Daniel Gilman

  • Fellowship Dates 2011-2011
  • Research Topic Cairo Melodies, Beirut Tunes: Lebanese Pop Singers in the Egyptian Music Industry
  • Fellow or Grant Type National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Affiliation Post-doctoral candidate University of Texas, Austin

This research departs from its original objective to study the historical role of Lebanese singers and musicians in the Cairo-based music recording industry of the 1940s-1960s. Instead, the research, like the country around it, changed with the unfolding of the January 25th Egyptian Revolution. This research responds to an historic moment in time through a preliminary analysis of the contemporary pop music world and its historical antecedents. Its value lies in its once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, hear and interact with Egyptians experiencing a new set of political options and their attendant implications for social and personal freedoms for the first time since 1952. The events of the 18-day uprising had an immediate effect on popular culture that significantly contrasted with pre-Revolution music and pop culture. This study examines a sub-genre of music video clip that emerged as an immediate response to the revolution and extols the people killed during the 18-day uprising. The videos signal a notable change of pace from the mass media Arabic-language music industry’s usual songs of chaste romance. This sub-genre memorializes the martyrs, eschewing studio visuals in favor of news footage, and sharply contrasts with the elaborate, soap opera-like mise en scene “martyr pop” videos that dominated the field. This research notes that most of the singers appear to seek a middle path in which their political sympathies are not truly disclosed and elide the point of the demonstrations, obscuring the nature of the martyrdom. This serious and weighty topic has rarely been broached in al-m_s_q_ al-shab_biyya, the musical genre with which all these popular singers are identified. This unexpected preliminary research topic contemplates art’s engagement with politics and society.

TopicsAnthropology, Music, Popular CultureThemePeople & SocietyHistoric PeriodModernLocationCairo


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