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Heavy Metal Islam Paperback – 12 Nov 2009


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Review

"Offers the hit-and-run pleasures of a lively road trip.... Levine manages to unpack enough cross-cultural incongruities to mount his own mosh pit follow-up to 'You Don't Mess With the Zohan....informative, valuable, and moderately mad."
--"The New York Times Book Review
"
"A fascinating social phenomenon....[LeVine's] material is rich, as he mingles scenes of conflict with surprising moments of understanding."
--"Los Angeles Times"
"There's something irresistible about the idea that LeVine... not only interviewed rock and rap artists from all over the Middle East and North Africa but also put down the notepad and got up onstage to jam with them."
--"Slate.com
" "A deeply felt, informed volume that's both hopeful and emotionally honest...LeVine does a remarkable job, sketching not only the surprising realities of the musicians, but also providing excellent historical background and terrific detail....anyone-regardless of musical preference-who wants an eye-level glimpse into the Middle East should pick up "Heavy Metal Islam,""
--"Paste" magazine
"With a jolting arrangement of images and voices, LeVine powerfully upends received notions about the Middle East by exploring one of the area's least-known subcultures.... LeVine argues that if these musicians could find a way to cooperate with progressive religious activists and the working class, they could trigger a revolution. This is a tall order, but the author's warm and intelligent examination of a reality few in the West have experienced suggests it may yet be possible.""
"--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
"Alternately inspiring and disheartening--a solid work of cross-culturalanalysis."
--"Kirkus Reviews
""Using music as a prism to observe social relations, he expertly describes the political upheaval and social confusion in the Middle East that Westerners ignore or seldom understand. This examination of the changing and evolving cultures in a key global region is highly recommended."
--"Library Journal"
""Heavy Metal Islam" is a fun read, and an important one. As an American, Islam has been portrayed as the boogie man. I don't know much about the culture or musical influences. As a musician I can relate to the struggles [of] trying to write and record songs and the difficulty of finding hard rock records where they don't exist. So this was a pleasant surprise that these young artists and fans from such a different culture can enjoy the same soundtrack of my youth. I guess Lemmy is God in all languages."
--Gilby Clarke, former guitarist for Guns N' Roses and star of the hit TV reality show, Rock Star Supernova

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Amazon.com: 13 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Can heavy metal change the world? 1 Nov. 2008
By rudiger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Frankly I am baffled by the reviewers who described this book as dry, academic, and/or boring. To them I say, You haven't read much academic writing lately. Readers would be hard-pressed to find publications of any university press which match this title for sheer readability. LeVine does not inject much social theory into this book, nor does he write for a primarily academic audience.

To be sure, "HEAVY METAL ISLAM" is an imperfect text with its share of errors. (My personal favorite: the author thinks the French word for dockworkers--"dockers"--is actually a reference to the preppie American clothing line of the same name, and thus misinterprets a Moroccan poster to signify common cause between rockers and preppies. D'oh!) But assuming you have at least a high school education and care about topics beyond whether Cliff Burton or Jason Newstead was the best Metallica bassist, you may find that this book provides engaging food for thought despite such passing mistakes.

If there's a major flaw to "HEAVY METAL ISLAM," it has to do with its title and framing which are just a tad misleading. LeVine's analysis in fact extends to various Middle Eastern musicians (rappers, hip-hop artists, rockers and others) who have little or no connection to heavy metal. But I suspect the author made metal the book's titular focus for two reasons: one, he's clearly an aficionado of the genre, and two, he wanted to amp up the paradoxical, unexpected nature of his subject matter for potential readers ("Metalheads in the Middle East? Who knew?"). I used the same gimmick in titling this review.

