Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Music of the Arab revolutions

I've argued many times that music is the intersection par excellence for metalepsis. Plato knew well that music and politics were weird twins. It remains true to this day.

One discovery I made recently is the mixtape compiled by the Libyan political group Khalas. "Khalas" is a word meaning "Enough," and in this context means "Enough Qaddafi." Khalas has been active since 2009, struggling to raise the profile of the anti-Qaddafi movement in Libya; its moment seems to have come. The compilation it has made, however, is of music from around the Arab world--Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt-- fraught with lyrics about the movements against dictatorial regimes. The music is entirely rap and hiphop, all in Arabic, and all protest music concerning the upheavals that are sweeping the Arab world. It is worth listening to even if you can't understand a word; but for some good commentary and translation, you can read a transcript of an interview with Abdulla Darrat, one of the founders of Khalas, here.

To my alarm, the website for Khalas, http://enoughgaddafi.com , seems to be shut down. I hope this is only temporary. The mixtape can I think be accessed here. It's not clear why the site is down-- it's an American site, run by exiles-- but one has to wonder about the timing.

More on the Mixtape here or here, including links to the various artists who appear on it, and ways to stream or download.

Addendum: To clarify: whatever one's politics, I think it is arguable that on a certain scale, the Arab revolutions are potentially a geopolitical change more significant than the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. (Alternatively, it could turn out to be a case of plus ça change....) Be that as it may, I have not always had a lot of time for protest music of any sort, the lyrics of which are frequently cringe-making with resentment wear their populism on their sleeve. Since I do not speak Arabic I can't critique these lyrics at all; but I love the way the diction of Arabic works with the delivery of hip-hop, and the way this once-American mutation of drum-machine, urban discontent, and musical scavenging has spread to a part of the world Americans frequently misconstrue and fear. (It is possibly not coincidental that its origins are in a part of America that Americans also often misconstrue and fear.) Cultures are much more long-lived than political regimes. I have forgotten now where I read that the Ayatollah Khomeini was once asked what he feared in America. Not its military might, he replied; but he did fear its blue denim jeans and its rock music. In a lot of ways I am probably on his side in that--I too loathe the spectre of McWorld. Capitalism will certainly make its move on Libya (and make no mistake, these moves are being considered even now); but there is something in musical innovation that exceeds capitalist co-option.

Beauty will yet save the world; but it won't be pretty.


  1. Does this mean as the world gets uglier so will its beauty? Or that as the world gets uglier its beauties will become more intense as a counteractive measure.

  2. Dorje,

    Dostoevsky's dictum, like Hölderlin's oft-quoted lines from "Patmos," "But where danger is, grows the saving power also," is ambiguous, and I suppose the wrinkle I put in it makes it more so. The expectation that "beauty will save the world" is, I take it, an eschatological one, and I don't know that we can justly extrapolate any specifically historical expectations from it at all. Maybe it just means that salvation, if/when it comes, will be beautiful or by way of beauty. But insofar as there are historical ramifications, I do think we can say "it won't be pretty," whatever it looks like. As a Christian I am an ultimate "optimist," in the sense that I believe that the context-of-all-contexts is good. But any more proximate scenario admittedly makes me think of Murphy's Law.

    I do believe though that meditation upon the experience of beauty (which of course also means encountering beauty on which to meditate) can cultivate in us the "saving power" of which Hölderlin speaks.