The Arab Avant-Garde – Music, Politics, Modernity


The co-edited book is finally out! Ten articles about new musical positions in the Arab World. Order the book via Wesleyan University Press, Amazon or via your local bookstore.


From jazz trumpeters drawing on the noises of warfare in Beirut to female heavy metallers in Alexandria, the Arab culture offers a wealth of exciting, challenging, and diverse musics. The essays in this collection investigate the plethora of compositional and improvisational techniques, performance styles, political motivations, professional trainings, and inter-continental collaborations that claim the mantle of “innovation” within Arab and Arab diaspora music. While most books on Middle Eastern music-making focus on notions of tradition and regionally specific genres, The Arab Avant Garde presents a radically hybrid and globally dialectic set of practices. Engaging the “avant-garde”—a term with Eurocentric resonances—this anthology disturbs that presumed exclusivity, drawing on and challenging a growing body of literature about alternative modernities.

Chapters delve into genres and modes as diverse as jazz, musical theatre, improvisation, hip hop, and heavy metal as performed in countries like Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and the United States. Focusing on multiple ways in which the “Arab avant-garde” becomes manifest, this anthology brings together international writers with eclectic disciplinary trainings—practicing musicians, area studies specialists, ethnomusicologists, and scholars of popular culture and media. Contributors include Sami W. Asmar, Michael Khoury, Saed Muhssin, Marina Peterson, Kamran Rastegar, Caroline Rooney, and Shayna Silverstein, as well as the editors Kay Dickinson, Ben Harbert and Thomas Burkhalter.


> Popular Music, UK, Jan 2015, «The Arab-Avantgarde: Music, Politics, Modernity» (PDF)
> Music Reference Services Quarterly, 3/2015, «The Arab Avant-Garde» (PDF)
> Trans – Revista Transcultural de Música, Spanien, Nr. 18 (2014), Review «Arab Avant-Garde» (PDF)
> psychemusic, Belgien, 18.04.2014, «Arab Avant-Garde» (Link)
> Los Angeles Book Review, 26.01.2014, «The Arab Avant-Garde» (Link)


The articles (see table of content) discuss works from these and other musicians and artists:

Hassan Taha (see article on Norient)

Halim El-Dabh

Tarek Atoui

Amir Elsaffar

Kamilya Jubran + Werner Hasler

Mazen Kerbaj and Sharif Sehnaoui

Massive Scar Era

Zad Moultaka

Aida Nadeem

Video not available anymore.


Osman Arabi


Ziad Rahbani

Video not available anymore.


Scrambled Eggs

Mahmoud Turkmani

Raed Yassin

Discography (selected)

«A» Trio. Music to Our Ears. Al Maslakh. 2011: Lebanon
Atoui, Tarek. Mort aux Vaches. Staalplaat. 2008: Netherlands
DAM. Ihda / Dedication. Red Circle Music. 2006: UK
El-Dabh, Halim. Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. Columbia Records. 1964:United States
El-Dabh, Halim. Crossing into the Electric Magnetic. Without Fear Recordings. 2000: United States
El-Dabh, Halim. Here History Began. Ministry of Culture and National Guidance. 1961: Egypt
El-Dabh, Halim. Ptahmose and the Magic Spell, Part One: The Osiris Ritual. Hawthorne Records. 1972: United States
El-Dabh, Halim. Sounds of New Music. Folkways Records. 1957: United States
Elsaffar, Amir and Hafez Modirzadeh. Radif Suite. Pi Recordings. 2010: USA
Elsaffar, Amir. Inana. Pi Recordings. 2011: USA.
Elsaffar, Amir. Two Rivers. Pi Recordings. 2007: USA.
Jubran, Kamilya, and Werner Hasler. Wameedd. Unit Records W&K 001. 2005: Switzerland
Kerbaj, Mazen, and Franz Hautzinger. Abu Tarek. Creative Sources Recordings 025. 2005: Portugal
Kerbaj, Mazen. BRT VRT ZRT KRT. Al Maslakh MSLKH 01. 2005: Lebanon
Mascara. Unfamiliar Territory. Self-releaed. 2010: Egypt
Moultaka, Zad. Zajal. L’Empreinte Digitale. 2010: France
Muslimgauze. Infidel. Extreme XEP 026. 1994: Germany
Nadeem, Aida. Beyond Destruction. Uruk Records. 2010: Denmark
Nadeem, Aida. Out of Bagdad. Uruk Records. 2005: Denmark
Odious. Mirror of Vibrations. Sleaszy Rider Records. 2007: Greece
Osman Arabi. Beat Mutation Rituals. Kalpamantra. 2011: UK
Praed. Made in Japan. Annihaya Records. 2011: Lebanon
Praed. Muesli Man. Creative Source Recordings. 2008: Lebanon
Rahbani, Ziad. Ana Moush Kafer, Relax-In Internation. 2008 (Remaster): Lebanon
Rahbani, Ziad. Bi-ma Innu. Voix De L’Orient. 1995: Lebanon
Rahbani, Ziad. Bilafrah. Voix De L’Orient. 1977: Lebanon
Scarab. Valley of the Sandwalkers. Self-releaed. 2007: Egypt
Scrambled Eggs and “A” Trio. Beach Party at Mirna el Chalouhi. Johnny Kafta. 2010: Lebanon
Scrambled Eggs. Peace Is Overrated &War Misunderstood. Ruptured. 2010: Lebanon
Scrambled Eggs. Scrambled Eggs and Friends. Johnny Kafta. 2010: Lebanon
Sehnaoui, Sharif. Old & New Acoustics. Al-Maslakh 2010: Lebanon
Turkmani, Mahmoud. Ya Sharr Mout. Enja Records ENJ-9530. 2008: Germany
Turkmani, Mahmoud. Zakira. Enja 9475. 2004: Germany
Various Artists. The Ruptured Sessions (Vol. 1–4). Ruptured. 2009–2012: Lebanon
Various Artists. Waking Up Scheherazade. Grey Past Records ABA 001. 2007: Netherlands
Worm. The Armageddon Codex. Self-releaed. 2004: Egypt
Wyvern. The Clown. Self-releaed. 2009: Egypt
Yassin, Raed, and Gene Coleman. The Adventures of Nabil Fawzi. Al Maslakh Recordings 04. 2006: Lebanon
Yassin, Raed. The New Album. Annihaya. 2009: Lebanon


Thomas Burkhalter, 2013. Local Music Scenes and Globalization – Transnational Platforms in Beirut (Routledge)


Dr. Thomas Burkhalter is an ethnomusicologist, music journalist, and cultural producer from Switzerland. The founder and director of Norient, he published the book Local Music Scenes and Globalization: Transnational Platforms in Beirut (Routledge) and co-edited The Arab Avant-Garde: Music, Politics, Modernity (Wesleyan University Press), Seismographic Sounds – Visions of a New World (Norient) and Out of the Absurdity of Life – Globale Musik (Norient/Traversion). He works as a researcher and project leader at the University of Basel and the University of Arts Bern (HKB), financed by the Swiss National Foundation (SNF). As the director of the Norient Musikfilm Festival, a documentary filmmaker and audio-visual performer, he places emphasis on transdisciplinary approaches between theory and practice.

See CV, publications, films and projects: Here

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