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Muslim Rap, Halal Soaps, and Revolutionary Theatre

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Turkey is the country best represented in this anthology. It is the subject of three of the anthology’s nine essays, and this is perhaps not surprising, given that Turkey is uniquely situated on the dividing line between East and West, between Europe and the Islamic world. Furthermore, its historic position as a nation with deep Islamic roots seeking to open itself to Western ideas creates a particularly interesting crucible for the examination of the current Islamic utilization of Western popular cultural material.

In the opening essay, “Hardcore Muslims,” ethnomusicologist Thomas Solomon studies recent examples of Turkish rap music from both the diaspora and the homeland, demonstrating that although the experiences and subjectivities of individual rappers are always reflected in their creations, many leading rap artists, both in the diaspora and subsequently in Turkey itself, have found this genre particularly useful in the presentation of oppositional identities.  While this situation is obviously central to the diasporic situation, when returned to Turkey, it has offered a means of expressing Islamic concerns within an official secular society.

Peter Hecker, who has published several articles on heavy metal in the Middle East, discusses the current state of this scene in Istanbul in his “Contesting Islamic Concepts of Morality.”  On the whole, he sees this part of the Turkish musical world as forced into a more oppositional role with the recent rise to power of the conservative Muslim Justice and Development Policy.  Recent public discourse in Turkey has accused heavy metal of political, social, religious and sexual subversion, which has placed this genre in an uncomfortable political position, but also one that is providing an important focus for resistance to Islamic revivalism.

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