By Hady Hamdan
AMMAN - "It is music that chooses you, not the other way around," said 22-year-old Ahmad Alhour.
The vocalist in the heavy metal band, Blinding Shade, one of many groups that have emerged on Jordan's music scene in recent years as metal music made its mark on the Kingdom's youth, said he acquired his taste for musical styles outside the mainstream at an early age.
"In my childhood, I imitated my uncles, who used to listen to rock music," he said. "I started to search for more energetic music genres, and eventually found what I was looking for in metal music."
Heavy metal is a style that emerged in the US and UK in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Characterised by crunchy, distorted electric guitar riffs and loud vocals that are often screamed rather than sung, metal music has always been controversial, and the metal subculture often associated with violence and Satanism.
In Jordan, where heavy metal remains well outside the mainstream of youth culture, it still draws strong feelings both from fans, or "metalheads" as they call themselves, and from detractors of the genre who criticise its musical qualities and worry that it may have a bad influence on its teenage fans.
Alhour, who said that as a teenager, his peers thought him strange for embracing such an unconventional type of music, said the "diversity" of heavy metal as well as its "appreciation of creativity" were what drew him to the genre.
Muhannad Saleh agreed, adding that he is a fan of heavy metal music because it deals more than other popular genres with powerful human themes.
"There are many metal songs that discuss poverty, love, discrimination and other issues," Saleh said, giving as an example the song "Jordanian Heart" by the band Esodic, which is about the 2005 Amman hotel bombings.
Saleh, a student and a street team leader in Jorzine, an online magazine that supports the underground metal and rock scene in the Middle East, explained that for him, "heavy metal music, unlike other music genres, appreciates creativity and personal touches".
“Most of the Arab songs on TV have fixed and predictable melodies and rely on the same sound effects,” he said.
Much criticism levelled at metal fans is unfair, he said, alleging that some websites defame metal music and its proponents by inaccurately portraying them as Satan-worshipping hoodlums.
“They post photos of parties that never took place and accuse us of being Satanists,” he explained, acknowledging that these accusations are giving metalheads a bad reputation.
“Many people misunderstand us and think that we are bad people, but heavy metal is not bad at all. In fact this genre has touched on important issues. A good example is the song ‘War pigs’ by Black Sabbath, one of the best songs about war,” Saleh said.
Ahmad Alkilani, a metal fan for almost seven years now, joined Saleh’s protest of stereotyping.
“As a proud Muslim, it hurts me to see the unreasonable connection between metalheads and Satanists and nonreligious people,” he said, stressing that there is no connection between Jordan’s metal fans and Satanism.
Alhour and others in the metal scene said freedom of speech and expression is a major theme of the genre, while participating in the metal subculture is in itself a way of asserting one’s right to self-expression.
For metal vocalist Tojan Naghaway, this type of music has been a means of empowering herself as a woman.
“Since I was a teenager I’ve been a big fan of metal music. I’ve seen a lot of women become successful [in the heavy metal scene], and this inspired me to form my own band and make my own music,” the 23-year-old singer in the band, Dreamstate, told The Jordan Times.
But Naghaway’s career has not gone smoothly.
“Being a female vocalist in a Middle Eastern community posed a bigger challenge for me,” she said. “Some people like the idea of women singing harsh vocals, and on the other hand some just do not.”
Nonetheless, despite the criticism she has received, she said being a female metal singer in Jordan has had its benefits.
“It absolutely helped me receive more attention, since the majority of metal singers are men, not just in Jordan but in the rest of the Middle East,” she explained.
According to Jorzine’s website, there are now around 36 Jordanian metal bands, 25 of which are currently releasing albums and performing, and the number is on the rise.
But not all young Jordanians are impressed with metal music. Rami Zarrour, a recent University of Jordan (UJ) graduate, said he finds the genre “noisy” and criticised the “strange” way its fans dress.
Shadir Othman, a 21-year-old student at the German-Jordanian University who listens to pop music and R&B, said he thinks that heavy metal will badly influence the younger generation.
“Metal music not only expresses the rage and anger of the young society, but also has and will have bad influences on future generations, unless it softens its tone,” he stated.
Rami Haddad, chair of the music department at UJ, pointed out that the metal scene in Jordan is not new but dates back almost to the 1980s.
The professor’s own feelings about the style are mixed.
“Some heavy metal bands have nice melodies and lyrics,” he said, “[but] I think that heavy metal songs would be much better without the sound effects they currently use.”
Still, he said, “this music genre is better than hip-hop and rap, which are only recitation of words with no melody.”
“The problem in our community is that we are not musically educated,” Haddad noted, urging the community and especially young people to improve their musical literacy and appreciation by listening to different styles of music, both classical and contemporary.
The debate over metal music may well rage on for years to come, but in the end, for fans like Saleh, it comes down to a matter of personal taste.
“It is a music genre just like any other that I enjoy and find myself in,” he said. SUMBER
Sejak negara Arab semakin terbuka dengan muzik Heavy Metal (IRON MAIDEN telah buat live show di Dubai pada tahun 2007), band tempatan mula keluar dari 'persembunyian' mereka.
Fenomena kemunculan Heavy Metal di sesuatu tempat seperti biasa mendapat kritikan hebat dari masyarakat setempat. Ini juga berlaku di Jordan. Heavy Metal dikaitkan dengan muzik menyembah syaitan.
Ini mungkin benar untuk sesetengah band tetapi tidak boleh dilupa sesetengah band yang lain membawa banyak mesej positif.
Seperti biasa - media cetak dan elektronik, dalam keghairahan mereka mendapatkan jumlah pembaca, akan mensensasikan hal ini - sepertimana yang berlaku di Malaysia - dengan memberitakan cerita yang tak sahih dan berlebih-lebihan. Di Jordan pun berlaku juga.
Kebanyakan pemuzik Metal yang beragama Islam di Jordan meletakkan Heavy Metal sebagai satu jenis muzik dan bukan satu fahaman yang menjejaskan pegangan agama mereka.
Namun di satu sudut yang lain, hal berkaitan dengan agama ini adalah sesuatu yang halus, dan ini memerlukan khidmat nasihat dari golongan agamawan yang memahami uruf sesuatu muzik supaya muzik yang membelenggu pemuzik dan peminatnya tidak mengakibatkan mereka jatuh dalam kesesatan.