Monday, August 04, 2008

Metal in the Middle East

Interesting post on Washington Post blog Islam's Advance by a guest writer (a professor from UC Irvine) on the blossoming of metal communities in the Muslim countries of the Middle East; large groups of fans in countries from Morocco to Pakistan who love the more extreme forms of metal for two reasons: first, the themes of desolation common to the lyrics match the listener's daily experience; second, metal offers a community that stands in opposition (and boy, us young people love us some opposition) to the repressive authority represented by their governments. Intriguing ideas, for two (more) reasons:

First, while there will always be plenty of disenfranchised people in Europe and America happy to create and listen to extreme music, there is (for most) a disconnect between what we're experiencing and what we're listening to. I'm happy not to be living in a world where Slayer lyrics aren't a representation of real life, but I appreciate the fact that those lyrics and the music that goes with them are not utilitarian art. Instead, they're removed from reality, where we can appreciate them, put them back on the shelf, and reengage with our daily lives. It's not quite disposable art, but it's something we can appreciate when we want to. The metal heads in the Islam's Advance post don't have that opportunity. Metal gives them an outlet now, which is cool, but as this phenomenon develops we may very well see the creation of a whole new take on metal, adding a unique interpretation to the art form, which is pretty awesome.

Second, the post notes that there's another group of young Muslims struggling against the authorities: fundamental Islamicists. In some cases, the metal heads and Islamicists stand in opposition; in others, there are connections: former metal heads who get religion, religious people who feel that one can love metal and be a good Muslim. Metal is hardly a tempering force, but any cross pollination between the two forces has to be good for cultural relations between the West and the Near East. One day we'll probably see the Muslim version of Christian Metal, but we might also see some better level of understanding between two long-standing groups of adversaries. Not bad for the healing power of music.

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