslim society. Furthermore, this book does not villainize Muslim religion and culture; rather, Aidi delves into a culture so rich and loving. I definitely recommend this read for anyone who wants to challenge media representations of Muslims in the 21st century.

  4. 5 out of 5

    ReverseThePolarity

    Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture covers a lot of ground and a large variety of topics in under 350 pages. Author Hisham Aidi deserves credit for trying to fit so much about Muslim youth culture, music, race, etc all within the confines of this book. The book examines these topics both from a pre-9/11 viewpoint and post-9/11 viewpoint. It also offers what has changed and how has changed since that fateful day. Unfortunately, Aidi could have used a better editor and the book it Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture covers a lot of ground and a large variety of topics in under 350 pages. Author Hisham Aidi deserves credit for trying to fit so much about Muslim youth culture, music, race, etc all within the confines of this book. The book examines these topics both from a pre-9/11 viewpoint and post-9/11 viewpoint. It also offers what has changed and how has changed since that fateful day. Unfortunately, Aidi could have used a better editor and the book itself could have been presented far better. The book offers up so much great information to the reader. Music genres like Jazz, Samba, and Hip Hop are examined within their relation to Islam and how each affect the other. It's fascinating to read about the influences that the music has had on Muslims from all walks of life, especially the younger crowd and its own effect on the music. It's also interesting seeing how politics was weaved in not only within Islam but also within the music it was impacting. The bits about Malcolm X in particular were extremely interesting. I was surprised but enjoyed the amount of foreign policy that was contained within this book. One great example of this is Brazil's recent treatment of Muslims and their stance in a post-9/11 in dealing with the United States while sharing a side of the globe with them. Additionally, the different sects of Islam being discussed create an interesting read and how the United States/Britain favored certain sects over the other. The impact all of this has on diplomacy is discussed within the book and definitely worth considering. Unfortunately, as previously stated, my biggest problem with the book is the lack of organization. There's so much different information, names, dates, etc so organization is critically important. Instead, the book sometimes comes off as a jumbled mess and can cause the reader (including this one) to lose interest at times in what would otherwise be a worthwhile reading topic. It's just unfortunate that certain topics are brought up and dropped randomly throughout the book. There is a lot of great material here but it takes more time than it should to go through it. Overall, Rebel Music is definitely worth recommending for those who wish to learn more about Islam or at least a different side of it. I throughly enjoyed the premise of this book and thought that it ultimately delivered. Again, the organization problems prevent it from being a better book but it's definitely one still worth reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    It covers a lot of ground - too much, which knocked it down a notch - but Rebel Music is nonetheless an important and fascinating effort to chart the role of global Islam and African-American Islam in contemporary popular music. That doesn't do the book justice, however, since it spends a great deal of time addressing American and European foreign policy and domestic immigration policies. But those prove crucial to the story of music and resistance that accompanies the spread of Islam into Weste It covers a lot of ground - too much, which knocked it down a notch - but Rebel Music is nonetheless an important and fascinating effort to chart the role of global Islam and African-American Islam in contemporary popular music. That doesn't do the book justice, however, since it spends a great deal of time addressing American and European foreign policy and domestic immigration policies. But those prove crucial to the story of music and resistance that accompanies the spread of Islam into Western Europe and North America. The book is a first draft of this story but it's an important one and anyone who wants to understand global popular music and contemporary hip-hop should consider reading it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mythili

    There's a lot of good stuff in this book but it's all in a jumble. Aidi skips around, gets sidetracked, and weaves together dozens of small arguments and observations instead of highlighting a few big themes. If you have the patience to wade through, though, you'll find lots of great tidbits on all manner of Muslim musicians from all over the world.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Byron

    I figured this might be your typical BS nonfiction book, a magazine article about Muslim kids listening to rap music expanded out to book length. I couldn't have been more wrong, both for better and for worse. Rebel Music is more than anyone needs to know about Muslim youth culture, including people studying for a Ph.D in the subject. It spans both centuries and continents, sometimes seemingly in the space of a single paragraph. It assumes you already know quite a bit about I figured this might be your typical BS nonfiction book, a magazine article about Muslim kids listening to rap music expanded out to book length. I couldn't have been more wrong, both for better and for worse. Rebel Music is more than anyone needs to know about Muslim youth culture, including people studying for a Ph.D in the subject. It spans both centuries and continents, sometimes seemingly in the space of a single paragraph. It assumes you already know quite a bit about Islam and what have you. I consider myself a reasonably well-read person, and it's filled with jargon and references that I wasn't familiar with, including a lot of Arabic and French words. And it's constantly off on another topic before you've had a chance to wrap your head around what was just discussed. At a certain point, you just have to take it for granted that there's no way you can know everything written in this book just from reading it once. You could study this book for years. It's just as much about Islam as it is about music, to the point where it goes for surprisingly long stretches without relating things back to what this book ostensibly is supposed to be about, but I found pretty much all of it interesting. And timely, given the events of the past few weeks, i.e. the Charlie Hebdo thing. But you could probably say that any time these days, right?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Aidi uses hip-hop to study the search for identity by European and North African Muslims during the continuing process of decolonization and globalization, which is, to a large extent, Americanization, which is, to a large extent, the export of African-American culture. After WWII, jazz was exported to extend American influence and eagerly embraced, alongside American-style consumerism, to revive Europe from its moral and economic bankruptcy. The analogous hip-hop hegemony is fueling European po Aidi uses hip-hop to study the search for identity by European and North African Muslims during the continuing process of decolonization and globalization, which is, to a large extent, Americanization, which is, to a large extent, the export of African-American culture. After WWII, jazz was exported to extend American influence and eagerly embraced, alongside American-style consumerism, to revive Europe from its moral and economic bankruptcy. The analogous hip-hop hegemony is fueling European pop culture and generating cash flow today, but also empowering some European and North African Muslims to form a post-colonial identity around the pan-African and often Islamic inflection of Golden Age hip-hop artists and Civil Rights leaders. These ideologies were embraced by African-Americans since the earliest Black empowerment organizations, and form part of the contemporary academic headspace surrounding the cultural memories of Al-Andalus, the Moorish empire, and Muslim-Jewish relations. Unprejudiced, thorough and engaging, Aidi deconstructed my received notions of identity at this intersection of cultures.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jason Hebert

    This is a fascinating examination Muslim and African-American history in the United States and its relationship to music. This provided an intriguing view of American history that I had never been exposed to. However, this book would have been greatly improved by a more ordered presentation; it became very confusing as it jumped between places and times.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    305.23508 A2885 2014

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emoo

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tasbeeh

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kim G

  15. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

  16. 5 out of 5

    Zach

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed Farah

  18. 4 out of 5

    Muna Ali

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ali Abdullah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jaylani Adam

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mehreen

  22. 5 out of 5

    sawsan salman atia

  23. 4 out of 5

    jordan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hasnain Syed

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joel Trono-Doerksen

  26. 4 out of 5

    Add Staples

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erik Aerts

  28. 4 out of 5

    Walton

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elana

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ritabeee

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