TUNIS, (AFP — Once banned from the airwaves under the Tunisian regime, rap artists are taking their revolutionary lyrics to the big stage for the first time on Saturday at a concert and political rally in the capital.
The star of the show is 21-year-old Hamada Ben Amor – better known as “El General” – who was arrested for whipping up public anger during the wave of protests that ended president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year rule.
The songs that helped inspire the Arab world’s first popular revolution in recent history were circulated widely among thousands of Tunisian Facebook users but have never been heard live by the public until now.
El General’s most famous song is a direct address to Ben Ali.
“We live in suffering/ Like dogs/ Half the poulation is oppressed and living in misery/ President of the Country/ Your people are dead,” he sings.
During his days of detention, El General told AFP in an interview ahead of the concert that the police “told me to drop political subjects.”
The concert at the 10,000-seater La Cupole stadium has been organised by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), a former opposition group that has joined Tunisia’s new govermnent, and will be followed by a PDP rally.
The performance was “in honour of the blood of our martyrs and our great popular revolution,” the PDP said in a statement.
“We want to call for urgent measures against poverty,” it added.
Starting time is a little early for a rap concert – 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) – because of a curfew that is still in place following recent unrest.
So far artists like Ben Amor are little known to the outside world despite their Internet fame among many Tunisians — but that may be about to change.
Ben Amor says he has already received offers from international labels.
Some of his songs have already been played on Tunisian television following Ben Ali’s ouster – leaving some commentators shocked at their content.
“A Bad Use of Liberty” read an editorial in Le Quotidien daily that condemned “the broadcasting of a rap song with swearwords.”
“Entire families watch television together to see the latest news. We have to respect viewers and not force them to hear extremely base words,” he said.
Also billed for Saturday’s show is another performer whose fame is so far only virtual, the more inflammatory Islamist Mohammed Jandoubi, alias Psyco-M, who was voted Tunisia’s number one Internet rapper last year.
Twenty-four-year old Jandoubi’s songs slam the secular regime enforced by Ben Ali and question the morals of Tunisian celebrities.
He says his first video is going to be shot outside the long-feared interior ministry, which enforced Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime.