New Music, Old Spirit: Why do Israelis Invest in Rap?

Uri Dorchin, Ph.D.

This talk will explore the reasons behind Israeli rappers’ fascination with hip-hop and the meanings attached to what they define as “black music”. Although the popularity of rap in Israel should be seen in the context of the privatization of mass media outlets and the infiltration of global trends into local culture, these facts alone fall short as an explanation in the Israeli case. Dorchin will further show that Israeli rappers harness the notion of blackness to offer critical reflections on contemporary social conditions, as well as to idealize the past. This can be seen through the cultural positions they choose to take and their musical decisions, which reveal a simultaneous move toward an exhilarating globalized future and a harkening back to the comfort of the local cultural past.

Uri Dorchin, Ph.D., is currently the Efroymson Visiting Israeli Scholar in the Department of Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Washington University in St. Louis.  His research interests include: anthropology of popular culture and music, global hip-hop and the imagining of blackness, construction of subjectivity and personhood in performance and through mass media; and media, music and changing meanings of collective memory.  Dorchin is also the author of Real Time: Hip-Hop in Israel/Israeli Hip-Hop, Tel Aviv: Resling, 2012.

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