Excerpt: 'The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop Culture in the Muslim World ' by Richard Poplak


From The Walrus:

It hurt because I wasn’t expecting it — a sensation like toilet plungers placed at my ears, toggled furiously. The meat spilled from my kebab, splatting like horror movie gore onto my sneakers. Kids rushed the stage, hands raised, mouths open. Everyone was just as startled as I: No one believed the show would go ahead; no one believed it would last. Noise poured from the stage, only to loop indignantly back into the amps as wails of agonizing feedback. It was if the spirits of pharaohs, buried only a few miles from here in big brick triangles, were protesting this sonic indignity.

I was swept to the front of the crowd, limp remainders of kebab in my hand. Above me, Wasted Land, late of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, threw their heads forward in unison. The screams came from Emad Mujalled’s diaphragm, heaving upward in the clutch of his black T-shirt. Thick rolls of belly fat now had a function — to propel rage from the pit of his gut into the world. His beard dripped spit and sweat.

We came to conquer, he yelled.

The other four members of Wasted Land emitted a low growl and the innocuously named Egypt Music Gates gig was — against every odd imaginable — suddenly underway. And I wondered whether Wasted Land and their ilk — like the ancient Israelites who destroyed the ramparts of Jericho with blasts of their ram’s horns — could bring down the walls that contained them with nothing more than their instruments. Outside, in the sinking light, men in suits stood smoking, watching. It was their job to kill the noise.

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