Les dunes électroniques: a musical retreat at the gates of the Sahara
From 20th to 22nd February, the dunes of the Tunisian desert that were once home to the "Star Wars" film set in the south-eastern part of the country, will host the second edition of the most important festival of the region.
Electronic and underground music addicts will only have to wait a few weeks to savour this event. This appointment, which must not be missed no matter what, celebrates its second year with a second edition to be held from 20th to 22nd February in Nefta, a small town surrounded by the dunes of the desert, and situated in southeast Tunisia.
This festival, organised in a marginalised area, struck by the endemic problem of unemployment that affects a large portion of young people, including those with a university degree, has resulted in a true economic opening in the region. This is indeed a significant example of how culture can produce wealth, by invigorating the existing structures and generating others in inactive areas that have been long abandoned by the central Tunisian government.
Organised by Hi Life group and Panda Events agency (to whom we owe important musical events, such as PlagesÉlectroniques in Cannes, the Miami Jazz Festival, the Festival Crossover in Nice and the Festival Martiniz in Martinique), "Dunes Électroniques" also contributed, in these two years, to boost tourism by attracting a wide audience from all over Tunisia, and other countries of the Maghreb and Europe.
Today, youths around the world are connected to the same music, in line with what is happening in the United States, Europe, Jamaica, and other Arab countries. Arab youths can freely develop their tastes on the internet where there are no boundaries, but they are frustrated in their aspirations to travel to festivals in Europe to listen to their favourite musicians and DJs while meeting other young people because they do not have the same right to mobility as European youths. Therefore allowing everyone to attend the three-day "Dunes Électroniques" festival will partly make up for an injustice. Certainly not all the youths in the region will have the economic resources to go there, but at least they no longer face the prohibition to attend because they have no visa.
Let's get back to the event. After the resounding success of the first edition, which was attended by about 7,000 spectators, this second appointment should set a new attendance record. Indeed, once again, several thousand fans of electronic music will attend the festival, plus travellers wishing to discover an area that is not very well known because it was not much promoted as a destination by tourist operators. They will not be disappointed by this place at the gates of the Sahara whose cultural traditions, bathed in a particularly evocative atmosphere and suggestive landscapes, have maintained their authenticity.
With the help of the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism, in addition to local support structures, the organisers managed to involve several travel agencies and TunisAIR to offer packages combining travel and accommodation. Those who wish to enjoy the festival and at the same time spend a weekend in Tunisia will have the opportunity, at a reasonable price, to travel easily to Nefta, which is situated in a remote region of Tunisia that is usually underserved by transport. They will also be able to stay in Nefta at prices from 40 dinars (about 17 euros).
This second edition, which will be held over three days, will offer a rich programme developed from a cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary approach. Indeed, the festival's organisers explain that one of its goals is to share high-level artistic content, while demonstrating that - three years after the revolution - many high-quality projects have emerged in Tunisia. This cultural potential can be an important remedy for the loss of interest in traditional tourism, that of "tour operators", which affected the Tunisian economy.
During the event, the café El Ferdaous in the beautiful palm grove of Nefta, will be transformed into an outdoor cinema dedicated to the projection of films and documentaries created by contemporary Tunisian filmmakers.
Stéphane Brasca will host an artists' residence open to photographers who will depict, through their images, the urban context, the environment and the community responsibilities involved in the event. The projects will be featured in an ad hoc exhibition.
To pay tribute to Tunisian contemporary dance, which for many years has represented the avant-garde of the Arab world, dancers and choreographers of international fame such as Rochdi Belgasmi and Seifeddine Manai, as well as Jean Florès (director of the Théâtre de Grasse) will present a show that combines dance and electronic music.
The section of art installation, conceived by the InstitutFrançais, will present a creation of Mexican composer Murcof and artist Simon Geilfus entitled "Monolith". This visual experience, defined in the programme as "physical and contemplative", will blend in with the lunar landscape of the legendary world of Star Wars.
On 20th February at Nefta, at 6pm, the festival will open with the DJ mixset of one of the most popular Tunisian musicians of the moment: Znaidi. The live music of Skndr, Deena Abdelwahedand Haze-M will follow. On the 21st, in the fascinating scenery of the planet Tatooine in OngJmel, where George Lucas filmed Star Wars, Danish DJ Kølsch, French artists Julian Jeweil, Popof e N'to and the Tunisian Hearthug will perform from noon to 9pm. The evening will end with the Franco-Tunisian group Fabrika Crew and their Chill Out selection. On 22nd February, from noon to 9pm, again at OngJmel, the festival will present American Derrick May, who is considered to be one of the founders of the techno movement in the world, the Tunisians Enfants Malins who are travelling from their home base Montréal and the French duo Cardini& Shaw. The hypnotic sound of Francesco Tristano (Luxembourg), Fakear (France) and Fabrika Crew will follow.
Content produced in collaboration with Babelmed