Photo Credit: Facebook: Les Dunes Electroniques
Last weekend, several hundred young music lovers made their way to Tunisia’s southern desert to attend Les Dunes Electroniques, the first electronic music festival ever held in Tunisia. Featuring a range of European and Tunisian DJs, the festival was held between the desert towns of Nabeul and Tozeur, near the set of 2003′s Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. The erstwhile movie set has been meticulously preserved thanks to the dry Saharan desert conditions, and helps bring a growing number of tourists to Tunisia’s south, widely seen as less economically developed than its north and east coasts. Now, the region may be seeing a new form of tourism to boost its economy, foster artistic innovation, and project an image of Tunisia that much of its youth hopes to promote to the world.
“In Tunisia, the music scene is growing. We can feel free to express ourselves and our love for music however we want at Dunes Electroniques. We want people to know this side of Tunisia.” Leila, a student from Tunis, showed me photos of the event–a concert venue decked out in Star Wars decor packed with young people from all over Tunisia and beyond laughing and lounging in the sun. The weekend also hosted visitors from Europe and even the US. Yours truly was not able to attend as I had too much Arabic studying to do, but through hearing the stories of those who went, I can tell you I was extremely jealous!
From talking to several people who travelled south for Les Dunes Electroniques, it is clear the international festival was a success, both technically and symbolically. Tunisians described to me the feeling of harmony as hundreds of people gathered solely to have a good time and share something they all enjoyed. Commentators have even called it the “Tunisian Woodstock.” Events like this are helping put Tunisia on the music map, and helping attract more investment in the country’s desert south. But perhaps more than that, they are an expression of individualism and a manifestation of the will of young Tunisians to foster their personal and artistic freedom. Achraf, from the Tunisian city of Jendouba, told me, “In many other Muslim countries, you could not have festivals like this. In Tunisia we are fortunate because we have this freedom. And those who are more religious, they have the same freedom to practice their own beliefs. Yes, there are problems in our country, but this freedom is essential for us, and we will not let go of it.”
Actually first developed in the 1940s and 50s, electronic music is simply percussive music composed using electronic musical instruments and technology. Broadly referred to as EDM, electronic dance music has taken off in the US, Europe, and around the world. That it has drawn so much positive attention in Tunisia gives us yet another picture of how similar us mellenials are, regardless of nationality or language spoken.
DJs included French and Tunisian EDM artists, many of whom are just making their big breaks–check out the lineup here! The DJs mixed contemporary tracks with traditional Tunisian music, offering listeners a ridiculously cool blend of new and old to perfectly match the Sahara-meets-science-fiction setting. The finale number gave homage to the venue and the festival’s theme, blasting the Star Wars soundtrack as visitors soaked up the last rays of the desert sun and the stunning views around them. Thanks to the weekend’s success, two more festivals are planned within the next year–Electronic Waves is set to be held at the start of the summer, and is projected to be even bigger and better than this one.
“I can’t wait for the next festival”, Yasemin, from Tunis, told me. “I hope the festival scene in Tunisia grows–it will help our tourism industry and show people around the world how much Tunisia has to offer.”
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