Kumera Genet Reviews Rebel Music: Youth Led Social Movements and Their Sounds

In the following article Ethiopian American writer Kumera Genet, pictured above speaking at NPC, reviews the book "Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture." (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

The Huffington Post

By Kumera Genet

Hisham Aidi’s book, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture, newly released on paperback, is an exploration of the diverse ways that Muslim youth around the world search for what he terms a “non-racist utopia”. This cultural search often takes political, social and musical forms. The source material for the book is a combination of anecdotes, interviews and detailed research. In wide ranging segments, Aidi recounts stories of European Muslim youth who pay homage by visiting the grave of Malcolm X when passing through New York, young Afro-Brazilian Muslims who use the traditional carnival in Bahia to celebrate the Malê Revolt (a rebellion of enslaved African Muslims in Brazil during Ramadan in 1835), or young Moroccans who are increasingly rediscovering their historical relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa and the African Diaspora through Gnawa music.

It is often advocated that music is apolitical or that it transcends political divisions. However, for many musicians, creating music is not only rooted in musical talent and personal experience, but also in a political ideology and belief system which inspires the art. Islam and the long history of Islamic practices among black Americans was one of the foundations of the social culture in hip-hop’s “Golden Age” of conscious political rap in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The high output of popular political music in this period of hip-hop is acknowledged throughout the book as a continuing source of artistic inspiration for Muslim youth and black youth in Europe, Latin America and Asia who feel stigmatized by racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, or the war on terror. These youth are often living in marginalized communities like the favelas of metro Brazil or the economically depressed suburbs of major European cities.

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