Tunisian Music: The Soundtrack of the Revolution, the Voice of the People

Lucia G. Westin

Abstract


This research considers the influence of the Tunisian revolution of 2011 on the musical scene in Tunisia, and the effect of that musical scene on the revolution. The results of this research suggest that the musical scene acted as a type of soundtrack of the revolution, voicing the emotions of the Tunisian masses as it went through, and emerged from, what has been dubbed the Jasmine Revolution. This conclusion was reached after five weeks of interviews onsite in Tunisia during the summer of 2012 with the Mellon Summer Research Program of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, USA. Interviews were held with professional and amateur musicians as well as non-musical civilians in Tunisia. Upon examination of the information gathered in the interviews, and a variety of literary sources, it becomes clear that the popular lyrical music of Tunisia did not cause the revolution but certainly encouraged large numbers of Tunisian youth in their fight for dignity against dictatorial powers. The influence of the revolution on the musical scene is noted with the prominence of Rap and chanson engag in popular Tunisian music. By examining the effects of the revolution on Tunisian musical works, and studying the inspiration effected by Tunisian popular music, this research highlights elements of the present, past and those possible for the future which are a direct result of the unique relationship between Tunisian music and the Tunisian revolution. This research explores the inseparable relationship between human society and its music, serving as an exploration of the idea that the power of song is an intrinsic characteristic of human society.

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