Music Between Cultures

    About Fikrun

    Fikrun wa Fann was a cultural magazine published by the Goethe Institute from 1963 to 2016 that supported and shaped the cultural exchange between Germany and Islamic countries. Together with the publishing of the last issue, “Flight and Displacement” (issue 105), in autumn of 2016 the maintenance and updating of this online portal was ceased.


    The Arab Spring of 2011, which no one would have predicted just twelve months ago, matured into summer and reached its apogee with the fall of Gaddafi. Now it has moved into autumn, with fighting in Syria and in Yemen, elections in Egypt and Tunisia, and soon, presumably, in Libya as well. The great hopes of those at the forefront of these revolutions will not all immediately be fulfilled, that much is clear. We can, however, assume that in a few years’ time the political situation in these countries will be better than it was before. For this to happen, though, the forces of progress must remain vigilant. All of us here at Fikrun wa Fann/Art&Thought are observing developments very closely, and we share both the ambitions and the concerns of the people.  Goethe Institutes throughout the Arab world are also doing all they can to support the political changes in every possible way. Indeed, in many countries the Goethe Institut has become a key meeting point for young political activists - more information can be found on the homepages of each local institute.

    A particular characteristic of these revolutions was, and is, the role played by music, especially popular music in its various forms, such as hiphop, rock, and techno. The articles by Arian Fariborz and Ahmad al-Wasel in this edition of Art&Thought examine this in detail. In the West, pop music has been a significant element of protest culture since the 1960s - a culture that culminated in the social revolutions of 1968. Youth movements, protest, the desire for change, and the unconventional expression of this desire through music: all of these are things that the rebels of ’68 and the Arab (and Iranian) rebels of 2011 have in common. Where edition 88 of Fikrun wa Fann/Art&Thought focussed on the ’68 movement, our current edition is dedicated to music: the music of the revolutions, and the role of music in cultural exchange in general.

    Music speaks more directly to people’s emotions than literature or the visual arts, and these days, thanks to electronic media, it is also easy to distribute. Furthermore, music is perhaps the only realm in which there exists a truly global culture, one shared by people all across the world. It is therefore all the more important that music independent of the music industry, originating in the poorer parts of the world, should also find an audience, and that the musicians should be able to live from their work without having to betray their aesthetic sensibilities (see Thomas Burkhalter’s article). Many Arab and Iranian musicians are already very successful in Europe, as Suleman Taufiq’s portraits clearly illustrate. But who would have thought that Mozart was influenced by the music of the Orient? If you find that hard to believe, you may be surprised to read what Nadja Kayali has to say in her article.

    Other topics are also addressed in this issue. The growing popularity of women’s football was clearly apparent this year during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. What many people don’t realise is that women’s football is also popular in the Orient. Claudia Wiens’ impressive photographs document aspects of the game. The art scene in the Middle East is also coming into its own, and is outlined in the article by Lotte Fassauer and Michaele Kamburowa. Finally, some exciting news from the field of German Islamic studies. We have interviewed Josef van Ess, whose monumental study of early Islamic theology has now been published in Arabic. We also present both Angelika Neuwirth’s recent Koranic research and Thomas Bauer’s research into the culture of ambiguity in Islam - two books we hope will also soon be translated into Oriental languages.

    Stefan Weidner
    Editor-in-Chief, Fikrun wa Fann/Art&Thought

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