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Department of Music

Popular Music and Politics in Israel

Course Code:
15PMUH010
Unit value:
0.5
Year of study:
Any
Taught in:
Term 1

This course aims to provide in depth knowledge and understanding of the development of popular music in modern Israel, from early Zionist settlers in pre-state Palestine until the present day. Particular focus will be placed upon the interaction of music and politics. Here, politics is considered in a broad sense: aside from the international and national political scene, this course will focus on the relationships between different religious and ethnic groups and communities within Israeli society. Via this subject material, this course seeks to introduce key issues in scholarship relating to popular music and to develop students’ understanding of wider issues in the study of music, including the relationship between ideology and music; roles played by music in the formation and expression of national identity; the ways in which popular music may reflect and/or offer a commentary on complex power relations within society; music as a symbol of protest or affirmation; networks of production and distribution in popular music. Students will consider how the Israeli popular music scene relates to that of other “new” nation states.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

This course aims to provide in depth knowledge and understanding of the development of popular music in modern Israel, from early Zionist settlers in pre-state Palestine until the present day. Particular focus will be placed upon the interaction of music and politics. Here, politics is considered in a broad sense: aside from the international and national political scene, this course will focus on the relationships between different religious and ethnic groups and communities within Israeli society.

Via this subject material, this course seeks to introduce key issues in scholarship relating to popular music and to develop students’ understanding of wider issues in the study of music, including the relationship between ideology and music; roles played by music in the formation and expression of national identity; the ways in which popular music may reflect and/or offer a commentary on complex power relations within society; music as a symbol of protest or affirmation; networks of production and distribution in popular music. Students will consider how the Israeli popular music scene relates to that of other “new” nation states.

Scope and syllabus

This course is one of the options available for the required ‘area course’ component of the MMus programmes (see concurrent application to change the MMus rubric to permit students to take two half-unit area courses in place of one full-unit area course). This course is designed to complement and enhance the Department’s provision of courses on contemporary and popular musics.

Popular music and politics in Israel addresses the development of popular music in Israel from pre-State days to the present. Several songwriters and bands will be studied, to build up a picture of different approaches to the expression of national and ethnic identity in music. Particular focus is placed upon the relationship between national infrastructure (radio, TV, recordings, army ensembles) and popular music and on recent developments including growth of expression, since the 1980s, of minority ethnic identities in the mainstream Israeli popular music scene, and musical responses to recent political events.

The course will be taught via two-hour lectures followed by hour-long seminars in which material covered in the corresponding lecture will be explored in greater depth, particularly including in-depth critical evaluation of scholarly literature.

Outline of lectures

  1. Israel: culture, population and politics
  2. Music in the Zionist Yishuv (pre-Israel Palestine)
  3. The development of Israeli popular music: the army ensembles
  4. Halehaqa (The Troupe) – film and discussion
  5. Expressing national identity in song: Shirei Eretz Yisrael (Songs of the Land of Israel)
  6. The state and music: the politics of broadcasting and distribution
  7. Reading week
  8. Israeli rock
  9. The rise of musiqa mizrahit
  10. "Ethnic" expression, identity and legitimacy in Israeli pop
  11. Israeli hip hop: Jewish and Arab voices
  12. Israel and the international musical/political scene: Eurovision, advocacy and protest.

Method of assessment

Two coursework (40% + 50%) plus seminar presentation (10%)

Suggested reading

  • Regev, Motti and Edwin Seroussi (2004) Popular music and national culture in Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Perelson, Inbal (1998) ‘Power relations in the Israeli popular music system’. Popular Music 17/1, 113-128.
  • Benski, Tova (1989). ‘Ethnicity and the shaping of musical taste patterns in an Israeli urban community’. Social Forces 67/3, 731-750.
  • Being Israeli: The dynamics of multiple citizenship. Gershon Shafir and Yoav Peled, Cambridge University Press, 2002.