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Metalheads, Islamic Style

Death metal isn't really my thing. & It's all distorted guitars and growls and physical aggression about darkness and nihilism. & But I think it doesn't work for me from an aesthetic standpoint. & I've come to understand the impulse - it shares a lot with punk music's drive towards anarchy. Nihilism is easier for me to stomach in film and books. & It's less intense and single-minded when packaged with a narrative and character. & But in music, the darkness and anarchic streak is so visceral and immediate. & I can't imagine kicking around the house, blasting some death metal. & If there's an apocalypse and somehow I'm the only one left alive - me and my dog - walking through the rubble and debris shellshocked while scrounging for food and dog biscuits in torn clothing, then I could see pining for a little death metal to soundtrack my life.

Who knew I would find it comforting to learn death metal and heavy metal music are popular in the Middle East? I like being reminded that youth culture everywhere, even under repressive regimes, is still challenging authority and creating subcultures and underground trends. I produced a show on These Days on the topic of alternative music in Musliim countries, inspired by Mark LeVine 's book Heavy Metal Islam . & LeVine is a musician and professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of California-Irvine. & He spent five years traveling through countries like Morocco, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia observing the heavy metal (and its subgenres), hip-hop, and punk scenes to learn how these art forms play out in the context of religious fundamentalism and repressive governments. LeVine was our guest and a fantastic interview. & He's gone to places few of us have gone and paid attention to something usually ignored by the West - and he knows how to tell a story. & When he and I talked, he told me that in Iran, you see kids on street corners rhyming, playing beats off their cell phones and staging mini battles. & When the police drive by, they disperse, running in different directions as if they were selling drugs or something. & Just like in the poor urban centers of the US, hip-hop is still the most affordable way to be a musician. &

Check out Mark's book, it's an engaging read. Also, go here to hear some of the music Mark listened to while writing the book. & It's a great resource for what's happening in music in the Middle East. &

And, in support of metalheads everywhere, especially Islamic style, here's a video from the Iranian death metal band Arthimoth. & The song is "Baptized." & The lead singer was jailed for making this video. & This is probably the only time you'll find a death metal video on Culture Lust , unless there's an apocalypse, in which case, I might be too busy to blog. &

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