Sonic Weapons is a blog about the repression of music that bothers authorities, challenges the status quo and struggles against power in all its forms. Written by Thierry Côté, a PhD candidate at York University, Toronto, Canada and research associate at the York Centre for International and Security Studies.
Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoubi, aka Weld El 15, was sentenced in absentia today to two years in prison (firm) by the Court of first instance of Tunis following a complaint related to his most recent single, “Boulicia Kleb” [Cops Are Dogs], which I discussed in a post on this blog yesterday. Mohammed Hedi Belgueyed, the video’s director, and Sabrine Klibi, who co-starred in it, both received 6-month suspended sentences for their involvement in the video.
At this moment, Weld El 15 remains on the run and has refused to surrender to Tunisian authorities.
Weld El 15 - “Boulicia Kleb” [Cops Are Dogs]. This video, which targets Tunisian police explicitly and accuses them of resorting to brutality, has created quite a stir in Weld El 15’s home country of Tunisia. Mohammed Hedi Belgueyed, who directed the video, and Sabrine Klibi, a young actress who appears in it, were both arrested on 10 March by Tunisian police a week after the video was uploaded to YouTube (where it has garnered more than 200,000 views) and are now awaiting trial. Weld El 15 is also wanted for hate speech in conjunction with the video, along with six other individuals involved in making it, but has refused to turn himself in. A Facebook post by the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior quoted here states that the video “featured immoral phrases and references, public slander, and threats to security agents and judges and requires criminal punishment.”
In an exclusive interview with French weekly Les inrockuptibles, Weld El 15 expressed his confusion about what is happening to him: “[In France] when NTM rap “Fuck the police”, there is a buzz, there is controversy, cops complain, but no one threatens you. Here they have lost their minds, I have to other choice to hide in my country.” [my translation] According to Weld El 15, the Ministry of the Interior is trying “to suffocate the youth, to kill the voices that oppose them” and to “draw the people’s attention away from the country’s crisis”. He adds that although he raps that “cops are dogs, that if I had a gun I’d kill one, or that I’d strangle one like a sheep on Eid [a major Muslim holiday]”, these “are only metaphors” to express “an anger felt here by a lot of young people at some of the police’s methods.” Weld El 15 also says that he has no regrets about the words that he uses and that even though he feels “like a terrorist” his own country, he is not afraid and “will write more songs like this one.”
You can read the full interview here [in French], and you can read more about Belgueyed and Klibi’s arrests (including reactions from human rights activists) here. As of today (21 March), Weld El 15 remains on the run from authorities.
I plan on posting in more detail about the way in which the “Harlem Shake” has gone from viral YouTube phenomenon to hit single to being a tool for protest in countries across North Africa and the Middle East (especially in Tunisia). In the meantime, here is a video of a demonstration in front of the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo that features Baauer’s hit song. The young Egyptian interviewed in the video says, “We figured we should demonstrate in a fun way. Instead of protesting and getting beat up, let’s have fun, laugh and then leave.”
Sharia is a whole world,” [Hamada Ben Amor, aka El Général] says. “In sharia there is law and science. There are scientists from all over the world who have found answers in the Koran. It is a comfort and a luxury. Under sharia all Tunisians will be brothers and sisters. Sharia is the one solution.
You may remember Hamada Ben Amor, better known under his stage and recording name El Général, as a Tunisian rapper whose song “Rayes Lebled” was identified by some as triggering factor in the spring 2011 popular uprising in Tunisia that eventually spread across the Arab world (I have posted about him on several occasions). This song has also - somewhat mistakenly, since it was not embraced outside of Tunisia - been described (as it is in the piece quoted here) as the Arab Spring’s unofficial anthem.
In an interesting twist - but an altogether unsurprising one to those who have followed the complicated outcomes of these popular movements in many countries - Ben Amor expressed his disappointment in Tunisia’s current government in an interview with Germany’s Deutsche Welle this week and suggested that his country should adopt a more openly Islamist regime. Ben Amor argued that “Ennahda, the [moderately Islamist] party in power, is more political than religious and this is what is disappointing”, and added, that “[s]haria is the one solution” to the country’s persistent socioeconomic problems.
EMBED (featuring Shea Seger) - “Shame (The Stage Will Fade to Black)”. The latest single by West London’s EMBED, a teaser from their forthcoming LP Sonic Solutions, features guest vocals by Texas singer-songwriter Shea Seger and offers the group’s usual mix of nervous, chopped up beats (akin to Roni Size fooling around with tracks from the Prodigy’s Music From the Jilted Generation) and angry political lyrics. While the group’s heavy reliance on direct references to controversial 9-11 Truth movement theories in rhymes such as ”a single double then a triple collapse but fire can’t burn through steel in an hour” and “Liberty taken United Stately 9/11 truth needed greatly” unnecessarily dilutes its anti-propaganda, anti-corporate and anti-war message, Seger’s catchy, hazy choruses of “It’s just a shame shame shame” - which bring to mind Dawn Penn’s “No No No” - help to offer a respite from the politically charged, dense verses.
You can watch “Shame (The Stage Will Fade to Black)” as well as all of EMBED’s music videos (including those for its debut LP, which shares a title with the name of this blog) on the group’s official website, find the group’s latest news on its official blog, and download this song on its Bandcamp page.