By Margaux Bonnet
The very first contribution we received to our call for papers is convoking music, photography and performance to understand how the new musical scene in Tunisia and around the Mediterranean Sea is helping to define the rich identity of this region and respect all its components. Celine made a focus on North Africa, too often reduced to its Arabian culture and history, while its inhabitants are:
“ before all Africans, as well as children of their time, sponges of our globalized world trends, complex beings, humans after all” .
Here is the story of her discovers, pulsed to the beat of all these musicians’ creation.
I met Arabstazy, an artists’ collective created about a year ago, and started documenting their work about this time. This collective is uniting artists from diverse backgrounds (mainly musicians, also VJs, performers…). Most of them are Tunisians, but mostly, they live in different countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Their work takes upon the traditional ceremonies of North African countries, and transposes the spirit at the core of those events into contemporary form. By doing so they wish to acknowledge and make known to the public the very diverse influences at the core of the North African identity, which is too often reduced to its Arabian component in the public eye. An Arab slice that shaped them as Tunisians todays in their 20s and 30s, but that did not make them as a whole.
Tunisia’s contemporary musical scene being relatively small, it led me to cross path with part of its current players, and become familiar with their work and the dynamics currently at skate in the field.
Mettani paints himself black in memory of the sub-Saharan people who brought the stambeli tradition to Tunisia. He seeks for an analogy between those therapeutic musical ceremonies during which one calls to be possessed by spirit and contemporary forms of electronic music (adorcism), claiming a syncretic identity.
Shinigami San is from the outset of the Tunisian electronic scene. He is a founding member of the World Full of Bass collective, a real institution. He produces music focused on low frequencies, using an electric guitar to create a continuous stream of sound waves, and modulating them. It’s a bit like listening to the deep waters of a long apnea dive, a dark ambient one could link to Hamburg Dial records.
The Tropikal Camel is a Sephardic Israeli artist who moved from Jerusalem to Berlin after being confronted to the impossibility of peacefully researching through the Arab component of his identity in his homeland. He comes at the crossroad of hiphop, electronic, and recycling (mixing on old tapes) and produces a thought provoking music anchored in a deep and genuine identity conflict.
Ghoula’s filiation is to be traced in actualisation of a heritage as a mean to save and transcend it. He creates original composition blending electronic and more traditional instruments, mixed with samples of old vinyl’s he digs in Tunis Medina. He wants to save this music from oblivion and participate in intergeneration dialogue.
Toukadime is a secret duo with a self-claimed double mission: make North African musical heritage known to a broader public, and at the same time prevent its disappearance through digitalisation. Their signature: an image of those 2 traditional footstools made up as turn table they constantly project while playing.
Performing an invocation of spirits to the live music, this dancer spreads smells and fumes of mirth, a symbole for Venus as well as a key component to North African possession rites.
For the past couple of year an orientalist trend is getting stronger and stronger, benefiting from the vast popularity acquired by electronic music. Young people specifically come to event were they can listen to myth like Oum Khoulthoum and other classic their elders were listening in their own youth. Those parties are an opportunity to celebrate a part of their identity sometimes concealed or socially repressed, and actualize it in everyday life. Club, sound, lights; in the night, tradition and present time seem to blend marvellously.
- January 2016, “Prévoir trop tard”, Foreseen x Retard, Bruxelles (collective exhibition)
- Mai 2016, Parcours des arts (festival), Saint Malo
- June 2016, “La nuit, libre de désir”, Batofar, Paris (collective exhibition)