Amy Horowitz. Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010. 251 pages.
Reviewed by Samuel R. Thomas (Graduate Center of the City University of New York)
This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature in English on music in Sephardi and Mizraḥi communities in Israel. Amy Horowitz sheds light on a popular musical genre, focusing on key artists involved in its development and the role that their music played in negotiating a complex and volatile terrain for identity politics in Israel during the 1970s and 1980s. Horowitz systematically charts the seemingly unruly nature of Mediterranean Israeli music – also known as Musika Mizraḥit – by providing important historical, sociological, and ethnic context and by exploring many of the streams of influence that discombobulate listeners seeking to define the parameters of the genre. But rather than looking at Mediterranean Israeli music as being based on a collection of asymmetrical, perhaps haphazard appropriations, Horowitz advances and successfully supports the thesis that the musical genre was developed by artists with the express intent of drawing together “appropriate appropriations” (30). In so doing, these artists contributed to advancing a pan-ethnic identity in Israel – of a Sephardi, Mizraḥi, Oriental nature – that could stand in contradistinction to a hegemonic Ashkenazi ethnicity. Horowitz’s study adds a welcome statement about the integral role of notions of inheritance and appropriation on identity formation. These notions are all too often employed in the service of political ideologies. She challenges this binary structure and the ideologies that accompany it, instead offering a strong example of how the recognition of a continuum between inheritance and appropriation is actually more germane for appreciating the role of musical expression in the formation of identity. With this book, Horowitz adds a resonant voice to the scholarly discourse about Mizraḥi identity. Continue reading