If You're Only Going to Read One Absurdly Long Magazine Piece Today....

....make it this Walrus magazine opus by Richard Poplak, entitled "Heavy Metal and Revolution in Egypt." It's an extended excerpt from Poplak's 2010 book The Sheikh's Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop Culture in the Muslim World, and it focuses on Egypt's harassed but indefatigable "Metalien" subculture. My favorite scene in a piece full of 'em:

Later, on the patio, I sat across from Sameh Sabry. He called himself Slacker, and he is the scene's unofficial archivist. We were worn out, wrung dry, stupid with dehydration. Still, Slacker arranged himself with élan on the plastic patio chair. He spoke like a philosopher steeped in both Socrates and Scorpions. [...]

"My question to you is: Would you stop listening to the music you loved if someone was going to throw you in jail for it? If the answer is yes, then you don't love the music enough. I have been charged for Satanism; I have been called a devil worshipper. Many times. My name has been in print — with my age, my school — I was waiting for them to come for me. I did not change. I did not hide. You want a piece of me — come get it." [...]

Slacker leaned back in his chair and moaned at the sky. "I love the American spirit — because it encourages you to be a hero. They make you feel big even when you are doing something small. And the reason why I love America is that I see the differences and I like the differences." [...]

"It is crazy to live in this Middle East. The humiliation from Israel. The humiliation from America, even though I love the spirit. The humiliation from crazy governments. The crazy people. The crazy traffic, the noise, the pollution.

"We are the damned, man. Sometimes I don't know how long I can last. I fight for my life, buddy. I should give this up. But I can't."

We sat in silence, listening to the El Bodega shake from the rage of the music within, fluorescent lights flickering under a dirty Cairo night sky.

"It is the same here in Egypt as it is everywhere, is it not," asked Slacker. "A gathering of friends who love a small piece of culture beyond anything else. Here are young Egyptians and Saudis trying to find their identity. Through this, we assert some kind of difference from the crowd. This is the way of the Western childhood since the fifties, no? It can't be a bad thing. After all, where would all this aggression otherwise go?"

Whole thing here.

Read about "Rap and Metal in Planet Islam" in our December 2010 issue, then treat yourself to a luxurious re-read (as I did last night!) of Charles Paul Freund's foundational 2002 piece "In Praise of Vulgarity."

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  • Serial Commentator||

    "I love the American spirit — because it encourages you to be a hero. They make you feel big even when you are doing something small."

    He understands me. He really understands me!

  • Old Mexican||

    My question to you is: Would you stop listening to the music you loved if someone was going to throw you in jail for it? If the answer is yes, then you don't love the music enough.


    That's a line from King Kong(2005):
    Carl Denham: I keep telling you, Jack, there's no money in theater. That's why you should stick with film.
    Jack Driscoll: No Carl, it's not about the money. I love theater.
    Carl Denham: No you don't. If you really loved it, you would've jumped.

  • ||

    Wow, should be interesting to see how that turns out.

    anonymize.edu.tc

  • Warty||

    The only Egyptian band I can think of. They're pretty awesome, though.

  • Name Nomad||

    Meh. If it ain't Finnish (or at the very least least Swedish), then it's crap.

  • Warty||

    Fine, have some Finns singing in Swedish.

  • Monty||

    Thanks, I wondered if there was Egyptian death metal.

  • Restoras||

    There is unrest in the forest
    There is trouble with the trees
    For the Maples want more sunlight
    And the Oaks ignore thier pleas

  • ||

    No, his mind is not for rent.
    To any god or government.
    Always hopeful, yet discontent.
    He knows changes aren't permanent.
    But change is.

  • Douglas Fletcher||

    That doesn't bring across the screeching vocal well enough.

  • ||

    Listen to my music,
    and see what it can do . . .

  • RyanXXX||

    His point about "humiliation" is one Lawrence Right talks about a lot as well, at least in his HBO special (I haven't read The Looming Tower).

    When's the last time Arabs won a major war against non-Arabs? When's the last time Muslims conquered new lands, rather than surrender it to "infidels" (i.e. Sudan)?

    This is why 9/11 led some muslim people to cheer in the streets. Not necessarily to celebrate the death and destruction, but to celebrate a VICTORY over the West.

  • Douglas Fletcher||

    Forgive me, but I'm trying to figure out what Israel really has to do with any ass-sucking quality of life among the Arabs. I'd say that if Israel tomorrow flew off to Alpha Centauri the Arabs wouldn't be any more or less free than they are now.

  • Restoras||

    It's always easier to blame someone else than it is yourself. If they didn't have Israel to blame they'd find someone else.

  • Serial Commentator||

    If You're Only Going to Read One Absurdly Long Magazine Piece Today...

    Or not.

  • Steve||

    Boys lie in beds. On their walls hang posters for Megadeth, Metallica, Iron Maiden. Electric guitars stand in cases layered with stickers, alongside portable amps with band names written in whiteout.

    And in America? Justin something and that wierd skinny chick.

    I weep for my country...

  • Steve||

  • thomas sabo ||

    Good writer!

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