'Abd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ and Egyptian National Culture
This dissertation is a study of twentieth-century Egypt and the role that popular music plays in constructing the modern nation, a process I examine through the lens of the famous singer ‘Abd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ (1929-1977). Scholars of the Arab world have discussed the importance of music and musical heritage in forming national identity. However, most research adopts a conventional discourse that frames Arab musical heritage, or turāth, as an ancient and enduring body of songs and practices that has remained unchanged up to today. My study illustrates that, in Egypt, this heritage was mostly of recent invention, emerging as the new nation sought to create a past upon which it would construct its modern identity.While ‘Abd al-Ḥalīm’s music rejected the notion of continuity promoted by the state in its heritage ideology, he too contributed to inventing a musical past. The difference, I argue, was that Ḥalīm’s songs made Egyptians feel the past in ways that the state’s musical heritage did not, thus threatening to reveal the irrelevance of official ideology and the nation-building project. I contend that ‘Abd al-Ḥalīm’s music offered Egyptians an alternative way of hearing and feeling the modern nation. Using literary and musical analysis, public and private archival sources, and ethnographic work, I explore the gap that emerged between establishment discourse and everyday experience in mid-twentieth-century Egypt. I examine a number of highly popular and highly controversial songs, focusing on sound, affect, and embodied experience to suggest a new narrative of how Egyptians constructed modern identities and imagined the nation.
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Campagnoli, Cesare; Roberts, Irene; Kumar, Sailesh; Bennett, Philip R.; Fisk, Nicholas M.; Tutschek, Boris; Reinhard, Joscha; Kogler, Gesine; Wernet, Peter; Niederacher, Dieter (2001-03-24)