In This Review
The Awakening of Islamic Pop Music

The Awakening of Islamic Pop Music

By Jonas Otterbeck

Edinburgh University Press, 2021, 224 pp.

“Awakening” is a self-styled Islamic media company founded in London 20 years ago. It has produced some of the most popular contemporary pop music in the Muslim world; much like Christian rock, this music aims to reconcile the demands of faith with the attractions of modern life. Otterbeck, who toured with several Awakening artists—he is a semiprofessional musician as well as a professor of Islamic studies—argues that the development of new global musical idioms and superstars reflects a turn among Muslims away from doctrine and religious law to a focus on ethics in contemporary religious practice. When performers, songwriters, and audiences reconcile standards of piety and modesty with the thrill of live concerts and the pleasures of familiar songs, they are exerting an influence over young people all over the world at least as powerful as that of imams and theologians. Otterbeck also provides a link to an online playlist of the songs he discusses.