Yasser Jradi: for a “cultural revolution” in Tunisia

Yasser Jradi is a Tunisian calligrapher and musician best known for writing an anthem of the 2011 Revolution, Dima, Dima. He says it was the anaesthetic “bad culture” of Ben Ali’s police state that killed the old regime — that, and 10 years of popular underground protest music, mostly from America: songs like Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit and Pink Floyd’s Hey You, songs by Bob Dylan and Bob Marley that incited young people to revolt, or at least to “Do something! Stand up!” Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land moves him openly: “I have the feeling this is about Tunisia now, even if it is talking about ‘California and the New York islands.’ It is feeling about Tunisia now. I love this man Woody Guthrie.”

Jradi says: “it’s not yet time to say we made a revolution; we may have to wait 10 or 15 years.” But for sure he believes that it’s good art and music that will reconstruct the Tunisia he wants to see. Suddenly, as we spoke, two musical friends and bandsmen turned up — one with a three-string bass, another with iron clackers — and the living tradition of Tunisian music broke out in Yasser Jradi’s little shop in a cave of old Tunis’s Medina market. The sound, Jradi says, was compounded in the 17th Century by sub-Saharan Africans and Arab slavers, in the days when Tunis was a capital of the slave trade. It’s a mystical, trance music, “Tunisian reggae,” as Yasser Jradi hears and sings it, and it is known as “Stambeli.”

Tunisia in my Kitchen: Back in Boston, in the Spring of 2013, I finally have from the fine hand of Yasser Jeradi a daily look at the spirit of transition in North Africa.  The words are from Mahmoud Darwish's poem, "In Jerusalem."

Tunisia in my Kitchen: Back in Boston, in the Spring of 2013, I finally have from the fine hand of Yasser Jeradi a daily look at the spirit of transition in North Africa. The words are from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “In Jerusalem.”

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