By Siddiq Ather, TMO
Snowflakes fall from the frothy Chicago sky to the frosted floor of Northwestern Universityâ€™s Evanston Campus; their calm descent is in stark contrast with the high-energy discussions of political and social issues raging across campus in lecture halls, discussion groups, hallways, and classrooms. Specifically, public interest has been focusing on the Middle East and anything even remotely associated with the area. Recently, the environment has become so electric that the very air has become infused with the voices of those affected by the events occurring in the region, literally.
Maryam Jameel, a sophomore at Northwesternâ€™s Medill School of Journalism and politics editor of one of the universityâ€™s student-run publications, hosts a radio show humanizing the view of the Middle East, Muslims, and Arabs through music and discussion. The show is called Hip-Hop and Hummus, and airs weekly on WNUR 89.3 FM, Northwesternâ€™s radio station. Each week she features a variety of artists and perspectives, with artists such as Omar Offendum, The Narcicyst, Shadia Mansour, Dam and Lowkey frequenting her playlists.
The songs are in languages ranging from Arabic and English to Hebrew and French. Recently, the focus of the show has turned to the revolutionary music coming out of North Africa and artists all over the world showing solidarity. On her radio showâ€™s blog, Jameel says that despite the almost constant negative portrayal of the Middle East in the media, â€œbehind those headlines, behind the occupations and the explosions and the nasty that fits so neatly into our television screens, are people. People whose stories donâ€™t get told on our evening news. People who didnâ€™t request the title â€˜terroristâ€™ nor purchase property in a gated community called â€˜occupied territory.â€™ Their hip-hop tells those stories; it speaks the words that go unsaid and delivers the voices that go unheard.â€
The show seamlessly mixes classical Arab songs, modern Arab hip-hop, American hip-hop, and pieces by artists from varying genres and backgrounds who share the common message of universal morality. The show is open for people to call in, suggest songs, or just comment. Jameel edits the songs for radio appropriateness and segments the soundtrack with the occasional public service announcement.
She hopes that the program can serve as a form of cultural education, allowing listeners to consider the perspectives and stories the artists share in their music, whatever listenersâ€™ personal opinions may be. The diffusion of varying points of view is vital for humans in one part of the world to empathize with humans on another part of the world. The show wants to provide a new perspective to the local community, as well as people all over the U.S. and the world, in order to multiply the understanding we have for those we donâ€™t know and people we donâ€™t see.
So far the response to the program has been steadily growing and positive. â€œI have a twitter and a blog for the radio show, and thankfully a lot of different people have been reaching out each week, showing their support and requesting music,â€ Jameel said. The showâ€™s combination of compelling lyrics, beautiful beats and melodies, and high-energy hosting make it the prime program to tune in to for a fantastic evening. The playlists of each show are posted on hummusradio.tumblr.com and the show can be heard live Mondays at 9 p.m. CST on WNUR 89.3 FM or www.wnur.org.