Home Institution

Oberlin College

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Tunisia: Popular Culture and Globalization in the Arab World


Introduction (excerpt)

In this paper I will explore how contemporary Tunisian musicians have engaged with and adopted various “foreign” or “external” musics by melded them in myriad intricate and often controversial ways with the tunes, rhythms, and symbolic meanings of their own historically local musics. Equally, or perhaps more importantly, I will address how audiences throughout Tunisia have received these musical “fusion” projects and movements and will touch upon the responses of Tunisian diasporic communities and cosmopolitan cultural formations within and beyond the borders of the country.

I will present two case studies, the work of Anouar Brahem and the group “Kantara,” a musician and an ensemble, respectively, that define themselves as Tunisian and their musics as distinct mixtures of Tunisian and various other inter-state genres. In detailing these two individual examples of current projects, I hope to set bases for comparison and generalization about musical hybridity between genres, bridging of the local and the inter-state, and transcending “old” and “new” in present-day Tunisia.

These two case studies will act as means of contextualizing for questions most fundamental to an understanding of contemporary hybrid music in Tunisia: what does “fusion” mean to musicians and audiences that enjoy or despise the concept and practice of “fusion,” and how does this definition reflect and shape Tunisian identities? How do Tunisian musicians who identify themselves as creators of “fusion music” define and frame what they see as their genre? What is the role, if any, of fusion music in shaping the embodiments and implications of being Tunisian, looking both inwardly and outwardly towards the east and the west, in an age of “global stereo,” an age where lightening-speed trans-state musical dialogue has become commonplace?




Article Location