If young Tunisians were to describe themselves in one word, for most it would be 'hopeless'. Often even 30 year olds are still living at home, unmarried, unemployed... despite often having masters degrees and other qualifications. There are just not really many jobs, since most of the country's wealth is in what you own rather than what you do (small businesses / real estate / land ownership), so wealth is only really held by older generations. Basically young people's parents just give them pocket change to sit in cafes all day and complain. They are not valued by society really at all, despite being qualified and wanting more. That is why, per capita, Tunisia over the years has been the highest recruitment base for ISIS; not because they are extremist Muslims, but because they are bored and purposeless. The nature of these issues of course is amplified in the music scene.
We all know what happens when the average person in the West tells their parents they would rather be a musician than finish university or 'get a real job'. While much of the culture is really beautiful, some of the traditionalist undertones in the culture make pursuing music even more discouraged, especially if it is not 100% 'traditional'. The ironic thing is that because there are few jobs, the musicians have time to get really good, and the best are some of the only young people really making any money of their own. BUT they are still very rarely valued as individuals. The only places to play are almost always limited to alcohol venues, and the managers force all bands to play the same covers, more or less photocopied. I'm not kidding; I could give you a list of 60 songs, send you to any band in any venue any night, and I doubt they'd play anything off the list. They hate it, because they are talented, but call themselves music prostitutes. (Generally traditional style is usually not 'allowed' to be progressive, even though the musicians want to experiment, and according to current norms, to deviate from tradition usually means settling for just English & Latin pop covers.)
This is where the business comes in. The business will aim to bless Tunisian musicians by facilitating them with currently lacking affordable but quality services. The heart will be to invest in musicians, be a conduit for creativity to be pushed, encourage them, challenge them, assist them however possible, give them a platform through their work to express themselves, etc.
The business will be consist of:
- a simple, but quality recording studio (and I already have connections to resources such as 2 big radio stations, who have promised they will put original stuff on as soon as they have it). There are also only about 5 people in the whole country right now who can adequately mix and master.
- a practice space for bands (since almost all musicians live in apartments where they cannot practice as a band, and there are only a couple small practice spaces in the capital for almost 200 bands). The other cool thing with this space is that it also opens options for band coaching, running group workshops, etc.
- several private music classrooms (since the musicians usually aren't doing anything during the day, and this would provide the opportunity for more income & work experience for them, while investing in the next generation of Tunisian musicians)
- There is also vision to expand into a live music cafe. Currently the only places to see music live are for the most part just in lounges/clubs after 11pm, which cuts out the majority of people in a Muslim country from ever getting to enjoy live music. It also can be a hub where creativity is guaranteed to be encouraged. While coffee cannot fund gigs like alcohol can, there is basically no competition, so charging covers to pay bands would be easy.
Here's where I am wondering if you want to be a part of this. I will legally have to go back as a contractor, to get the ball rolling, before expanding into the full business. However, the more that is available through donors rather than legitimate investors (who need a return with interest), the more affordable I'll be able to be for the musicians. I have put in my savings already, but that was only a few thousand. Now I have turned to searching for for people who are interested in helping out, and investing in the passions and futures of especially young Tunisian musicians. I need a minimum of $19,000 USD ($23,000 CAD) to cover buying decent used gear, shipping it there (since you can't buy much quality stuff there), paying duty on the gear, and covering all initial set-up costs for licensing and property set-up. If you are able to contribute even a little towards this, I and the many Tunisian musicians the business will get to serve would appreciate it SO much!
(In case you are wondering why this page is set up through Ontario, I have been back in North America for a number of months getting further professional training, am now working on funding, and am aiming to return in late October. Also, if you are confused by the recent budget drop, I figured out a way to save money. Still, $19,000 USD ($23,000 CAD) is the bare minimum needed, and anything extra allows for more quality/options.)
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this & for your consideration! Please don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or want to follow up! I can be reached at: [email redacted]
- George Wanjohi
- Josh Richardson
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