THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights

THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights
On April 26, the French-Tunisian artist created a digital collage using a Zoom call featuring 49 people from across the world. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 May 2020

THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights

THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights

El Seed 

‘Art is the Shortest Path’

On April 26, the French-Tunisian artist created a digital collage using a Zoom call featuring 49 people from across the world (including US musician Aloe Blacc, who performed during the call). El Seed sent each participant a part of the artwork to set as their background, then rearranged the pieces on his screen — adding callers as they joined — to create the final piece, based on a quote from André Malraux: “Art is the shortest path from one human being to another human being.” Prints of the artwork are now for sale, with the profits being shared between hospitals in France and Tunisia. 

Ghoula 

‘Bambara’

This is the first single from the Tunisian artist’s upcoming album “Demi Écrémé.” The track is based around a sample of vocals by Abdel Majid Mihoub, a master of traditional Tunisian ‘stambeli’ music — also used as a trance-healing method. Ghoula combines traditional instruments with electronic sounds to create a haunting earworm, which is accompanied by a fantastic animated video directed by Bert Vercruysse.  

Vandalye 

‘Little Piggy’

Dubai-based trio Vandalye released their new single, “Little Piggy,” (influenced by George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”) late April. It’s something of a departure from the guitar-led indie-folk sound that first gained the young band attention, with a focus on synths at the start, before a heavy climax dominated by distorted guitars. In a press release, band member Thomas McCone explained that the band had recently got out of a contract “which, over time, restricted us,” adding, “This time we really did something which we wanted.”

Alyssa Amber

‘Strangers’

This 15-year-old Dubai-based singer-songwriter just released her debut single, a catchy pop song. According to the press release, the track “conveys a hypothetical heartfelt emotional turmoil” and contains hints of “trap, soul, RnB and pop.” The standout feature, though, is Amber’s impressive vocal ability. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Autocratic Middle Class by Bryn Rosenfeld

Updated 10 min 28 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: The Autocratic Middle Class by Bryn Rosenfeld

What We Are Reading Today: The Autocratic Middle Class by Bryn Rosenfeld

Conventional wisdom holds that the rising middle classes are a force for democracy. Yet in post-Soviet countries like Russia, where the middle class has grown rapidly, authoritarianism is deepening. Challenging a basic tenet of democratization theory, Bryn Rosenfeld shows how the middle classes can actually be a source of support for autocracy and authoritarian resilience, and reveals why development and economic growth do not necessarily lead to greater democracy.
In pursuit of development, authoritarian states often employ large swaths of the middle class in state administration, the government budget sector, and state enterprises. Drawing on attitudinal surveys, unique data on protest behavior, and extensive fieldwork in the post-Soviet region, Rosenfeld documents how the failure of the middle class to gain economic autonomy from the state stymies support for political change, and how state economic engagement reduces middle-class demands for democracy and weakens prodemocratic coalitions.