Accepted Paper:

Going to the mulid: street-smart spirituality in Egypt  

Author:

Jennifer Peterson

Paper short abstract:

This study introduces a trend of grassroots Egyptian dance music called "mulid" that is named after festivals held in the honor of saints. It seeks to outline the ways that forms of piety are appropriated by youth culture in Egypt and expressed as popular, street-smart entertainment.

Paper long abstract:

This study introduces a trend of grassroots Egyptian dance music called "mulid" that is named after festivals held in the honor of saints. It draws musically and lyrically on mulids and the Sufi tradition of inshad (a form of spiritual, ritual-focused singing), albeit in a youthful and boisterous electronic style.

Both producers and consumers speak of the trend as building upon national "folklore" and "cultural heritage" in a way that reinforces pride in local identity and which essentially "re-popularizes" inshad. The range of approaches it takes in doing so is wide, however, from that of pure appreciation for the danceable musicality of inshad, to a quest to impart "traditional" moral messages to youth, to playful and jesting imitation of Sufi ritual and wholesome fairground fun.

This study explores the ways that notions of religion and spirituality, whether taken seriously or in a more light-hearted approach, are popular among Egyptian youth as a form of street-smart music culture. It further discusses the success of moralistic mulid songs and the religious-cultural-social attitudes of their fans. In doing so, it seeks to outline the ways that forms of piety are appropriated by youth culture in Egypt and expressed as popular, street-smart entertainment.

Panel W008
What makes popular piety popular?