If you ever wondered about the incredible power of music to create change then look no further than North Africa. Though the protests in Tunisia that have since spread through Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya were initially sparked by outrage over the death of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi who set himself on fire, protesting the corruption that he experienced on a daily basis under the regime, it was music that united the people and provided the momentum for the revolution.
Around the time of Bouazizi’s self immolation, a 21 year old kid who still lives with his mother, Hamada Ben Amor began uploading his hip hop music onto Facebook under the name El General. It was music heavily critical of the regime and a huge gamble as this kind of outspokenness universally led to arrest by the security forces. In fact his music had previously been censored within Tunisia. He didn’t perform live and wasn’t allowed to produce cds, in fact social media was the only outlet left open to him. The video he released, a grainy hand held video camera against a stark background is only him and his mic, rapping in a militant Tupac influenced style. And it created a sensation with thousands of downloads. Rais Lebled (Head of State) is the kind of ridiculously ballsy statement that could only be made by youth, documenting the frustration and anger that he felt via lyrics like “Mr. President your people is dead/many people eat from garbage/ and you see what is happening in the country/misery everywhere and people who have not found a place to sleep/I am speaking in name of the people who are suffering and were put under the feet.”
El General was arrested by security forces on the 6th of January as the the Tunisian government cracked down in a desperate effort to cling to power, arresting hundreds and killing protesters in the streets. It was a time when people were disappearing and grave fears were held for El General’s welfare. Yet on the streets something remarkable was happening, the protesters were chanting his song, and thousands of people united by his voice began demanding his release. More than likely it was his newfound celebrity status that kept him alive. You can only imagine how Amor felt when finally released from the most harrowing experience of his life to discover he was the voice of a revolution. His music later spread to Tahrir square in Cairo and not only has he since played a concert in Tunis but he has a regional tour of Tunisia, Greece, Senegal and France in the works and record labels calling. Earlier this month he released a new song, something of an ode to an Arab revolution, suggesting that Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya all need to be liberated. Stardom beckons. Some chose Australian Idol. El General choose facebook.
Meanwhile closer to home improv duo (plus visuals) Infinite Decimals launch their third album 2.54421781 (Dreamland Recordings) tomorrow night (Thursday the 3rd) at the Empress. Having been a regular presence around town over the last few years, their music tends to be a slow build, jangling guitars and bass with the occasional piano or percussion. There are crescendos and noodling and most pieces tend to be long and transcendent, the textures eventually melding into each other until you forget you’re even listening to music. Supports include Bonnie Mercer, a duo of Mitchell Brennan and Lara Soulio as well as a rare performance from Melbourne’s most underrated and ludicrously genius noise duo LCD (Lowest Common Denominator). Also check out some free remixes from the first Infinite Decimals album on their (that name again) facebook page.
Finally keep an eye out for some of the Womadelaide artists making their way over to Melbourne such as Turkish gypsy band Harem’de who’s master percussionist Yasar Akpence who told fragmented frequencies, “every day i do a finger exercise that makes my fingers fast. After that my fingers fly.” He played on saturday night, however there’s still time for Brazilian weirdoes Os Mutantes, and particularly Syrian techno wedding singer Omar Souleyman who’s show promises to be out of this world.