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Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture [Anglais] [Relié]

Hisham Aidi

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Prologue

One muggy afternoon in July 2003, I headed up to the South Bronx for the Crotona Park Jams, a small festival that is little-known locally, but manages to draw hip-hop fans from around the world. The annual event is organized by Tools of War, a grassroots arts organization that invites artists from across the country and Europe to perform in the Bronx, hip-hop’s putative birthplace, and to meet some of the genre’s pioneers, figures like Afrika Bambaataa and Kurtis Blow. I arrived at the park and asked around for Christie Z, a local promoter and activist. Christie, who has blue eyes and a ruddy complexion and wears a white head scarf, is the founder of Tools of War and a smaller group called Muslims in Hip Hop. She is married to Jorge Pabón (aka Fabel), a well-known dancer and master of ceremonies (MC), who appeared in the classic 1980s hip-hop film Beat Street and currently teaches “poppin’ ” and “lockin’ ” dance styles at NYU. The two—Christie Z & Fabel, as they’re known—are a power couple on the East Coast’s hip-hop scene, but they’ve become significant players internationally as well, organizing shows in Europe and bringing artists from overseas to perform in America.
 
Christie’s story is unusual. “People always ask me,” she says with a laugh, “how did a white girl from central Pennsylvania become a Muslim named Aziza who organizes turntable battles in the Bronx? I say the lyrics brought me here. I was in high school when I heard ‘The Message,’ ” she says, referring to the 1982 breakout song by Grandmaster Flash, which vividly described life in the ghetto during the Reagan era, and was one of hip-hop’s earliest mainstream hits. “I heard that track and I followed the sound to New York.”
 
I had arrived early hoping for a pre-show interview with the French rap crew 3ème Œil (Third Eye), who had flown in from Marseille to perform that evening. The rap trio is known in France for its socially conscious lyrics. Since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the group had become even more political, rapping about what they call the West’s “stranglehold” on the East. I stood around the stage waiting. A circle had formed with a group of boys clapping and dancing, as the DJ on duty that evening—another pioneer, DJ Tony Tone of the Cold Crush Brothers—spun rap and Latin soul classics. Soon Third Eye’s manager, Claudine, a brown-haired woman in her early twenties, appeared and led me backstage. I explained that I was a researcher at Columbia writing about global hip-hop. Her face lit up. “We’ve been wanting to talk to you for a while,” she said, as she walked me through a backstage tent and out into the open. Later I found out Claudine had thought I was a representative of Columbia Records, about to offer her group a contract.
 
The sun was setting, a blue glow had enveloped the park, and I walked up to the four young men lounging on a bench facing the spectacular Indian Lake, which sits at the park’s center. Soon I was chatting with the rappers—Boss One (Mohammed) and Jo Popo (Mohammed), both born in the Comoros Islands off the coast of East Africa, but raised in Marseille—and their DJ, Rebel (Moustapha). They were dressed similarly in sagging denim Bermudas, eighties-style Nike high-tops, and baseball caps. Jo Popo gave me a copy of their new hit single, “Si Triste” (So Sad). I told him I’d already seen bootlegged copies at African music stands in Harlem. He nodded and gave me a fist bump. The song, popular among West African youth in New York, offers social commentary over a looping bass line, decrying police brutality and mass incarceration (with a special shout-out to the American death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal). I asked them how the French press responded to their lyrics, and about the anti-immigrant National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen’s claim that hip-hop was a dangerous musical genre that originated in the casbahs of Algeria.
 
Boss One shook his head, “For Le Pen, everything bad—rap, crime, AIDS—comes from Algeria or Islam.” This was mid-2003; the War on Terror was in its early years. “The more Bush and Chirac attack Islam and say it’s bad,” said Boss One, “the more young people will think it’s good, and the more the oppressed will go to Islam and radical preachers.” His tone became a little defensive when talking about the banlieues, the poor suburbs that ring France’s major cities, stating that life in France’s cités was better than in the American ghettos. “Life is hard in France, but we have a social safety net. Here there is no such thing”—he stood up to emphasize the point—“and it will get worse with Bush, the cowboy, le rancheur!
 
Their bluster disappeared when I asked what they thought of the Bronx. They grew wistful talking about the Mecca of hip-hop. Jo Popo smiled describing their meeting the day before with hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa. “C’était incroyable!” Bam, as he is known, is particularly loved in France, where he was instrumental in introducing hip-hop in the early 1980s. The group’s music mixer, DJ Rebel, who previously hadn’t said a word, suddenly spoke up. “I have dreamed of visiting the Bronx for all thirty-six years of my life. This is where hip-hop started, this music which has liberated us, which has saved us,” he said with apparent seriousness. “Yesterday we met Bambaataa and Kool Herc. I thanked them personally for what they have done for us blacks and Muslims in France—they gave us a language, a culture, a community.” His voice broke a little.
 
