Words on World Music

Changing the world one song at a time.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008


We all know that music can have an effect on politics.  How strong an effect is debatable, but when Johnny Clegg and Savuka drew the world’s attention to apartheid in South Africa, the world took notice.  So did the South African government, who banned their songs (that ban has been lifted.)

And the film The Singing Revolution told how simply singing an anthem became a form of non-violent protest in Estonia.

Now, an author is telling us that Heavy Metal might bring significant change to the Middle East! According to the story in Slate, Mark LeVine has found metalheads in the land of the mullahs.

Welcome to the new Middle East, a region where, by some estimates, nearly half of the population is under the age of 25. This is a highly literate, politically sophisticated, technologically savvy, and globally plugged-in generation. It speaks English; it knows its way around the Internet; and, according to historian and part-time metal head Mark LeVine, it wants to rock.

LeVine’s book, Heavy Metal Islam, tells us that just listening to this music is a form of protest.  And, thanks to the internet, you can’t stop it. Bands know this, and use it to spread the word in the face of strict censorship:

… rather than surrender their album to the Ministry of Culture, O-Hum uploaded their songs on to the Internet and allowed fans—not just in Iran but throughout the world—to listen to the album for free.

Is metal music “world” music? Maybe it is if it’s sung in Arabic or Persian.  But it’s plain that we should encourage these musicians and their supporters.

Rock on, Middle East!

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