And LeVine is fully aware that the cultural scene he documents in this book remains marginal, both in its popular appeal and its political significance. Yet his exploration of that scene enables him to get to the heart of several contemporary Middle Eastern societies, to experience the stifling frustration felt by young Arabs (and Persians, and Pakistanis) growing up under corrupt, authoritarian regimes, and to consider the means at their disposal for expressing and venting that frustration. Will metal music (or hip-hop, or rap, or what have you) change the world? Doubtful, but it can certainly change the way you think about the modern Middle East and its relationship to the West once you've read "HEAVY METAL ISLAM."
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Better off watching "Heavy Metal in Baghdad"... 6 Sept. 2008
By Dario M. Zagar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While the concept of the book, namely the rarely discussed role of musical counterculture in the middle East, certainly has potential, its execution is a disaster. Mark LeVine's writing has all of the excitement of an academic dissertation, with none of the depth or research behind it. He clearly knows little or nothing about heavy metal, and also clearly did little or no immersion into the music to learn about it. (The editor also did no fact checking--can't "high brow" books about a "low brow" topic at least have someone acquainted with the topic read it at some point prior to publication?)

Just about every mention about the actual music or bands involved is riddled with errors that a simple Google search would have corrected. Just a few: mentioning a Rage Against the Machine song as being called "F*** you, I won't do what you tell me", describing a poster of the "band" "Cowboys From Hell," and worst of all, discussing Iron Maiden's famous mascot, "Freddy". Come on, people--that is just sloppy!

Despite all of that, the biggest problem remains that LeVine is such an undistinguished writer that "Heavy Metal Islam" is a stultifyingly boring read. I couldn't help but imagine what the book would have been like by a compelling author (such as David Hadju, whose recent "Ten Cent Plague" makes the world of 1950's anti-comic book hysteria pop with life) who could have drawn out the passion and frustration in these people's stories. While it suffers from some of the same repetition as this book, the documentary "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" is a much more evocative depiction of the role of heavy metal in the lives of a group of young Iraqis struggling to fulfill their musical ambitions, while trying simply to survive.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Review by the Berglund Center for Internet Studies 19 April 2011
By Berglund Center for Internet Studies - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This fine book begins with an introductory chapter on the relationships between rock and resistance in Muslim youth subcultures. Following this introduction are six country-specific chapters which each provide an overview of politics and resistance music, including: Morocco, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan. In each of these chapters, the unique character of local heavy metal and Islamic cultures are analyzed, along with an overview of how local governments have responded to the challenges these oppositional movements pose. For example, the chapter on Morocco states that "fourteen heavy-metal musicians and fans were arrested in February 2003, tried, and convicted of the absurd crime of being 'Satanists who recruited for an international cult of devil-worship,' and of 'shaking the foundations of Islam,' 'infringing upon public morals,' 'undermining the faith of a Muslim,' and 'attempting to convert a Muslim to another faith'" Le Vine observes that "Similar raids have occurred against heavy-metal-listening 'devil worshippers' in Lebanon, Egypt and Iran." An epilogue concludes the book, by taking a look at the future of Islamic societies where youths turn to "heavy metal and hip hop" to "cope with the stress produced by lives spent, at least on the surface, on the margins of their societies."

