Deciphering Culture

Another interesting article on Rai (from Hawgblawg)

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Another interesting article on Rai that dispels or at least “problematizes” some of the widely-accepted ideas about Rai as a genre (at least our conceptions of Rai in the West). I don’t agree with everything Ted (Swedenburg) writes but most of it is spot-on. From Ted’s Hawgblawg, which is always interesting and often provocative — check it out!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Some Myths and Misconceptions about Rai Music

There have been few posts on this blog of late in part because I’m trying to focus on the manuscript for my book, Radio Interzone. Lately I’ve been working on the chapter on rai music, to be based in part on articles published previously, some with Joan Gross and David McMurray others on my own. (See the bibliography at the end.) Lately I’ve been reading or rereading a number of articles on rai, both journalistic and academic, gathered over the last three years or so. In the course of doing so I’ve noticed a number of myths and misconceptions, that keep being repeated, over and over, in the literature. I attempt to correct the record here, as best I can. Or maybe I should say, I attempt to problematize the truisms that circulate, endlessly, about rai. Some of what I write re-states what I/we have written before. (And I must admit, I/we are responsible for circulating some of the errors.)

1. Rai means “opinion” in Arabic. From this claim flows an understanding that the lyrics of rai convey the opinion of the singer, in a fairly straightforward and unmediated way. Such “opinion,” moreover, is for the most part, direct, and, by implication, oppositional.

Rai of course literally means “opinion” or point of view. But in this musical genre, the significance of the word is not so much its literal meaning but that it functions, in many songs, as a word or phrase like “oh yeah,” “yeah, yeah,” or “tell it like it is.” That is, it serves to emphasize whatever point is being made. (see Mazouzi, 269) [to read on click here].

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 18, 2010 at 11:48 am

Posted in Genre, North African Music, Rai

Tagged with ,

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