Pop Culture in the Arab World!

Hammond, Andrew. Pop Culture in the Arab World! ABC-CLIO, hardcover, 376 pages. ISBN: 1851094490, $85.

Reviewed by Issandr El Amrani, TBS book reviews editor

The past decade saw a boom of Arabic pop music both in the region, notably through vehicles such as satellite television, as well as internationally. In particular, the rise of sultry starlets and songstresses (mostly from Egypt and Lebanon) has caused something of a social and political upheaval. In recent years, parliaments in Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco (at least) habe debated whether the dangerous curves and heaving bosoms of stars such as Heifa Wehbi, Nancy Agram or Ruby -- seen in music videos that try to outdo each other in brawen sexuality -- were a threat to national security. Andrew Hammond's Pop Culture Arab World! examines these phenomena, gets the backstories to the stars' lives and the controversy around their careers.

An excellent guide to understand the contemporary landscape of Arabic pop music in particular, it also has fascinating entries on older stars from the 1950s and 1960s. There exists no English-language book as comprehensive on the pop culture of the region in the last 50 years. The only regret is that, since this book is part of a series on different regions of the world, it could not have taken a more idiosyncratic format, such as a collection of essays or thematically linked chapters, instead of its current dictionary form. There are many insights and ideas about contemporary Arab culture here that deserve a more in-depth approach.

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