Festivals : the culture and politics of Mahraganat music in Egypt




Benchouia, Tarek Adam

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This thesis is an ethnographic study that explores the culture and politics of a contemporary and emergent genre of music in Egypt. Mahraganat ("festivals") describes an energetic musical movement that locates its genealogy in Egyptian Folk music as well as North American Hip-Hop and European Electronica. Although originally produced in the peripheral neighborhoods of Cairo and Alexandria, the performance of Mahraganat has permeated throughout the variable spaces of urban Egypt. Through a focus on critical performance ethnography, and in dialogue with affect theory, sound studies, and Middle Eastern studies, I situate Mahraganat as a lived and felt phenomenon among a youthful generation of Egyptians. This project poses critical questions that aim to open a dialogue in the literature concerning the affective and political horizons of Mahraganat music, including: how do Mahraganat's aficionados feel their way through the suspenseful moment of a post-Mubarak, post-Arab Spring, and post-Muslim Brotherhood Egypt? Also, what are the political implications and possibilities that co-emerge with the irruption of this genre and its accompanying modes of performance? With an emphasis on the body as an important site of political contestation and possibility, I argue that both the formal components of Mahraganat music and the ways in which it is listened to challenge existing modes of being and constitute new and proliferating forms of belonging that are simultaneously homegrown and transnational for a young and disenfranchised group of Egyptian men.



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