Jazz in Carthage celebrates music in Tunis streets

Sunday 09/04/2017
Shareef Clayton at a street concert in Tunis. (Jazz in Carthage)

Tunis - Music filled the air on Tunis’s Avenue Ha­bib Bourguiba where legendary jazz mu­sicians Fred Wesley and Shareef Clayton kicked off the 12th Jazz in Carthage festival with a street concert in the bustling down­town area.

Tunisians of all ages danced and sang along to the tunes. The an­nual ten-day event, which runs through April 9th, treats music lovers to a variety of concerts and street performances by renowned international and national artists. In addition to Wesley and Clayton, American jazz group Pink Martini and soul pride Liam Bailey and Myles Sanko are featured this year.

“The festival has been gaining ground year after year. It is gain­ing large visibility on social and other media, and that is great for a relatively new festival,” said Jazz in Carthage Director Mourad Mathari.

“From the moment the pro­gramme was posted online, we re­ceived positive feedback. People, both Tunisians and foreigners, con­tacted us, wanting to organise their vacation to be able to attend the festival,” Mathari said.

The current edition features ten concerts with 21 international art­ists in Tunis and the coastal resort town of Sousse.

Mathari stressed the importance of the festival in promoting a posi­tive image of Tunisia as a country that celebrates music and art.

“The festival targets a Tunisian audience in the first place but we also provide a multi-diverse pro­gramme that could be of use for tourism agencies,” he said. “People in the tourism sector can use this event to promote Tunisia as a mu­sical destination. Many foreigners come for the concerts when they hear of the festival.

“The welcoming and the quality of the audience also help a lot in giving a positive image of Tunisia abroad.”

This year’s festival marks the return of the Jazz Club of Tunis, which will participate in jam ses­sions with international musicians.

“Jazz in Carthage should be a space where real jazz musicians can perform. A space with workshops and jam sessions to help Tunisian jazz musicians learn from interna­tional musicians,” said Khouloud Soula, president of Jazz Club of Tu­nis.

“It is an opportunity to introduce musical education in the festival. The festival should provide a plat­form for exchange between inter­national and Tunisian musicians through jam sessions. We have common vocabulary and language and it is very exciting to jam to that with musicians like Shareef Clay­ton,” Soula added.

The Jazz Club of Tunis, an asso­ciation that gathers jazz musicians, fans and researchers to promote the jazz scene in Tunisia, has been involved in organising concerts and workshops. It participated in previ­ous editions of Jazz in Carthage in which local musicians collaborated with international counterparts.

“Over the years, we realised what an amazing learning opportunity the festival is. The idea is that we exchange with other musicians and this creates professional and hu­man ties, which is what the learn­ing experience is about,” Soula said.

Begun in 2005, the festival was affected by security and political developments in Tunisia in recent years. In 2015, it was almost called off following the terrorist attack at the Bardo National Museum, which led many artists to cancel their par­ticipation. In 2016, organisers com­plained about administrative and bureaucratic obstacles.

However, this year’s edition marks the beginning of a new part­nership with the Ministry of Cultur­al Affairs, which, Mathali said, will play a crucial role in the success of the festival.

“It is one of the few festivals that combine both private and public support. The ministry has sup­ported this new philosophy and thematic organisation, showing an openness to ensure that cultural initiatives take place,” Mathari said.

He explained that the ministry was seeking to change certain laws and relax bureaucratic procedures “to encourage new private initia­tives which help Tunisia become a cultural destination”.

The festival this year also fea­tures an exhibition titled Jazz Age by photographer Patrick Zachmann that celebrates images of the con­temporary jazz scene. After Paris and New York, the exhibition will find a home in Tunis at the Carthage Thalasso Resort Gammarth.

Festival-goers are also being treated to a variety of other music genres with electro-rock French duo AaRON, indie pop artist Tom Odell, and French-Moroccan world musician Hindi Zahra.

“The aim is to promote jazz music and other genres that could breathe life in the spirit of the festival. The audience here discovers different artists,” Mathari said. “When they leave and say ‘Wow, that was an exceptional discovery’, our goal is attained.”