Anonymous, 24 May 2019
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Pop Culture and Class Distinction in Lebanon

Pop Culture and Class Distinction in Lebanon

Lebanon, March 1999. It is a Friday night, but the streets of Beirut are almost deserted. Instead of flocking to nightclubs and parties like they would normally do on the weekend, a great many people are glued to their TV screens watching LBC’s new ultra popular quasi-Karaoke show Ya layl ya ‘ayn. I am visiting friends in Beirut from my base in Damascus and together, instead of going out as planned, we end up watching what is arguable the beginning of the reality TV genre in the Arab Middle East. At the time, the dancing and singing contestants on the show seem plainly silly to me, but my Lebanese male friends are spellbound. The show’s simple formula pits men against women in a battle of singing, dancing, and knowledge about pop music and is, like most Arab TV shows, a spin-off from Western show concepts. The team with most points wins a prize of around US$4000, which is usually donated to charity. For the contestants the prize is not so much the money as the participation itself: the whole glamorous atmosphere, the media exposure and the change to mingle with celebrities. During the show, the two teams engage in karaoke contests, sing along with live performing pop stars, dance, and quiz. “The Ya layl ya ‘ayn dancers,” five or six female dancers in skin-tight dresses placed on individual platforms, are another central component as the camera dwells on their rotating dance moves throughout the show. In the finale, the losing team is subjected to a practical joke, a ma’lab, the significance of which I will return to later. At the very end, both teams join the special guest singers and dancers in an emulation of a night club dance floor. As it turned out, staying in was a lot like going out on this particular evening in late-1990s Beirut.

anthology
73-86
ISBN 978-94-007-7247-2
eng