397 Nights in Tunisia

Hi Everyone!

I know Dizzy Gillespie had never been to Tunisia when he wrote the song that made the country famous among jazz musicians, but I gotta say...he was missing out. The people are so warm, the country is so beautiful, and the culture is so rich and complex.

Most of all, the music wasn't like anything I had ever played before. It was a challenge adapting the drums to what Tunisians call "Oriental Music," but entering into this completely different music tradition, with musicians from such a different background, was enormously rewarding.

Since I'm long overdue for an update, I'll just go through some of the highlights:

Atelier Om Ezzine: A music and dance workshop in Mahdia, a coastal town near Sfax. Mahdia has its own folk dance and song, called Om Ezzine, in which the townspeople gather and dance in a circle. Here, we were performing modern renditions of Tunisian folk songs, including Om Ezzine.



String orchestra. The man in the scarf is Mohamed-Ali Kammoun, one of Tunisia's premier composer-pianists, and the one who took me under his wing. Amazing jazz arranger and pianist.

The backdrop was hand-painted by local high school art students. It was gorgeous!!!

Les trois chanteuses, et moi! Miriam, Eya, and Wiem.

Mohamed-Ali Kammoun Quintet @ Theatre Municipale de Sfax: Mohamed-Ali Kammoun took me to Sfax, his hometown, where I had some amazing Spaghetti a la Mer, met his adorable little boy, and played with this quintet. My nametag said Tiffany Ojala, as did the announcer. 

Mohamed-Ali Kammoun, keys, Marouen Allam, bass; Jihed Khmiri, percussion; Hichem Badrani, nay; Hamdi Makhlouf, oud. 

Eau Secours! (100% Water): Now this was life-changing. Not only did I get to tour around Tunisia, but I got to go to Jordan and Palestine with this amazing contemporary dance troupe. The dancers were from different countries: Tunisia, Palestine, France, Egypt, Algeria, and even Brazil. 



In good company: Me, Abdelaziz (dancer, Arabic teacher, extraterrestrial), Hiba (dancer and Palestinian activist), Amira (singer, actress, dancer, super talented), Mich (sound engineer extraordinaire), Leila (frantic assistant), Marion (dancer-fieeeerce.), Vito (yoga guru and dancer), Asma (dancer, enigmatic and super intelligent), Larbi (dope. super dope.)


My homies Haythem, Yasmine, Asma and Bruno. Some of the most beautiful (inside and out) people I've ever met. 

From Jordan to Palestine. Just two more checkpoints....oh well, might as well take a selfie!




The show dealt with the important topic of water shortage in the developing world, especially in Palestine, where water is being siphoned out of Palestine into Israel, and is completely under Israeli control. Check out the trailer (click here)!


Crossing the border from Jordan to Palestine, a few of my friends and I got detained. Strangely, the Israeli officers were more interested in why I was living in Tunisia and traveling with this motley bunch than they were about the round turtle shell-shaped cymbal case on my back, which never fails to raise eyebrows at airport security. We eventually passed through, however, and even got to go to Jerusalem for one day. 

First gig: At Restaraunt Mansoura, in Kelibia. Kelibia beach is probably the single most beautiful beach I've ever seen (I don't have photos, unfortunately, but seriously, Google it.) At this restaurant, you can actually sit outside and sit with your feet in the water while eating top-notch seafood. 

The poster was dope too. 


Orchestre Nationale de Tunisie @ Theatre Municipale de Tunis: Yes, I got to play with the National Tunisian Orchestra! Nightly rehearsals, large ensemble, Arabic/French/English invective flying all over the place. It was a blast :)





Other Photos:







La Tunisie!





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