Friday, March 02, 2007

Rapid Social Change

I was doing my daily read of LGF and came across an interesting item on the Burka Band. An all girl band from Afghanistan. The music is kind of a bland techno, but the words of social commentary are in english and the visuals are interesting.

So I went looking in the comments of LGF to see if I could find out more. Commenter Peacekeeper gave a link to this site: Girl band in burka.

Here is the most interesting quote from the article.
The Burka Band has never performed in Afghanistan and at the moment the band is not active. During the Taliban regime music was totally forbidden, and women were not allowed to work. To sing in public could carry a death sentence. Today the country is still very conservative, and there is no market in Afghanistan for the Burka Band's music. The band members have to wait for a European or American record label to help them if they are to make a whole album one day.

- I'd like to play again, but right now it is not possible. Last year there was a big bomb at a concert here in Kabul , and lots of people are still against female singers because the religous leaders condemn it. It will probably take 10 years before we will have real girl bands here in Afghanistan , says Nargiz, who now works in an international organisation in Kabul.
From no music allowed to all girl bands in 10 or even 15 years is amazingly fast progress for a culture.

Given that this song was popular in Germany in 2003 it means that Afghanistan is well on the way to becoming at least a semi-modern country. It also points out the irresistability of Western and especially American culture. The old ways are dying.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Reliapundit said...

great post!

i tend to look at one aspect of the very differently: i do not think that this stuff is properly called American culture.

That's has the whiff of "American cultural hegemony" about it and i find it as repugnant as disouza's nonsense.

I've blogged on it here at TAB - and it's a post that regularly gets hits thorough google and other search engines.

here's a link:


the bottom-line/gist of my argument is that American culture is open sourced and constantly evolving; it is at any given moment only what the consumers of it say it is - free consumers - and producers - who can buy/support/encourage anything they want to.

as a result POP music - for example - has evolved from jazz to r&b to rock to disco to hip hop.

there is evidence (in the news this week) that hiphop is dying already.

when other nations become free - as the afghans have - then their citizens will decide for themselves what they want to listen to.

sure: very VERY often they choose what is popular here, and what is made here, what even originates here in the USA, but i argue that this is because our marketplaces of culture (after a century of freedom) are so productive so creative so competitive that they produce some of the best stuff

also: because the USA is so ethnically diverse and so mixed economically and so upwardly mobile
we tend to produce cultural products that export well.

this more than the sheer size or wealth of our "culture industry" is why our pop culture is so powerful around the world.

PLEASE read the article/post linked to above.

I'd be VERY interested in your feedback.

Reliapundit said...

one simple way to say what i'm saying is that for many historical and political reasons American Culture is world culture - or at least has the diathesis for becoming world culture.

M. Simon said...

Clickable Link:

American Cultural Hegemony

Before I start reading let me just say this:

Look at the guitars. They are an American invention. Second they sang the song in what language? American or if you prefer English. Third the techno style is I believe a German invention. Kraftwerk I believe.

Wrong. It was invented in Detroit.America 3 for 3 so far.

Techno Music

Techno was primarily developed by "The Belleville Three", a cadre of men who were attending college, at the time, near Detroit, Michigan. The budding musicians – former high school friends and mix tape traders Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson – found inspiration in Midnight Funk Association, an eclectic, 5-hour, late-night radio program hosted on various Detroit radio stations including WCHB, WGPR, and WJLB-FM from 1977 through the mid-1980s by DJ Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson. Mojo's show featured heavy doses of electronic sounds from the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream, among others.

I love Tangerine Dream.

M. Simon said...

I have read a few paragraps so far.

Here is my take:

American cultural hegemony is real. If you sample music in Europe that plays in the background of European videos, about half is straight up American product. Much of the rest is American derrived.

How it happens is a different story. There I am in total agreement with you. Its viral nature is why it is such a threat to other nations.

In many ways the top dog sets the cultural standard. Early American craving for English artifacts is an example.

America is a dream. Americans know this. "The American Dream" is a cliche. In places that are repressed politically and culturally it is a craving.

BTW send me some hints on html for embeddining pictures and video in text. The way it looks is not exactly your standard style and I'd like to conform.

M. Simon said...

I think you are conflating two ideas.

Cultural hegemony and enforced culture.

Hegemony means rule. So in fact American cultural hegemony is a fact. American culture rules. No doubt.

Just look at pictures of Palestinian terrorists covered with the Nike swoosh.

Why it rules you have covered very well. Desire not enforcement.

I note that the French allow no more that 50% American music on their radio. They have already lost the culture war.

Reliapundit said...

what's so American about NIKE or hiphop or anything else? nothing.

is LOTR - the biggest hollywood movies of all time - Amercian!? nope.

what you call American culture is ad hoc and ever-changing according to the dictates of a PUBLIC which is itself not just made up of Americans.

that's why "American Culture" is a misnomer.

Jazz WAS (past tense) American; now it belongs to everyone. Like Nike. And Hiphop.

Reliapundit said...

the hamburger/big mac is popular worldwide.

what makes it popular is not that people want to emulate the USA or Americans.

it's popular because people like it and freely buy it.

it tastes the sda mem worldwide, and it affordable and fast.

affordability, speed of service, uniformity, are qualities all people desire at times. (when people stop wanting those things mcd's will vanish.)

because in the USA people were free to market big macs, they figgered out how to do it well. and well before people in less free nations.

it travels very well because all we humans are very much alike.

that's why hollywood movies travel wll. and our music. etc.

american culture is open culture tailored to users. it is everchanging based on customer/consumer satisfaction.

just as all humans are born free and with inalienable rights, so to are we born with senses and a mind and a desire to feel satisfied.

free market democracies allow more humans to be most free. and fee humans tend to desire the same things.

that's why what we do here travels well.

it's FREE HUMAN CULTURE, not American Culture.

Our military might is not used to force people to buy our cars. opr our music or our clothes.

when we make what people want and at a level which is "world class", then we can export it.

we don't export cars and they are a deep part of our indigenous identity as consumers. their romance doesn't travel well.

if they were as well made as jap cars or german cars then we'd export more.

ditto our sneakers and our music. etc.

Repeat: so-called American culture is just the everchanging result of consumers deciding what they want.

is beer american. are hot dogs or hamburgers? nope. smart marketers adopted them and transformed them and marketed them. and free consumers bought them and bought into them.

and when a thais or chinese or swedes buys a big mac he is not americanized. he is just eating a damn good, cheap, tasty fast-food-burger. just like me.