Panel 5

Panel 5 – What Happened to “Songs of the New Arab Revolutions” ?
Panel Abstract: What happens to revolutionary music when its revolution founders? Throughout the tumult of the Arab spring, music demonstrated its power to galvanize sentiment and mobilize civil society. In June 2011 a Facebook group was founded, harnessing the power of social media to document and disseminate videos representing musical dimensions of these striking social movements. Subsequently, a collective of ten group members emerged, each using materials posted to the group to create a five-minute short, centered on a particular theme; these videos were assembled into a documentary entitled “Songs of the New Arab Revolutions”. Completed and screened in fall 2012 this film celebrated the power of music to express, to mobilize, to resist, and to change: music of and for grief, anger, and hope; music of and for empowerment; music of and for freedom and social progress.

But events of the past three years demand a radical reinterpretation of this material. What happened to the songs, composers, lyricists, and performers of the “New Arab Revolutions”? What happened to the sentiments they expressed and stirred? Must musical sentiment become nostalgic sentimentality? How do the filmmakers themselves interpret and experience these changes? Following a screening of the original film, panel members – including several of the filmmakers – will participate in a roundtable discussion, in order to retrospectively reflect on the unfinished project of the Arab Spring as expressed, propelled, and nostalgically recollected through song. Finally, we reflect on the limits on music’s ability to be imbued with durable social meaning, revolutionary or otherwise, and the limits on its social power.

Bio: Michael Frishkopf is Professor of Music, Associate Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, and folkwaysAlive! Research Fellow at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on the music and sounds of Islam, the Arab world, and West Africa. Research interests also include music for development, social network theory, digital music repositories, and music in cyberworlds. A SSHRC-funded collaborative project, Music and Architecture in the Muslim World, centers on intersecting soundscapes and landscapes of the Muslim world.Recent productions include an edited collection, Music and Media in the Arab World, a collaborative video, “Songs of the New Arab Revolutions”, two music CDs supporting West African development ( and, a series “Songs for sustainable development and peace”, and numerous articles and book chapters, including the forthcoming “Venerating Cairo’s saints through music and monument.” Professor Frishkopf has received major research grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSRHC), the Canadian Heritage Information Network, the American Research Center in Egypt, the Social Science Research Council (USA), the Fulbright Program, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Iman Mersal is an Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. She co-founded Bint al-Ard (Daughter of the Earth), which she co-edited from 1986 to 1992. Her work has appeared in Blackbird, The American Poetry Review, “Parnassus”, and Paris Review. She has read at numerous poetry festivals, including the London Poetry Parnassus, billed as the biggest gathering of poets in world history, where she represented Egypt. Iman Mersal is also the author of four books of poems in Arabic. Her poems appeared in Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review and Michigan Quarterly Review.  Selected poems from Mersal’s oeuvre have been translated into numerous languages, including French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Hebrew. These Are Not Oranges, My Love, a selection of Mersal’s work translated into English by Khaled Mattawa, was published by Sheep Meadow, New York in 2008.

Guilnard Moufarrej is an Assistant Professor in the Languages and Cultures Department, U.S. Naval Academy.

Nermeen Youssef is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Alberta. She is a researcher at Peter Light’s lab in the Alberta Diabetes Institute and one of the three U of A co contestants who presented their revolutionary ideas at the Falling Walls Lab finale Nov. 8 in Berlin, part of an international conference held during 25th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She also won second place at the U of A qualifier, joined engineering post-doc Zack Storms and chemical engineering PhD student Diana Martinez Tobon in representing the university at the Berlin finale.