Rock the Casbah

From The New York Times:

Hampton190 This professor of Middle Eastern history walks into a bar in Fez, Morocco — right from the get-go, Mark LeVine’s “Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam” is not your typical dry academic slog. (Did I mention he’s also a longhaired Jewish rock guitarist whose bio lists gigs with Mick Jagger and Dr. John?) So when somebody in that hotel bar starts talking up the local punk and metal scenes, an incredulous LeVine is hooked. “There are Muslim punks? In Morocco?” Quicker than you can whistle “Rock the Casbah,” he’s on the trail of Western-influenced underground music movements that have blossomed under authoritarian regimes across the Middle East and North Africa.

Going to meet the seven-string guitarist Marz of Hate Suffocation, a Cairo band, LeVine confesses sheepishly, “I still couldn’t tell the difference between death, doom, black, melodic, symphonic, grind-core, hard-core, thrash and half a dozen other styles.” (Marz explains that his group plays a cross between death and black metal: “But it’s not blackened death metal!”) Despite a certain amount of scholarly dogma that goes with the territory — here any combination of “neoliberal” and “globalization” is as ominous an epithet as Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” — “Heavy Metal Islam” offers the hit-and-run (as well as hit-and-miss) pleasures of a lively road trip. Practicing a first-person brand of shuttle diplomacy as he moves between countries and cultures, musicians and Islamic activists, LeVine manages to unpack enough cross-cultural incongruities to mount his own mosh pit follow-up to “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.”

More here.