Routledge specializes in scholarly books on popular culture—which is to say they take on interesting subjects and find ways to make them boring. Browsing in bookstores, I’ve often gotten suckered in by various Routledge books on music, film, and television, only to confront blocks of jargony academic-speak that gave me another reason to be grateful that I didn’t go to grad school and pursue a cultural studies degree.
Music in the Post-9/11 World, though, is an intriguing exception, and not just because of its genius cover. In particular, I was fascinated by an essay by James R. Grippo titled “’I’ll Tell You Why We Hate You!’ Sha’ban Abd Al-Rahim and Middle Easter Reactions to 9/11.” Grippo, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University ofCalifornia, Santa Barbara, offers a tidy history of sha’bi, a brand of Egyptian popular music (the word literally translates as “popular.”), followed by a discussion of Abd al-Rahim, who has “mobilized the music’s potential to tap into the ‘pulse of the Egyptian-Arab street’ by politicizing songs, often to the point of ridiculousness.” He’s not big on subtlety: His first hit song, released in 2000, is called “I Hate Israel.”Much of the essay covers his 2003 hit, “O Fellow Arab.” You can watch it here:
The essay provides a translation of the lyrics, though the imagery in the video is pretty straightforward, skewering President George W. Bush and