Pop Like an Egyptian: PopMatter's review of 'Cairo Pop'

By George de Stefano

Daniel J. Gilman’s Cairo Pop is the first scholarly treatment of Egyptian popular music – surprising, that, since Egypt has a thriving pop music industry, centered in Cairo, that reaches not only a domestic audience but a multinational one in the Arabic-speaking world. But according to Gilman, an anthropologist who teaches at DePauw University, hardly anyone regards Cairo pop as worthy of serious study, even though millions of Egyptians and other Arabs listen to it. While he was conducting his research, Cairenes frequently told him, with a mixture of incomprehension and contempt, that he was wasting his time.

Gilman clung to his conviction that Cairo’s pop music was significant and worthy of serious study, and particularly its links to politics. He set out to explore those links, mainly by concentrating on musiqa al-shababiyya, the genre that young Egyptians prefer to all others.

Given the political turmoil that roiled Egypt during the years he lived in the nation’s capital (2006–2011), and that continues under the nation’s current military dictatorship, Gilman acknowledges that it may seem irrelevant to discuss pop music consumption. But in Egypt, the connections between pop music and politics are “both long-standing and deep.”

Continue reading the review here.

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