Friday Finds: Maan Abu Taleb on Music Writing in Arabic

Bidoun Mix #4 is an interview with — and mixtape from — author-editor Ma’n Abu Taleb:

In it, Abu Taleb, the author of All the Battles (translated by Robin Moger), talks about the music magazine Ma3azef, which he helped found in 2012. As Bidoun writes: “Authoritative, adventurous, and voracious, Ma3azef has pioneered close reading and long-form critical writing on music new and old.”

Abu Taleb talks about the state of music writing pre-Ma3azef:

Some of the newspapers did write about music, but it sounded like your dad trying to describe a meme. There was an unbridgeable gap, culturally and generationally, between the people who were making the music and the people writing about it. Journalists who knew very little about what was going on in the world, musically, still felt entitled to pronounce judgement on new music. Mostly moral judgement — calling it misguided and so on.

And also how they decided to cultivate new music writing for the magazine:

We’ve found it difficult to work with writers who have been through the system, who’ve worked for the major newspapers and magazines — even younger writers — because of this attitude. This was one of the main reasons we started a music writing school a few years ago. It’s been huge for us. We do it online because it allows us to reach a very wide group of people — in Gaza, Syria, Saudi — who may not be able to travel.

Also the negative impact on some NGO-ification of certain sectors of the music sphere:

There’s a brilliant rap scene in Palestine. I mean, I listen to a lot of rap. I follow what’s happening in the US closely — the New York scene, the Atlanta scene, Chicago. And honestly, I listen to some of these people who are making music in Palestine right now with the same enjoyment, if not more. People like El Saleb Wahad crew, and BLTNM. But you never hear about them outside Palestine. You hear about rappers who write songs about, you know, honor killings. I mean, who’s that supposed to be for? This is becoming a big issue in the region — music sponsored by NGOs and human rights organizations. It’s a sinister and worrying trend. You know the Egyptian rapper, Zap Tharwat? His last album is quite bad — give it a listen yourself, if you like — but it is worrying because there’s a clear and crude anti-radicalization message. The lyrics might as well have been written by some executive at the World Bank.

Anyhow, you can just read the whole interview at Bidoun.

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