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


  • Lucia G. Westin College of the Holy Cross


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 engagée 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.

Author Biography

Lucia G. Westin, College of the Holy Cross

Lucia Westin has been a resident of St. John's, Newfoundland since the age of ten. She was involved in the Newfoundland musical scene from a young age, including SHALLAWAY - Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus, the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra, St. Bonaventure's College Wind Ensemble and Treble Choir, and (of course!), Festival 500. Lucia moved from St. John’s to study for her undergraduate degree at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Both in Worcester and during her year studying abroad in Strasbourg, France, she pursued her passion for music with her studies both in and outside of university. She has had the opportunity to study with composers such as Osvaldo Goliov and Shirish Korde, violinists Alisdair Black, Alison Black, and Peter Sulski, and voice instructors including Elizabeth Keusch, Sarah Dewald and Marsha Vleck. During the summer of 2012 Lucia received a Mellon Summer Research Grant to study Tunisian music and the recent Tunisian revolution of 2011. She spent five and a half weeks in Tunisia and completed her research at the College of the Holy Cross, all under the direction of her music professor, Alan Karass. In May 2013, she graduated with a BA in music and French. She will begin studies in law at McGill University in Montreal in the fall of 2013 and plans to continue to be involved in music.