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El Jem music festival targets new Tunisian audience

By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 05/08/10

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Organisers of Tunisia's El Jem International Festival of Symphonic Music are trying to familiarise more young people with classical music, but they face an uphill battle.

Classical music remains restricted to a small group of fans.

"Although there are young people in Tunisia who are interested in classical music, like the symphony, most other young people only listen to music aired by the media, and a large number of them wouldn't take the trouble to discover different genres of music," young violin player Yasmine Azaeiz told Magharebia.

"Artists performing classical music must get their art closer to young people and add their own special touches so as to attract them," she added.

In another effort to reach youth audiences, the director of the July 10th-August 7th event, Mabrouk Ayouni, told Magharebia that the House of Culture in El Jem includes a club that is training young musicians to be the nucleus of a symphonic band that will participate in the festival in the future.

"We are looking to attract young people by providing transportation and discounted tickets to enable them to discover this genre of refined music," the director of the July 10th-August 7th event, Mabrouk Ayouni, told Magharebia.

One audience attendee, Khadija Mehrzi, told Magharebia that this was her first time attending a symphonic music concert. Mehrzi, who plays the piano, enjoyed the concert because, she said, classical music was not strange to her.

"I love classical dance, and I enjoyed the ballet during the concert," said Khouther Touhemi, another young woman who was attending the performances with her husband, a cameraman who was shooting the shows.

Touhemi added that because of her job as a dance designer in a television show, it was useful and fun for to watch such concerts.

The opening soirée, which featured a concert by the Vienna Opera Orchestra, was attended by a large crowd of tourists and Tunisians alike.

But the festival programme also featured a soirée in honour of the biggest female names in Blues and African-American music.

This kind of programming diversity might change some opinions, but the social appeal of classical music remains, according to some observers.

Tarek Amara, a correspondent for al-Hurra and Reuters, said that there are people who pretend that they are lovers of refined music, as if their presence at such concerts enhances their prestige.

Journalist Najet Hassan also noted the social and economic factor that organisers must overcome to interest the younger generation.

"Despite the busy and diverse programme, most of the attendees were of the rich class or young people who were interested in playing or studying classical music."

"As to average young people, they are not interested in such genres of music, which they see as boring," Hassan added.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Houssem 2010-9-17

    Allow me to respond to the earlier comments regarding what the relationship between classical music and religion is. This is rather an initiative to encourage, which will – quite the opposite - permit an opening of minds and the rapprochement of the people. This is one of the most noble messages of music. Certainly, certain types of music convey a lifestyle or a state of mind or even a belief, but that is far from being the case with classical music. We need to stop mixing religion up in everything. We are sick of it! Today’s world is going badly.


  2. Anonymous thumb

    Ilhem 2010-8-7

    Tunsisia is a islamic country. Music or not.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    Soufiane 2010-8-7

    They represent 1 percent of the tunisian people. 99 percent don't like this classic music.They believe in imagination. We believe in Allah.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2010-8-6

    Happy Eid, Morocco!