ME/NA/SA FUTURISMS MENASA FUTURISMS :: 2 - Page 28

places like Algeria, where they have developed into Rai, considered a form of folk music, in other regions they fell into the hands of the corporate music industry, losing their subversive quality and the possibility of reaching their full potential¹. Today’s Arabic pop music emerges in a climate of globalization to meet consumer desires, namely sounds and pictures that heavily mimic American music videos and entertainment at the expense of political and subversive expression that may offend any subsection of those viewers. With adherence to a very specific (Western) musical formula and permission only to discuss the topics of love, Dr. Salti argues that pop music has become a “money-making venture”, excluding and casting to the margins the indie artists interested not just in experimenting with their sound, but in speaking on different social issues. BELOW THE SURFACE Arabic underground music isn’t a new phenomenon, but its renewed vigor and insistence on its own existence was fueled by the recent events of the Arab Spring. Hip hop, a Western genre created by Black Americans in the South Bronx in the 1970s, has been repurposed to address the circumstances of artists in the region. Tunisian rap artist El General, was reportedly arrested for his track “President of the Country,” which spoke out against the regime at the time of the Tunisian Revolution at the end of 2010. “It really embodied the suffering of the Tunisian people,” Dr. Salti said. “It was a cry for freedom.” This hip hop movement spilled into Egypt where it was used to speak against the Mubarak regime, and then the Levant, most notably in war- torn Syria. Dr. Salti says it was Syrian-American hip-hop artist Omar Offendum who piqued his interest in hip-hop music. Many other forms of Arabic indie music borrow and appropriate elements of Western music while staying true to their cultural influences and backgrounds. This is in contrast to mainstream music which surrenders completely to Western packaging and formulae without attempting to marry it with its reality or musical repertoire. Part of the Arabic pop formula is adhering to a system of heteronormativity and gender roles, both in the lyrics and visuals of that