Yakein Mohamed Abdelmagid

Doctoral Candidate

Award Information

2014 IDRF Program

Cultural Anthropology DepartmentDuke University

The Sounds of Revolution: Improvisational Labor and the Independent Music Scene in Egypt

The last thirteen years have witnessed a renaissance in global independent music production. In Egypt, this scene took shape through the practices of a younger generation of musicians rooted in western musical styles that sought to produce an alternative to the commercial values of the mainstream music industry – a process enabled by the adoption of neoliberal and entrepreneurial models of productivity. Although this emerging music scene has become a driving force within Egyptian youth culture, it has received no scholarly attention among anthropologists. This project centers on fieldwork with independent musicians and music studios in Cairo in order to provide a broad picture of the intersections of art, publics, labor, and economy in a deeply uncertain post-revolutionary Egyptian context. I will examine the creative labor and economy of independent music production, asking how musicians' improvisational musical and entrepreneurial practices generate new public spaces and forms of identity. This project challenges the common assumption that neoliberalism is destructive of the social, arguing that independent musicians make use of the grammar and resources of neoliberalism by altering its logics and values to suit their own needs and musical aspirations. Furthermore, this research argues that in constituting alternative publics and markets, musicians' creative labor should be understood as eminently political acts.