Young Tunisian rappers and hip-hop artists inspired and supported by international DJ collective

AR-131129140.jpg&MaxW=460&imageVersion=defaultBarely a man, 16-year-old musician MC Amine raps into a video camera over a mellifluous soundtrack as the streets of Tunis flash behind him. “I’ve got my way and I’m ready to go ... Don’t you forget me,” he raps with some style in a mix of English, French and Arabic.

It’s a love story but within the lyrics politics are never far from the surface as he criticises hypocrisy in society and its opposition to rap and freedoms of expression. “Believe in me, I’m making the right to choose ,” he raps.

The song I’ll be back was released on YouTube in September and produced during one of the Turntable Labs conducted in the past year by Turning Tables in their brand new studio in Tunis. The organisation with its mix of activists and musicians supports music production and freedom of artistic expression by dissident hip-hop and street artists across the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

During their labs they produce beats in collaboration with Arab producers from across the region, create high quality music videos, and amplify the messages of Tunisia’s emcees in collaboration with the local activist radio station Radio Sha3abi. The studio gives artists such as MC Amine an opportunity to produce their music free of charge.

“Turning Tables is a great idea, for real. It shows that there are good minds that work for the hip-hop movement in the world,” MC Amine says.

Support from Turning Tables is a godsend for the Tunisian hip-hop artists, who this past year have been operating just under the radar of Tunisian law enforcement. A recent wave of arrests has forced an emergent hip-hop scene underground again and the future is uncertain.

“The struggle for freedom of expression in Tunisia and the Arab World has only just begun,” Martin Fernando Jakobsen, a 31-year-old Danish DJ and the founder of Turning Tables, tells me.

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