Carthage Days of Music gives visibility to nontraditional genres
TUNIS - The Carthage Days of Music, a week-long festival in Tunisia, entertained audiences with performances incorporating diverse musical genres that featured prominent artists and up-and-coming talent.
The festival showcased a wide range of artists, even providing space for nontraditional hip-hop and electro music groups. Kicking off with the Tunisian multi-genre Zied Zouari and Guests, the festival featured competitions under several categories.
“For this edition, we tried to balance shows by renowned names and young names, between traditional and modern shows to promote a modern image of Tunisia through the festival,” said festival Director Achref Chargui. “We have received more than 258 projects that deserve a place, not only in the Carthage Music Days but also in other international festivals.
“We will also use the festival’s platform to set up a network for production of music shows through our partnerships with international record companies. The goal is to export our exceptional Tunisian shows.”
“The idea is to take that culture to the next level and depart from the traditional to take a visionary approach. All these productions are original,” he explained.
Artists were divided into Virtuoso, Hip-Hop, Electro, Popular Tunisian, Live Band, Kids’ Choir, Kids’ Singer and Kids’ Instrument categories. The festival’s slogan — “There is place for everyone” — sought to promote an open atmosphere for all musical genres.
“This year we believe in the idea of giving space for everyone and every genre,” said Chargui. “The Tunisian artist can find himself in any category. We have JMC Kids, the pop Tn (popular Tunisian music) and JMC hip-hop day, which will dedicate a day to the culture and hip-hop music.”
This approach is aimed at bringing musical genres that had been excluded, such as Tunisian folk and Mezwed, into the picture.
“Our competitions are inclusive since our slogan is to give a space for all. It included all the genres that were often disregarded in festivals and consequently exclude young talents. We are the ones who will build the country and it is important as a young director to also promote and support young
talents,” Chargui said.
Two days of the festival were dedicated to electro and hip-hop music.
“When we talk about hip-hop in Tunisia, it is rich and creative,” Chargui said. “These artists have creative vision and they have all the right to express their point of view.
“The JMC Hip-Hop project aims to provide young talents who have the potential to achieve international success with exposure and support. Some of the rappers have millions of views on YouTube and fans in different countries. It is our role to guide these talents and learn from the experiences of professionals and produce something that will include both the traditional and the innovative.”
During hip-hop day, the festival had competitions, workshops and discussions exploring issues related to hip-hop culture in Tunisia. Congolese rapper Orakle and Tunisian rapper Ala performed the main show.
“Rap allows me to express myself on issues regarding life and daily struggles,” Orakle said at the round-table discussion. “I started rapping in the streets and I wanted to have people interested in my passion for rap. It is about being heard outside of geographical borders.”
She added: “Festivals in the African continent should give more of these opportunities for rappers to develop their work and their talent. For their passion to develop, rappers need to work on their music and their technique through performing. This festival is an opportunity for us rappers to share our work and exchange our talent so African rap rises and evolves.”
Tunisian rapper Karim Kouki, who began his career in the 1990s, today promotes Tunisian hip-hop culture through shows and television programmes.
“Things have changed a lot through the past years but hip-hop culture is still absent in media,” Kouki said. “You have some presence but you don’t have a strong presence, which needs to be changed to change people’s mentality about hip-hop. Dedicating a category in the Carthage Music Days to hip-hop is an important step towards familiarising the Tunisian audience with our own concept of rap music.”
Hamza Ben Youssef, who organises rap concerts in Tunisia, said he agreed that the event would help bring recognition to rap as a musical and artistic genre.
“There is the underground culture but there is also the commercial aspect of rap. This creates a misunderstanding of the essence and spirit of hip-hop since most Tunisian media invite those commercial artists,” Ben Youssef said.
“Hip-hop as a culture still struggles and rappers still struggle. Many have to give up their passion to be able to do a job and earn a living. It gives us hope to see it as an element in this national festival for Tunisian music.”
When the festival wrapped up, Amine Amri was awarded the Best Tanit for the hip-hop category and Amira Kinani received the award in the virtuoso category. Skander Ben Abid received the honour for the live band category and Hannah Schneider in the electro category.