Tunisia: Pop Star Sami Yusuf Announces First Concert in Post-Revolutionary Nation

Posted on March 14th, 2012

Tunisia will host Islamic pop superstar Sami Yusuf for the first time this April 27th, 2012 in Salle Omnisports of Radès in Tunis.

Yusuf, who hails from the UK, shot to fame in the Arab world with songs about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. His songs combine English, Arabic, and Turkish lyrics, using both Arab and Western instruments. In 2006, he was rated Islam’s Biggest Rock Star by Time magazine.

Tahar Ben Ammar, the event planner and CEO of Avantages, the agency organizing the concert, says that Yusuf had refused to come to Tunisia under Ben Ali’s regime. He had been asked by Sakhr Materi, the son-in-law of former president Ben Ali.

“Sami Yusuf generally does not like to be involved with any political party. He wants to keep the image of a committed singer,” he stated.

And according to his many international and Tunisian fans, Yusuf has done just that. His songs speak of love, peace, and devotion to Allah. Yassine Laabidi, the Project Manager for Tunisia Charity, felt that this is something that resonates with a subset of Tunisian youth.

“They sing about peace and love with noble ideas to denounce extremism and violence,” he said.

Tunisia Charity was established in 2011, shortly after the Tunisian revolution. The NGO’s mission is to support underprivileged Tunisians. On March 11th, 2012, they held a concert by Mesut Kurtis, another Islamic pop star. The event raised money for Tunisian orphans, and was an opportunity for citizens of this largely Muslim nation to help those less fortunate.

During the summer festivals, Tunisia Charity plans to invite other religious singers, such as Saber Rebai and Lotfi Bouchnak – both Tunisian.

These kinds of events are a new development in Tunisia. Since the 1990s, popularity of Western pop music has increased in the nation. Tunisian youth, in particular, took to this musical genre that allowed them to open up to the outside world.

Islamic pop sprang up as an offshoot of this trend in the early 2000s. It gained a following in the West, particularly in the English-speaking world, in countries like the UK, the USA and Canada. It blends pop music and Islamic vocals (including Sufi-style singing), earning its own musical genre – “Nasheed.”

Islamic pop’s singers became famous with Muslims living in the Western world, and in the last decade with many Arab youth. Now, it is Tunisia’s turn.

Laabidi told Tunisia Live that before the Tunisian Revolution, restrictions existed for Islamic pop singers wanting to perform in Tunisia. With the exception of Yusuf’s invitation from Materi, no Islamic pop singer could give a concert during the Ben Ali era. The old regime was suspicious of the Islamic spiritual influence of their songs, and of the type of audience they attract.

Now with more freedom in Tunisia, Yusuf is happy to come for the first time to perform for his Tunisian fans. The singer declared on his website that he has been waiting to come and perform in Tunisia for the last nine years. Avantages hopes to organize more concerts with him this summer, during the Sidi Mansour Festival in Sfax and in the Carthage International Festival in Tunis.

“Sami’s visit to Tunisia will pay tribute to Tunisians for their noble revolution which he respects. Sami is very happy to come to Tunisia,” Ben Ammar said.

Avantages will announce the selling of the concert’s tickets early in April 2012.