Rock the Kasbah: Tunisia Hosts Alternative Arab Music Festival
By: Rasha Hilwi
Published Friday, June 15, 2012
Mousiqa Wassalem (Music and Peace) was the title of a short video that first appeared on Facebook about two weeks ago.
The video showed Tunisian singer Badiaa Bouhrizi walking around Tunis and asking people of different ages the same question: "Do you listen to music?"
Snippets of songs by Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Maryam Saleh, Bouhrizi, and the band Neshez could be heard in the background.
A few days later, a second clip was posted on Facebook, this time including an excerpt of a song by Yasmine Hamdan and an allusion to the date "June 14."
Several days ago, the latest video was posted, revealing what the earlier teasers were about: The first Carthage International Forum for Alternative Music, organized by a seven-member group called Music and Peace.
The most recent video contained additional music clips by Mashrou Leila, Kamilya Jubran, and Khyam Allami — all taking part in the festival, which opens Thursday at the Carthage Museum in Tunis.
Bouhrizi, a member of Music and Peace, describes the group as "one which believes that art is capable of change — in fact, it is a kind of lethal weapon."
She adds that "the festival's importance lies in gathering artists capable of creating change amid stagnation in Arabic music."
Meanwhile, Abu Ghazaleh, a Palestinian musician and founder of Iqaa (a music production and distribution company) who lives in Cairo, told Al-Akhbar that it is significant for Tunisia to host a festival of alternative and independent music, particularly after similar events were held in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Abu Ghazaleh said that this Tunisian initiative provides a sign of hope for independent music.
"These festivals will constitute milestones in the history of alternative music's development in the Arab world," he said. This musical genre's development, he added, is the result of the growth of an audience for this type of art in the region.
Throughout the six days festival, the Tunisian public will have the opportunity to enjoy music by a variety of bands and musicians who produce non-traditional music with an Arab identity.
Bouhrizi and Lebanese singer Hamdan perform on Thursday (June 14), while Fadel Boubakr, Maryam Saleh, Zeid Hamdan, and Boomj will appear on Friday (June 15). Abu Ghazaleh and Neshez will feature on Saturday (June 16).
The festival takes a break on Sunday and resumes with the bands Barbaroots and Labess on Monday (June 18), followed by Mashrou Leila on Tuesday (June 19).
The festival will conclude on Wednesday (June 20) with performances by Iraqi musician Allami and Palestinian artist Jubran.
Jubran, who lives in Paris, said that she will perform songs from her latest album Wanabni (And We Build). She added that she noticed "exceptional reactions from the audience" during her last visit to Tunisia three months ago.
"They appeared to catch what is new, so I expect this activity to draw a positive reception from the audience this time as well," she said.
Music and Peace plans to make the festival an annual event in the coming years.
The Music and Peace Facebook page was bombarded with questions regarding whether the festival is proceeding on time after the Tunisian government imposed a night curfew of 9 pm in eight regions.
The curfew came after clashes erupted between the security forces and Salafi demonstrators protesting an art exhibition in La Marsa, north of capital.
The Salafis were angered by an art piece which they considered "offensive to the divine being."
Bouhrizi replied that the organizers are negotiating with officials to change the time of the performances in order not to cancel them.
As of the writing of this report, Music and Peace was still waiting for a reply from the relevant authorities.
Carthage International Forum for Alternative Music, Thursday, June 14 – Wednesday, June 20, Carthage Museum, Tunis. For information, call 0021620647097.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.