The Al-Ain-based Rock Band “Random Stars”

Where there is youthful fire, there is Smoke on the Water. I remember the first Deep Purple record I bought: Machine Head from 1972. The cover featured a blurry, almost metallic image of the long-haired heads of the band. The song that has since been immortalized describes a fire that destroyed a recording studio in Geneva. Where were these Deep Purple-ites to stay, since Frank Zappa was at the best place in town and the “Rolling truck Stones” were outside the Grand Hotel, which was empty and bare, but obviously full enough to record one of the classics of Rock.

Rock is about as Western as a person can get: sound tracks that serve as neoliberal commercialized crumbs that feed rebellious young people the idea that songs can substitute for real protest. And sex and drugs, of course. It is hard to imagine the band without the groupies, who at least in those days flocked like moths to a flame at every concert. Fundamentalist Christians were appalled, warned by their pastors that Rock songs played backwards held secret Satanic messages. The 1960s auto de fe had already consumed Beatles albums in Alabama. Janis Joplin was dead in 1970; the Lord finally gave her a Mercedes Benz as a hearse. Jimi Hendrix joined her the same year. Jim Morrison walked out of the door of life in 1971.

Hip hop is hip with many young Muslims expressing their frustrations at the way they are treated and viewed. But Rock would seem, at least on the surface, to be a difficult fit for Muslims who think girls should be veiled rather than, in the less than immortal words of Deep Purple:

I love her I need her
I seed her
Yeah she turns me on
Alright hold tight I’m a highway star.

But wearing a hijab does not necessarily make anyone less hip. Just ask the young women of the first all-Emirati, all-girl rock band:

“Playing rock ‘n’ roll is awesome,” says IT security student Bushra Hassan Al Hashimi, 22, who plays rhythm guitar. “We are the first girls from the UAE who play electric guitars as a band.

“It takes us away from the stress of homework and other college stuff – we play some music and we work on our songs. I’ve always liked rock ‘n’ roll.”

Roll over Beethoven, and now … roll over Umm Kulthum. But don’t expect Nigeria’s Boko Haram to start playing Procol Harum anytime soon.