1In Shouf Shouf Hollanda Dominique Caubet, professor in Maghrebi Arabic in France, reports on a series of interviews she has conducted among fourteen Dutch-Moroccan artists from various artistic disciplines. The book is structured in such a way that each artist is briefly introduced, then followed by the interview in verbatim; the final part contains an elaborate commentary by the author on the main findings.
The author discusses a widely debated issue of identity among migrants in the Netherlands – a country that has seen, in recent decades, an influx of labour migrants from predominantly Morocco and Turkey (Berkers, 2009). These migrants, later, were able to bring their family to the Netherlands, subsequently raising their children in a culture that is different from the one they brought with them. The author’s main questions, therefore, touches upon this very issue: how does one refer to artists from Moroccan descent who have, in recent years, established themselves in and contributed to various Dutch cultural scenes – are they Dutch or Moroccan? In raising this question amongst the artists themselves, the book gives a refreshing insight into how such artists view their own identity and their role in the respective cultural scenes in which they have been successful.
2In each interview, the central questions asked to the interviewees mainly involve two issues. First, Caubet, in some of her questions, stresses the role of language and how the artists navigate between the use of Dutch and native Moroccan languages. Second, she aims to discuss the artists’ views on what in the Netherlands has often been referred to as the cultural gap between Dutch and Moroccan culture. In raising these issues, the interviewed artists discuss and try to provide their own understanding of their everyday experiences both in their everyday life and professional sphere.
3Although these experiences are unique in their own way, they also show interesting similarities, which Caubet aims to explain and contextualize in a collection of brief discussions in her commentary. For Dutch-Moroccan artists, the Dutch language is important to the extent that they use their native language mostly within household settings instead of appropriating these freely and elaborately in their artistic expressions. Here perhaps mostly the musicians emphasize that they might play with appropriating Arabic when they write songs, both for artistic means and to appeal to a larger audience. Secondly, most of the interviewed artists do not see themselves as either Dutch or Moroccan. One comedian and actor explicitly stresses that he feels like he is a foreigner when traveling to Morocco. At the same time, the artists acknowledge that they are not entirely Dutch and therefore fall in between two cultures. Perhaps the most indicative explanation of the latter comes from one of the artists, an actress, who stresses the word “subculture”. Indeed, Caubet illustrates that with the success of these artists in entering and establishing themselves in Dutch cultural scenes, they give voice not so much to a Moroccan culture in the Netherlands, but rather to a hybrid subculture.
4Undoubtedly, the commercial success of one movie in particular – to which the book’s title clearly refers – has greatly contributed to establishing this subculture in the Netherlands. In Shouf Shouf Habibi, which brought several Dutch-Moroccan artists – musicians, actors, writers – together, these artists succeeded in drawing many visitors to theatres throughout the country, who seemed to easily identify with the characters portrayed on screen. However, as Caubet herself already hints at in interviewing these artists, one main question that the reader is left with after reading the book, which dates back to 2006, is whether the sudden rise in attention for Dutch-Moroccan artists hasn’t been a short-term trend (see also Berkers, Janssen & Verboord, 2004).
5Nonetheless, Caubet’s relative distance to the Dutch society, herself being French, contributed in providing an insightful image of the position of Dutch-Moroccan artists in the Netherlands. What is missing, perhaps, is a clear-cut answer to the central research question. Indeed, the concluding commentary has a rather broad scope, where the author raises a multitude of issues pertaining to art, politics and cultural identity that sometimes go beyond the interviews. Yet, the book can be recommended particularly to scholars in the field of popular music studies. It addresses the importance of music in particular and arts in general for migrant groups (see also DiMaggio & Fernández-Kelly, 2010), highlighting their political dimension (see also Martiniello, 2005). Finally, by showing how artists, who are rooted in a hybrid of two different cultures, appropriate Dutch artistic disciplines, the book provides insight into the factors that contributed to both their commercial success and artistic recognition.