“Songs of the New Arab Revolutions”: A collaborative documentary film

Call for Proposals:

“Songs of the New Arab Revolutions”: 
A collaborative documentary film by members of the Society for Arab Music Research 
and the Facebook group  “Songs of the New Arab Revolutions”

NOTE:  This project is now complete. Please view the final video at http://bit.ly/snarvid

Music has not usually been understood as playing an active role in the grand moments of modern history.  Yet, throughout the new Arab revolutions, from the onset of the Tunisian uprising, to ongoing struggles in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere, music has consistently demonstrated its critical power to galvanize sentiment, resist oppression, and mobilize civil society. Likewise, Arab political establishments have used musical propaganda to maintaining authority. In both cases music—in a wide array of styles—has played an active role in the unfolding of the Arab Spring.

In June 2011 a Facebook group "Songs of the New Arab Revolutions” was founded, harnessing the power of social media to document and disseminate videos representing musical dimensions of these social movements; global membership numbers around 200, and spans a wide range of locations, nationalities, and specializations, including musicians, online activists, and other concerned citizens, as well as academics specializing in music, Middle East studies, and other disciplines. The Society for Arab Music Research (SAMR) is a special interest group within the Society for Ethnomusicology, meeting annually to discuss current issues in Arab music; membership numbers about 130, and comprises primarily academics (faculty and students) working in ethnomusicology. 

Drawing on efforts from combined membership of these two groups, we aim to create a collaborative multiperspectival documentary film based on this Facebook archive, now including well over 100 videos, and similar videos available on the web. Each participant will specify a unifying theme or issue of any kind, blending online video excerpts, together with voiceover and subtitles and additional video material if desired, to create a video short (from one to five minutes in duration) highlighting the specified theme. 

Themes may center upon musical-poetic content, performers, contexts, or media genres and technologies (for instance:  “folk song”, “musical censorship”, “poetry”, “nationalism,” “patriotism”, “street protests”, “political critique”, “solidarity”, “revolution”, “praise”, “guitars”, “ouds”, “guns”, “violence”, “police”, “poverty”, “army”, “humor”, “poetry”, “rap”, “DJ”, “animation”, “satire”, “bands”, “reinterpretations of old songs”, “banners”, “street stages”, “concert venues”, “live”, “videoclips”, “pop celebrities”, “reportage”, “ethnography”, “reenactments”, “noise”, “drumming”, “dancing”, “distortion”, “chants”, “Tahrir”, “Ramy Essam”, “turath”, “alternative”, “Ibrahim Qashoush”, “musicians’ persecution, torture, and assassination”, “dress”, “women”, “YouTube video and comments”, “religious music”, “mobile phone video”, “documentary video”, “Cinéma vérité”, “rooftop video”, “Sufis”, “Salafis”, “political parties”, “elections”.)

The project facilitators will edit contributed 1-5 minute shorts to produce a film of approximately one hour. Each short will be preceded by a title, and the name of the person(s) who prepared it. The resulting film will be screened at the Society for Ethnomusicology’s 2012 meeting in New Orleans, with accompanying discussion concerning the issues raised, and the collaborative production process itself. We believe this project is methodologically groundbreaking for drawing on an online archive assembled through social media, and catalyzing collaborative filmmaking among a diverse group of concerned people across cyberspace. 

We are now calling for proposals for such video shorts, gathering video material that has been (or could be) posted to the Facebook group, representing music or discourse about music relevant to recent political change in the Arab world.  Besides editing available sources, your video short can also incorporate new voiceover, subtitles (e.g. translations), and additional video material, if you wish.  As we are more concerned about ideas than technical quality, videographic expertise is not a prerequisite for participation.  Nor is it necessary to invest in costly editing systems.  Free video editing tools (e.g. iMovie on the Mac, or the online http://www.youtube.com/editor) and inexpensive computers have brought non-linear video editing within reach of nearly everyone.  However we will do our best to provide technical assistance if required.

Please present your idea on a single page, including the following: 
your name, address, and email
your relevant experience and interests 
your proposed theme 
the principal location(s), musical genre(s) or style(s), if known
a sampling of video sources (URLs), if possible
a one paragraph plan, which may include purpose, thematic significance, or other supplementary information of importance.

asap: Expression of interest, via email: as soon as possible!
July 1: One page proposal, via email
July 15: Notification of accepted proposals
September 1: Online submission of video short (uncompressed video is preferred)

Thank you for considering participating in this project. 

We look forward to receiving your proposal!

With best wishes from the project facilitators:
Michael Frishkopf (michaelf@ualberta.ca)
Jonathan H. Shannon (jonathan.shannon@hunter.cuny.edu) 
Laith Ulaby (laith.ulaby@gmail.com)