For a full review see Interface Volume 9 Issue 5.
He speaks about six languages (including Arabic and Hebrew) so he gets around pretty well. One item he mentioned that I found .. 4 Sept. 2014
By Jay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting book covering a topic that's not really covered, and that is the rock and rap subculture in predominately Muslim Middle East and North African (MENA) countries. The author speaks about six languages (including Arabic and Hebrew) so he gets around pretty well. One item he mentioned that I found interesting is that the Arabic spoken in Morocco is very different from the Arabic spoken in other parts of MENA, so much so that Arabic speakers in Syria (for example) couldn't understand the Arabic spoken in Morocco (and vise versa). Moroccan Arabic has a lot of Berber and other non-Arabic (such as French and Spanish) words embedded in the language. The author writes about his own personal experiences traveling in various MENA countries. He's particular to rock music because he's a rock guitarist himself, and has played with various bands located in the countries he writes about. His book is a sociology book about a subculture existing in MENA, and the social problems and tensions that he's observed (especially concerning rockers and rappers in those countries he visited). If you want to read about the rock and rap subculture in these countries, then this book is probably a pretty good book to read. He didn't really write much about the various terrorist organizations operating in MENA (organizations such as the Sunni terrorist organization Muslim Brotherhood which had ties to Nazi Germany back in the 1930s and 1940s and which has supported or spawned other terrorist groups such as Hamas, Al Queda, and ISIS). I have a feeling ISIS (for example) would probably have little (or no) tolerance for the rockers and rappers, Jews, and other people not following their radical Islamic philosophy (including the author) and would probably execute them if they caught them (beheading being a common execution method). If you want to read about the overall socio-economic problems and the history of MENA, then I'd recommend books by Bernard Lewis, or James Gelvin or Huston Smith (for detailed info on religions such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity, etc) or Lord Kinross (on Ottoman history), and others. The author of this book tends to have a liberal leftist (moving in the Cultural Marxist direction) slant to his writings, and his writings are not as balanced as other writers of MENA history and culture. But again, if you just want to read about the rock and rap subculture existing in MENA, then this book is a good book to read for that.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Good but flawed 23 Feb. 2011
By Thomas P. Noland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book with the expressed intention and aspiration of learning about the Metal culture in the Muslim world. This book accomplished this task marvelously.

The reason I could not allow myself to give this book any more than three stars is chapter five. This chapter is filled with glaring inaccuracies and is tainted by such a strong political bias that it reflects quite poorly on the author and his work.

Chapter five deals with "Israel/Palestine." Indeed, this is a contentious issue in which it is difficult not to have personal feelings. But as a purported professor of Middle East history, the author should have taken care to be accurate and not to pick sides.

The author continuously endorses the Palestinian version of history while dismissing the Israeli version of history as merely "Zionist narrative."

He is critical of Israeli rapper Kobi Shimoni to a fault. He accuses Shimoni of providing "a renewed and largely uncritical nationalist narrative" to Israeli youth. He then asserts that this narrative justifies "routine humiliation and violence that Palestinians suffer at the hands of the IDF."

The author conveniently ignores the fact that this "routine" humiliation Palestinians endure stemmed from daily terrorists attacks that Israelis put up with from Palestinian terrorists after Arafat walked away from the promise of a Palestinian state in 2000.

He also ignores the fact that Kobi Shimoni's music is not only pro-Israel, but pro peace with the Palestinians as well. He decides what music is "good" based on whether the band or artist playing it just so happens to agree with his politics.

He accuses this "narrative" of having no basis in reality while failing to provide adequate historical context for his readers. When he does discuss history, it becomes apparent that he has no qualms about embracing Palestinian narrative.

Below are some selected quotations from page 113 of this book that demonstrate the author's bias.

-"Zionist colonization" What colonialism does he see in the Zionist movement? Jews escaping persecution in Europe and returning to their ancestral homeland does not amount to "colonialism" by the definition of the word.

-"Establishment of a Jewish state on 78% of Palestine..." Palestine was partitioned by the British in 1921 to create the Kingdom of Jordan which formed 78% of Palestine at that time. If a Palestinian state is created in the future, a Jewish state (Israel) will exist in only 18% of Palestine and ¾ of Palestinians worldwide live in Historic Palestine (Israel, Jordan, West Bank and Gaza).

-"Palestinians forced into exile..." Not a single Palestinian would have become a refugee had the Palestinian leadership accepted the 1937, 1938 or 1947 partition plans instead of launching riots and wars aimed at getting rid of the Jewish community in Palestine and later Israel. This is not mentioned in the book.

This author writes quite well about Islam and Metal. I can hardly imagine, however, how he became a professor of Middle East history.

This is a good book. It would have been better had chapter five not been so political and one-sided.
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