Activist, political science professor, and jazz fan David McNally begins his analysis of the spreading Tunisian intifada–the first revolution in the Arabic world in more than three decades–with ruminations on Dizzy Gillespie’s border-crossing composition, “A Night in Tunisia”:
Popular upheavals always carry a distinct sonic resonance. The cascading chants that reverberate through the streets, the roar of the crowd as it drives back the riot police and seizes the city square – all this and more produces an unmistakable acoustic effect. The rhythm of revolt pulsates through society, freedom music fills the air.
Ruminating about this as I watched rebellion flow from Tunisia to Algeria, Jordan and beyond, I was brought back to Dizzy Gillespie’s jazz anthem, Night in Tunisia. Gillespie’s tune emerged as part of a musical upheaval known as the bebop revolution. And its unique blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and bebop idioms makes it an early experiment in “world music,” a border-crossing mixing of genres. And so it has been with the freedom music emanating from Tunisia. It too is hopping boundaries and echoing far and wide.
[Update: Spectacular series of photos from the Tunisian intifada here. ]