Tunis: Medieval souqs and 21st Century Politics

Only two hours from Paris by plane, Tunis is a city of ancient Roman ruins, chaotic Middle Eastern markets and grand French boulevards. At times, Tunis can feel like any other large European city, with modern technology companies sprouting out of new developments on the outskirts, with freeways and trolly lines criss crossing the city. Yet sometimes, between the last call to prayer and the sip of a hot mint tea in an ancient cafe, it feels distinctly North African. Tunis is not only compelling for visitors with of its assault on the senses, it is also the scene of some of the most important moments in 21st century politics and history.

Tunisia was the first and, so far, only successful democratic revolution to come out of the Arab Spring. After decades of dictatorship, young Tunisians brought down the regime and are now in the process of building a new, democratic Tunisia. However the direction of the country is yet to be determined. In the dusty coffee shops and cafes of the medieval medina, locals argue over the pros and cons of democracy, dictatorship and Islam. Did the stability of the dictatorship help keep unemployment low? Did the revolution give power to Islamist groups? And if so, what does that mean for Tunisia’s liberal and secular youth? One would be hard pressed to find another city in the world where these different world views are being so openly discussed.

By Walker Dawson

 

 

Bahia of All Colors

Upon arriving in Bahia, Brazil, you can immediately feel warmth in the climate and in the people, I spent 5 days in the Municipality of Monte Gordo / Camaçari near the touristy beach of Guarajuba.

In Bahia the music, food, religion and way of life are influenced by African culture. During the Atlantic Slave trade era more slaves were brought to brazil than any other country.

Here’s a selection of my favorite pictures to give you a colorful taste of life in Bahia.

Photos and story by Elba Lacerda

 

Over The Andes

Journey into Peru’s wild and ancient north where misty mountains plunge into unexplored jungle, ancient ruins lie empty and the once-powerful Inca empire envelopes you. Around every cobble stone corner there are surprises waiting to be discovered.

Our bus from Lima climbed high over the Andes to the Huánuco, once a key Inca settlement on the road between Cusco to Cajamarca. The city is known for the nearby Temple of Kotosh, one of Peru’s oldest Andean archaeological sites and La Danza de los Negritos, a celebration in remembrance of the slaves that were brought to work in the surrounding mines.

After dipping into the jungle, we emerged in the laid back town of Chachapoyas. For centuries it was the base from which the Spanish explored and exploited the Amazon. It is nestled in ethereal cloud forest and filled uncharted ruins. From Chachas it is a two hour drive to the famous ruin of Kuélap.  This grand citadel is perched on a limestone mountain. Only twenty or so years before the Spanish arrived (and burned it down,) it was conquered by the Incas.

The next part of the journey was a real test of nerves. From Chachapoyas we climbed high up a narrow, foggy road and over Black Mud Pass (12066 ft / 3678m).  There were no guard rails just a sheer three kilometer drop to the Rio Marañon below.

Happy that we survived the journey we settled into the colonial metropolis of Cajamarca. Little remains of the Inca city, except for the massive room the Spanish forced the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa to fill with gold before they killed him and melted it down.  The havoc the Spanish wreaked on the region is on prominent display in Cajamarca. It was always on the back of my mind during the jubilant carnival festivities that overwhelmed the city in the following days. The crazy carnival in Cajamarca turns into a giant water fight.  We warmed ourselves by soaking in the city’s thermal baths, the same natural baths where Atahualpa was relaxing when the Spanish arrived in Cajamarca.

The Northern Highlands are a paradise for anyone seeking Peru’s beauty, unique culture and history without all the crowds.  Cloud forests, waterfalls, jungle covered ruins, bustling markets and the Peru’s fascinating past all await those who aren’t afraid to head off the beaten path.

Recommended listening – LA DANZA by NACIÓN EKEKO

Bringing ‘Andes-Step’ to the USA

An Interview with Nicola Cruz

Nicola Cruz is an eclectic international producer born in France of South American descent.  He has established himself as an underground icon of South America’s electronic music movement. By bridging local soundscapes from the mountains and jungles with deep latin flavored rhythms and bass heavy beats, Nicola Cruz is bringing the Andean soundscape to dance floors worldwide.