I was struck by the emotion and sincerity of their words, and I had a few academic questions to ask: Why was the Bronx so central to the “moral geography” of working-class kids in Marseille? Where did this romantic view of the American ghetto come from? Why were they more fascinated by Bronx and Harlem folklore than by the culture of their parents’ countries of origin? Claudine suddenly reappeared and asked them to return to the tent. Grandmaster Flash, the legendary DJ and another iconic figure of global hip-hop, had arrived, and they were scheduled to meet him. “Flash invented scratching—I get paid to teach scratching in France,” said DJ Rebel getting up to leave. “A bientôt,” and the rap trio and their thoughtful DJ walked off. Half an hour later they were on the stage, waving their arms: “Sautez! Sautez! Sautez!” Boss One translated: “That means, ‘Jump! Jump! Jump!’ ”

Revue de presse

"Fascinating . . . Highly original . . . Breathtaking."
The New York Times

"Impressive . . . With the confidence of a charismatic professor, Aidi's discussion wanders through Detroit, Brazil, and 'Jim Crow' Arabia."
The New York Times Book Review

"A multilayered and intriguing story of the mobilization of Muslim youth through music rather than militancy . . . Moving from jazz to the late Algerian pop star Salim Halali, Aidi's wide-ranging, dense work persuades by its passionate accretion of detail."
Kirkus Reviews 

"An intense tour of some of Islam's most fertile zones . . . places teeming with music, faith, ideas frequently, the tension between popular culture and the messages of conservative Muslim leaders." 
San Francisco Weekly
 
"Phenomenal"
—PopMatters

"Mohammed meets Malcolm; Gnawa meets Guantanamo; Bandung meets B-boys; banlieues meet Bahia: this is the vibrant, noisy, embattled world Hisham Aidi brings to light . . . In what can genuinely be described as a tour de force for its global scope, historical sweep, cultural virtuosity, and political sophistication, Rebel Music examines this soundtrack in a global context, from slavery to the latest war on terror." 
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original 

"Rebel Music may be the most bafflingly significant book I've read in years. It is a marvel of Zelig-like appreciation of the global youth culture, of its syncretistic Afro-Muslim energies, and of its fabulously variegated purveyors from creators to calculating commercial and political sponsors. Hisham Aidi is a brilliant expositor of this powerful planetary cultural phenomenon." 
—David Levering Lewis, author of God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215
 
"Simply a brilliant, utterly unique, effortlessly transnational and wonderfully written account of hip hop and new Muslim youth culture."
—Marc Lynch, The Washington Post

“Highly original and ambitious . . . Rebel Music exhibits a breathtaking familiarity with different forms of radicalizing music . . . Aidi delves far beneath the surface of stereotypes . . . [and lays out] an array of fascinating conflicts, taking on a subject that has rarely been addressed in book form.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Hip-hop is the lingua franca of worldwide youth culture. It all started in the Bronx, and for thousands of young Muslims around the world today, the New York borough remains sacred ground. In this bracing, fascinating, and utterly timely exploration of music, race, and cultural identity, Aidi examines young European and American Muslims and their search for what he calls “a nonracist utopia.” Specifically, Aidi is concerned with how the so-called American dream exists in Europe’s Muslim ghettos, how young European and American Muslims are drawing on African American history (especially the U.S. civil rights movement) for inspiration, and how American diplomacy is using race and diversity to court Muslims around the world. Aidi touches on many issues in this ambitious and far-reaching book, including the rise of the Far Right; the spread of the war on terror; the mind-boggling cultural fusion going on today (Arabic country music in Alabama, punk rockers in Pakistan); and the power of music to effect social change. Sufi rock, Islam and jazz, Gnawa music, Andalusi music—it’s all covered here. This book will be especially appealing to young people who want to better understand the Muslim perspective on war, prejudice, and national identity.
—June Sawyers, Booklist *Starred Review*

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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  4 commentaires
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 If you're a history, music, or religion buff -- this is an excellent read 14 mai 2014
Par Q. Rashid - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Full disclosure, I first heard about this project in 2008 and spoke with Professor Aidi back then. I've followed the project over the years and have eagerly awaited its release.

I finally got my hands on a copy and feel proud to give this book a 5 star rating. Professor Aidi does an excellent job of writing in a narrative style that informs and educates, while maintaining a strong pillar of objectivity. He's a gifted writer and a brilliant historian. This book fills a niche that few (no) other books have, and I'm grateful it is now available. Whether you're an American history buff, love jazz music and music in general, or want a stronger understanding of Islam's role in American history and music, this book is time well invested.

Kudos Professor, thanks for the great read!
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Precious info for English speakers 13 juin 2014
Par Cameron Powers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
English language media generally totally ignores this and many other subjects... thanks Hisham for doing this research and bringing it out for us!
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Epic survey of philosophies of music and race from pre- colonial to cold war to our contemporary interlocking connections. 2 juin 2014
Par Ahumdule lah! - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
A historic survey to contemporary commentary that shows how we arrived at this complex and interwoven status of American, European and North African mix of race being exposed and determined by our philosophies in our music . These threads of our historic tapestry are joined with the present to form a panoramic view
0 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Run 29 avril 2014
Par R.M. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
I was very excited when I bought this book because of its very appealing subject, however I was in for a surprise, this is a very dense and extremely boring book, that isn’t even educational or informative, a very big waste of time
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