“Music and politics are hardly separable . . The title of this book was uttered by Zakaria Ibrahim, the founder of the renowned Egyptian folklore group El Tanbura, late one night. . . Reflecting on the political, musical, and financial struggles his band has had to endure over several decades to continue to play their music, he simply said, “We’ll play until we die.”

That drive, determination, and urge to perform, regardless of the risk, remuneration, or reward, perfectly encapsulate the attitudes of most every musician we will encounter [in the book]. . . .It might be young people who are driving the potentially and sometimes actually revolutionary change across the region, but you’re never too old to rock, or to fight for change.”

Mark LeVine, in his introduction to We’ll Play Till We Die

We’ll Play till We Die dives into the revolutionary music cultures of the Middle East and larger Muslim world before, during, and beyond the waves of resistance that shook the region from Morocco to Pakistan. Guggenheim-winning musician Mark LeVine shows how some of the world’s most extreme music not only helped inspire and define region-wide protests, but also exemplifies the beauty and diversity of youth cultures throughout the Muslim world.

The book covers a stunning array of developments, not just in metal and hip hop scenes, but with emo in Baghdad, mahraganat in Egypt, techno in Beirut, and more. The first collective ethnography and biography of the post-2010 generation, We’ll Play till We Die explains the radical possibilities of music as a revolutionary force for change.

Author Mark LeVine is a Professor of Middle Eastern and African Histories at the University of California, Irvine, as well as a musician who has recorded and toured with acclaimed performers, like Mick Jagger, Chuck D, Dr. John, Ozomatli, Hassan Hakmoun, Seun and Femi Kuti, and other leading Middle Eastern and African artists. In his iconic musical travelogue Heavy Metal Islam, LeVine first brought the views and experiences of a still-young generation to the world. In We’ll Play till We Die, he joins with this generation’s leading voices to write a definitive history of the era, closing with a cowritten epilogue that explores the meanings and futures of youth music from North Africa to Southeast Asia.

Curious about the music and bands covered in We’ll Play Till We Die? Listen to the playlist below, curated by author Mark LeVine.

“What does revolution sound like? LeVine knows. . . .a thrilling, explosive, finely grained exploration of the Muslim underground music scene in the wake of the Arab Spring. As with any collaborative mixtape, read this book from beginning to end, and then rewind.”

—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original 

Learn more about We’ll Play Till We Die