The Arabic-German rap song about Tunisia’s woes

Friday 11/03/2016
From right to left: Mourad Ghrab, Bilel Hammouda and Abdallah Jomaa.

Bradaa, Tunisia - A group of young rappers from a small Tunisian coastal village are win­ning acclaim for a song condemning terrorism.

Tunisian authorities launched Youth Against Terrorism, a nation­al awareness-building campaign against the dangers of radicalism, in December. People under 30 were called upon to make cultural and artistic contributions.

The programme was aimed at creating “youth ambassadors” in interior regions, border towns and working-class neighbourhoods around Tunis.

A group of young people in a small coastal town were enthused by the idea. They lived in Bradaa, best known for olive production, near Mahdia, 210km south of Tu­nis.

The town has become known among Tunisian youth and fans of rap as the hometown of rappers behind the song Zaama (I wonder).

Bilel Hammouda, Abdallah Jomaa and Mourad Ghrab collabo­rated to produce the song, which they released on the fifth anniver­sary of the 2011 Tunisian uprising.

The rappers produced the song and posted it online with the help of the Youth Centre of Bradaa. The lyrics, in Arabic and German, re­flect the anguish of Tunisians as they see their country struggling with the problems of terrorism, illegal migration and unemploy­ment. Ghrab, who had lived in Ger­many, provided a German transla­tion of the lyrics.

Mohamed Mbarek, who works at the Youth Centre, acknowledges the challenges faced by young peo­ple in Bradaa.

“This is a small town full of tal­ents and young energy but the so­cial rules and inner restraints often prevent them from believing in and produce some concrete work so it goes away with time,” he said.

“This group of young people had great passion for music and rap and wanted to bring their work to the public.”

Ghrab said it was not easy to form the rap group, especially since he was new in town.

“We formed a group and we started working together. We even­tually agreed to write a song about the country,” Ghrab said.

The song’s lyrics reflect on the many issues that the country faces. With “saddened by the fate of my country”, as a refrain, the lyrics mention young people who joined jihad abroad but were often igno­rant of its real danger. The song calls on young people to protect the beauty of the country and its people, lamenting over recent ter­rorist attacks.

Ghrab emphasised the role that rap can take in relaying the mes­sage to people, especially youth.

“Looking at what is happening in the country, I wanted to write something about this situation,” he said. “This is about how I see it. People were very enthusiastic about the song. I was surprised that it appealed to young people but also to older generations and different age groups.”

“I think these words are more powerful in the sense they reached all listeners and managed to trans­mit the reality of things in the country. Even people abroad liked the song when they heard the Ger­man part,” Ghrab added.

Ghrab said he sees a role for rap in Tunisia. “Rap music remains misunderstood and there will be a time when people will understand it. Rap is to express yourself. The rappers in the group and I want to keep the spirit of truth in our rap and mostly keep it authentic. We want to talk about the issues of the country,” he explains

In a small town such as Bradaa, where little cultural activities or entertainment are possible for young people, youth centres, Youth Against Terrorism and other initiatives can provide a space for creativity.

Ghrab points out: “We are just simple people who are expressing their own stories. We worked on this song to touch people’s hearts. With what is happening in the country especially terrorist attacks and with people’s frustration with unemployment, one cannot just watch. We need to do whatever we can.”