Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture, Hisham D. Aidi

(Buy it HERE.)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
It is *really* hard to try and write a concise review of Rebel Music simply because there’s so much to talk about. In contrast to the polemics of a lot of popular writing about Islam, Aidi instead takes us on a cultural tour of music in and of the Muslim world. It’s a vast and intricate experience with lots of stops along the way.


Some of those stops–the US, the UK, France, Turkey and of course North Africa and the Middle East–are familiar and expected. Others–Poland, Belgium, Brazil–are full of surprises. All along the way Aidi interweaves threads of race, class, migration, politics and public discourse, but the focus always tilts back towards how that has shaped music and what the meaning of “cool” has been in Islamic culture in different places over time. A lot of it is connected to Blackness, specifically the American variety–I was surprised to see how tightly interwoven the stories of Black Americans and Muslim migrants have been at various points across history.

Even though I was pretty familiar with Islam before receiving this book as a gift, it still took me over a year to read it in slow savory bites that pointed me towards questions to ask and places to visit in the real world. This isn’t a particularly religious book but it’s heavy on the art/history/culture/race theory/music. I’ve learned a lot from it. I’ve also added about 10 new artists to my regular music rotation, like Algerian jazz supergroup El Gusto. (You’re welcome.)

This is a deep, intense, world-spanning read written by a true expert and I highly recommend it. Buy it HERE. 5 out of 5 stars.

(I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org — if you click through and make a purchase at any of the links on this page, I will earn a commission. Thanks for reading! )

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