New Internationalist

Pop without frontiers

Issue 383

In the age of globalization and post-globalization and post-post-globalization (which is sort of like post-globalization but the postal service has been re-privatized), is there a more potent symbol of our interconnectedness than the phenomenon that is pop?

For example, in almost every culture there is some equivalent of the weenie boy band from Essex singing sickly sweet pop ballads to thousands of besotted 12-year-old girls screaming all over the country.

Some pundits are already declaring Iraq officially ‘free’ after the launch of the first ever Pop Idol show in the country (despite there being hardly any women contestants and of those, some are being harassed and threatened). Iraq Star was watched by nearly 60 per cent of the country and has quickly become a national obsession, as it has just about everywhere else. ‘Most of the singers aren’t that good,’ viewer Seif Makki keenly observed.

However, some repressive regimes are determined to stem this tide of obvious social progress by brutally clamping down on such lollipop acts, much to the dismay of their producers such as pop overlord Pete Waterman.

Turkmenistan’s supreme leader Saparmurat Niyazov is one such anti-pop star. After having recently banned opera and ballet, Niyazov has now set his sights on the popular arts by outlawing lip-synching. Niyazov, who has a fondness for statues of himself, pines for his country’s traditional music, but the people pine for anything else. Recently the president-for-life has also outlawed recorded music, leaving Turkmen people few options for entertainment – such as listening to Niyazov’s daily broadcasts on all three television channels where he reads out his own poetry.

In the wise words of the great leader himself – who is now focused on building an ice palace in the desert – ‘one can’t catch two melons with one hand.’

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