This summer Nicola performed at several popular West Coast musical festivals, including Beloved Festival in Oregon and Symbiosis Gathering in California. We were fortunate enough to meet with Nicola before his set at Symbiosis.  We delved right into his thoughts on why the South American sound has caught our attention in the U.S. and abroad.

He thinks that the “American music scene has lots of different crowds but [he] feels the response has been nice. The American listeners always show [him] a lot of love at shows, which always feels good.” His music “lacks talking but emphasizes unique samples and rhythms from [his] South American roots,” which he believes is becoming more popular in the US.

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Nicola Cruz’s music offers a beautiful balance of sounds, drawing from a verity of sources that reflect his passion for Andean culture and the landscapes, rituals and rhythms that raised him.  His vibrant mix of organic samples and deep rhythms, topped with smooth seamless melodies creates a soundscape for listeners to simultaneously journey into and move the body through.

He feels that the sonic qualities of his music is not just deeply reflective of the world he comes from, but also a personal practice of self-expression.  Thus his music is an example of his own personality, the greater identity of Andean culture and South America at large.

Ultimately, his sound and practice “came natural for [him] while living in Quito. Living there, you are really exposed to music from the mountains (Andes), the coast and the jungle. The mix of environments in Ecuador creates an interesting contrast of sub-cultures and through their soundscapes takes listeners on a whole trip from the jungle to the coast to the mountains.”

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He explained, “I really like to take music from around the country that I find through parties I attend or on vinyl records as well as natural environments, etc. Whatever I can sample from really, At the same time however, I love to record live instruments to create more sounds that I compose organically.”

We wondered if any traditional Andean Music or indigenous instruments inspired his music, but he responded, “not really, only some percussion“. Furthermore, “for me, studying the folklore and folk music is kind of a new thing. When I say that I mean in last 5 years but still I find it to be a new addition in my production. “

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The defining theme for us at Breaking Borders during our Symbiosis coverage was whether festival culture functions as a was to ‘break down borders,’ by bringing people together as one, regardless of cultural differences.  His response was simply, “yeah, well, several years I’ve been playing festivals world-wide so that’s integration right there.”  He symbolizes a new wave of artists who are breaking borders and defying cultural boxes and is the perfect example of an artist who does not fit into a single genre and is difficult to label.

He continued, “I’m known for playing everywhere from large disco clubs to smaller spaces that are more rustic and traditional, there are no limits.” This resonated with us and validated our understanding that the music of Nicola Cruz is an essential reflection of himself and his culture. A reflection which should be heard as personal musical expression, one that blurs genre lines, and returns the focus to the celebration of diversity without judgement of difference.

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We were curious what the future holds for Nicola Cruz and if any new tours, projects or any collabs are on the horizon. He replied, “I will continue to be active internationally with shows coming up in Mexico, Brazil and then back to the U.S for New Years in Los Angeles.” Additionally, “there will also be new compositions since if I don’t have that, I don’t have anything. As for upcoming  collaborations, they are secret right now but I can tell you that I am always working with others.”

As a final question, we asked Nicola if he recommended any global festivals in South America that are similar to Symbiosis. He told us that “Nomad festival in Chile is a good one coming up next year. It contains a strong global fusion element and is always looking to collaborate with people from around the world through volunteering, performance, etc.

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Albanian Adventure

I never expected to end up in Albania, but once I did, and tasted the delicious burek and coffee, met wonderful people and experienced the untapped beauty, I had a difficult time leaving.

Albania was under the tight grip of communism for nearly 50 years. Enver Hoxha ruled the country with an iron fist as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces from 1944 until his death in 1985.  During his rule Albania declared itself the first atheist state and destroyed many religious artifacts.  Communist rule collapsed in 1991 and the country has been rapidly opened itself up to the world since.

Now it is a land of opportunity,  just starting to crank it into high gear.  You can sense an eagerness to embrace western culture.  Unfortunately corruption runs rampant and the average salary is hovering around $300 a month.  This does make the country cheap for travelers who can take advantage of the wealth of natural beauty and history.  The best part is that you can do it without running into any other tourists.  Lets go on a journey back to the days when coffee and tobacco ruled and family was the only law. Visit now before its too late.

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