Drunk in Jerusalem

A couple of days ago I came across this article about a recent press junket in Israel. Apparently ten reporters from magazines like Stuff, Paper, and Urb, and websites like MTV Urge, were flown to Israel to experience Jerusalem’s pop culture firsthand. The idea was to generate some positive publicity for the country, and, in the words of one of the trip’s organizers, to build an image of the region that is “not just conflict related.” As such, American reporters were invited to dine out, drink at trendy hot spots in Tel Aviv, check out performing arts centers, rub elbows with Israel reality TV stars, and get up on Israeli hip-hop.

Obviously, as with all junkets, this trip catered to a specific agenda and was engineered to produce a specific type of experience.

What’s interesting to me about this junket is the belief that it’s based on—one it seems the journos weren’t buying, by the way—that a country’s pop culture can exist in isolation from its political landscape.

This is a basic public relations/tourism strategy that’s employed in all sorts of different contexts, and isn’t remarkable in itself. What makes it worth talking about is that the premise runs counter to how global music and culture is currently covered in the mainstream North American press.

The general consensus in international music reporting (and hip-hop in particular) is to explore the country’s music solely through the lens of its politics. Pretty much every article ever written on international hip-hop trots out the same tired-ass cliché that hip-hop outside the U.S. is inherently serious and political.

As if international hip-hop has to be the soundtrack to pain and suffering. As if people who are struggling can’t be complex human beings; as if they don’t have any other facets to their lives. As if people in volatile societies never make music to get their flirt on to, or get down to, or get stupid drunk to. As if all songs ever recorded abroad have to mean something important.

In my view, the media has got to find some middle ground here. There has got to be a way of exploring global music without either focusing relentlessly on its ties to politics or sweeping harsh realities under the rug.

There’s got to be a way to view culture outside North America in all of its complexity—allowing for the everyday as well as the extraordinary, the personal as well as the political, the joy as well as the tragedy. Something beyond either fetishizing political music or pretending music is totally divorced from politics.

It’ll be interesting to see how the reporters on this particular junket navigate that terrain.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/xadam22 Adam22

    bol homo.

  • http://xxlmag.com exo

    Brilliant observations.

    But still, XXLMAG.com should have been invited to sample some of that OG Jesus Juice and get our Holy Land on. I call for a boycott of Israel. Standard.

  • The ON1E

    I like them dudes over in israel (no bol) they crazy

  • Harrisburg

    I don’t understand how showing these media outlets that Israel is capable of regurgitating popular US culture is going to make people forget about the Israeli boot on Palestine’s neck.

  • http://www.myspace.com/xadam22 Adam22


  • Ess

    Great article, I personally believe Israel are in the right, and I love the Israeli guys out there….

    Maybe its because I know they don’t have a bomb as a belt?? I dunno..

    Thanks again..

  • http://xxlmag.com Bol

    I find most foreigners I meet less complex than most Americans.

    I guess I’m just a chauvinist.

  • Flyonthewallhippykid

    Music industry+Marxist Dialectic=
    Hate Israel while using Hammas as pawns…..Dumm shhh,Dumm shhh!

  • http://www.myspace.com/writeonpointmagazine janice

    Ess Says:

    May 31st, 2006 at 4:12 am
    “Great article, I personally believe Israel are in the right, and I love the Israeli guys out there….

    Maybe its because I know they don’t have a bomb as a belt?? I dunno..

    Thanks again..”

    How ignorant are you? Show’s how much you know about the reasons behind the conflict in the middle east doesn’t it? Stop watching CNN, ABC etc and pick up a history book.

    Great article Tara.

  • megs

    Great job!

    I guess we’ll find out exactly what kind of journalists they are. Nothing new here, Have you never had an interview where the subject tried to pull the wool over your eyes? You have to figure out what’s real and what’s not for yourself.
    truth be told that you get the feeling that something’s wrong when it is, you have to trust your gut(instinct) and find the story,
    and in this case, I believe you did…

  • G Off

    Very interesting point… people will catch up at some point

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    Very acute observations. I like your [writing] style (heh, heh).

    Fahreal doh:
    It is indeed difficult to find that middle ground and to find a way to look at an international scene completely and objectively.

    The two main factors that stifle those goals are pre-existing ideologies and agendas.

    Try to enlist the services of a journalist who can separate pre-existing notions of a foreign country (especially like Israel) and the facts and images they experienced firsthand, and will not reveal their bias within their writing.

    (Perhaps a certain Canuck?)

    Compounding that are groups such as the America-Israel Friendship League, who bucked up the capital and only care about one thing, a positive image of Israel portrayed to clueless U.S. readers. After all, why would they pay for objective columns? That would be a waste of their money.

    So who would be the group that would pony up the greenbacks and arrange not only the necessary schooling of the political system and state of the society, as well as visiting relevant spots in the country?

    Certainly not XXL. Or maybe XXL.

    P.S. Nice try, but I refuse to sign the divorce papers.


  • daesonesb

    >>I find most foreigners I meet less complex than most Americans.

    I guess I’m just a chauvinist.

    I think you need to consider how many American morons there are. Look at this fucking message board as evidence.

    Then, look at Houston, Texas. I rest my case goddamnit.

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    ^Truly a complex observation.

    You obviously do not drive a 2007 Passat.

  • http://xxlmag.com Bol

    Here’s a question for you egalitarians:

    If foreigners are such complex and interesting people, how come most pop culture tends to originate in the United States?

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    ^ A. Hollywood Jews.

  • daesonesb

    marketing bucks?

    Dont try and tell me that pop culture right now is that complex.

    I’m sure that I’d rather hear music from the British invasion then music from the Southern hip hop Invasion.

    Unless we are talking about kings of leon or sparta. Or Willie fucking Nelson for that matter. I’d rather hear him than TI.

    I’m not an egalitarian either. Because I am pretty sure that southern rap is not equal.

    On a related note… I think the reason that Rap, Rock, Jazz and Blues originated in The States is due to the introduction of African music to European melodies.

    Popular music before that had been shit like ditties, classical, folklore/Irish music and flute reels.

    Blacks infused rythyms into these melodies things quickly evolved from there.

    I think it was this mix that explains why we have shaped pop music so often for the last century. It doesn’t have much to do with complexity though, just circumstance.

  • capsazin

    to start with, junkets are wack.

  • Bill

    Bol do the majority of foreigners you meet also happen to be Mexican? That might explain their simplicity.

  • noles

    It only appears that foreign cultures revolve around the US’s because that is the way the US media portrays. If you live in a foreign country you would see the differences more clearly.

    Also the US has the tendency to take things from other nations and then pretend to have originated them, for example, reality tv, american idol, the sitcom oh and enjoy our fashion from 2 years ago.

  • http://www.fotolog.com/wastoids Motelsicks

    just to say, what are the politicos saying about the new kardinal?

  • Jasper

    I totally agree with this article.

    I think what needs to be done is to stop looking at foreign music as foreign music, and just look at it as music. Stop thinking about the country that it comes from, stop trying to see what it has to say about that country, and just take it for what it is. Because the people in that country are listening to their own music simply as music, and so should we. You know, when we listen to American music, we don’t think about what it tells us about the American condition and whatnot (unless either the music is intended to be taken this way, or we are doing some kind of research or something).

  • http://adsd.com Palestine

    fuckk u bitch,, Jerusalem is not in Israel,, it’s in Palestine