SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Natalie Abou Shakra

BA Sociology (AUB), MA Sociology and Anthropology (SOAS)
  • Overview


Natalie Abou Shakra
Natalie Abou Shakra
Email address:
Thesis title:
Beyond the Culture Industry, Contemporary Music of Dissidence in the Arab world: A case study of Egypt and Lebanon
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

Popular music has not only played an important role in anti-colonial struggles in the Arab world, but it has also been important in defending the rights of the poor and those who are voiceless. In my research, I explore the role of dissident music as pioneered by Sayed Darwish, and later on by Sheikh Imam in Egypt during the 1960s in influencing the masses and shaping their consiousness. I particularly focus on how the ‘committed’ songs of Marcel Khalifeh, Julia Butros, Ziad Rahbani, and Majida el Roumi in Lebanon, are influenced by this dissident legacy of Imam and dealt with issues ranging from the occupation of Israel, imperialism and the plight of the masses to criticizing local governments. These singers are considerably popular in the Arab world as they have become known as alternatives to the mainstream cultural industry mostly dominated by commercialization and the desire to make profit.  In Egypt, the Nubian singer Mohammad Mounir rose to fame and became popular with his songs that are considered to be part of the Arabic popular music scene but whose themes dealt with feminist, existential, anti-imperial, and anti-racist slogans. I explore the cultural history of this popular dissident music and gauge how it has created an alternative music scene that aims at being at the forefront of social, cultural, political and economic struggles for justice and freedom as the current popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world have demonstrated.