Archive for November, 2013

International Television Dramas

Posted: November 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

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In recent years many international television dramas, from countries as diverse as Denmark, France and Korea, have become popular with audiences around the world. On the rising popularity of these TV dramas, see this article: “The International Language of the Tube“. See also “10 international TV shows to binge watch” and “Who’s Afraid of a Few Subtitles: the Rise of International Television“.

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There can be no doubt that many of the British rock bands of the 1960s took inspiration from the early black American blues singers such as Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. British bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones started their careers doing cover versions of early American blues artists, and British guitarist such as Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton were inspired by American blues. In recent years many have claimed that these inspirations amounted to “plagiarism” because the similarities were so close. Others have argued that it was simply artistic inspiration. The clip above shows the debt Led Zeppelin owed to American blues legends such as Willie Dixon. For another video pointing to similarities between Lez Zeppelin and other artists, see this video.

Below is a Rolling Stones clip of “I Just want to Make Love to You“, a 1954 song by Willie Dixon also recorded by Muddy Waters. For the Muddy Waters version, see here.

Raï Music

Posted: November 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Raï music originated with the Bedouins in Algeria but today blends various forms of music with influences beyond the Arab world, including Western music, notably from Spain and France. Because of Algeria and Morroco’s colonial links to France, raï music became popular in France and blended with local musical trends in the suburbs of Paris including French hip hop.

Raï expressed emotions associated with everyday life, including love and sex. These themes came into conflict with Islamic values, especially as the Islamic movement in North Africa became politically mobilized. One of raï’s biggest starts Cheb Hasni, was murdered by Islamic extremists in 1994. Other raï singers such as Khaled and Cheb Mami moved to France and recorded raï songs in French. Cheb Mami’s song “Parisien du Nord” and Khaled’s “Aicha” are notable examples of French rai songs that were huge hits in France.

For a background article on raï, see “The Raï Boys“. On Cheb Hasni’s murder, see this article in the Guardian, “Hasni’s murder marks a backlash against rai stars” and this article “The Case of Algerian rai musician Cheb Hasni“.

Below is a clip of Cheb Hasni‘s a song “Chira Adra“.


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We have been examining how rock music found its origins in blues and R&B played by African-Americans in the Deep South, and how some pop stars have returned to those African origins for inspiration — among them Robert Plant, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel. Plant was the singer for the British super group Led Zeppelin whose early albums were inspired largely by American blues artists such as Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. Many years after his Led Zeppelin super stardom, Plant went to Mali to connect with the music in a country that today is in the news due to Islamic terrorism. There he played with legendary African musicans such as Ali Farka Touré and others.

Plant recently released a documentary about his trip to Mali in 2003. See this New York Times article: “Robert Plant Produces a Documentary Series about Malian Music“. Here you can watch the documentary on Robert Plant’s YouTube channel. More information about Robert Plant can be found on his website.

Part 1 of the documentary is below:

Like Hollywood movies, American television is often criticized  as a force of “cultural imperialism”. If this was true in the past, can we say that television today becoming truly “globalized” — and diverse — with shows and series from a multitude of cultures?

Some argue that, thanks to streaming services like Netflix, we are living in a golden age of television. See this article: “Watch it while it lasts: our golden age of television”.

Is the globalization of Netflix good or bad for cultural diversity? See this article, “If you want to see diversity onscreen, watch Netflix” and “Why Netflix has decided to make diversity a top priority”.  It is also argued that streaming services expose us to series from around the world. See this article, “In praise of international crime dramas” and also this article on best international TV dramas. 

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Latin American Telenovelas

Posted: November 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Latin Amerian “telenovela” drama, even though originally influenced by American television soap operas, is often cited as an example of television programming that has been successfully exported throughout the world despite competition from U.S. programmes. The hugely successful telenovela “Ugly Betty” was even adapted for the U.S. market. At the same time, millions of Hispanic people living in the United States watch telenovelas in Spanish.

See this article on Ugly Betty, “How Ugly Betty Changed the Flight from Bogota“. On the role of advertising in the telenovela, see “Love the Telenovela, Buy the Product“. On another aspect of telenovelas, this article in the Wall Street Journal describes how plots have absorbed the criminal culture of drug trafficking for which the region is notorious, The Telenovela Goes Narco.

Capture d’écran 2013-11-16 à 11.55.51Also see this interesting article in the New York Times, “US Census Bureau Uses Telenovelas to Reach Hispanics”, about how the U.S. government is working with the producers of the telenovela “Diablo” to encourage Hispanics to comply with the census. Describing the U.S. government strategy as “people placement”, the article reports: “In addition to the typical public service announcements and advertisements, the Census Bureau is helping to compose a remarkable story line featuring the Perla Beltrán character on the telenovela, amid the genre’s usual tales of sex scandals, unspeakable illnesses and implausible villains. It may be the first plotline on a soap opera blessed by the United States government.”


Turkish Soap Operas

Posted: November 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Turkish soap operas have won over huge television audiences throughout the Arab world. One of them, called “Noor” has become so popular that it made Istanbul a favourite tourist destination for millions of Arabs.

On the success of Turkish soap operas, see this article in the New York Times, Turks Put Twist in Racy Soaps” and this article “The Arab World’s Dallas”  Also see this article in the Atlantic magazine, “The Islamic World’s Culture War Played Out on TV Soap Operas“.

This article in the New York Times recounts how a new Turkish soap is taking on a sensitive social issue in Turkish society — child brides. This article cites a study blaming Turkish soap operas for divorces in the United Arab Emirates: “Turkish soap operas blamed for UAE divorces“. This article recounts how, tragically, a man in Yemen killed five people after watching a Turkish soap opera: “Yemini kills five people after watching Turkish soap opera“. Finally, this article in the Guardian describes the Arab tourist boom in Istanbul thanks to the popularity of Turkish soaps such as “Noor”.