Tunisian Rap Song Turns into an Anthem for Youth

On 14 September, Tunisian artists Hamzaoui Med Amine and Kafon released their newest song ‘Houmani’. With more than 3.4 million views on YouTube so far, the song has become an anthem for Tunisian Youth.

The video clip which only cost 250 dinars (around 150 USD) to produce, depicts residents of a disadvantaged neighborhood as they go through their daily lives.

In the Tunisian dialect, the adjective Houmani derives from the noun Houma, which could be translated to a ‘working-class district’.

Ahd Kadhem from Iraq explains the term Houmani [ar]:

حوماني: يعني يسكن بمنطقة شعبية والمنطقة الشعبية في تونس يسموها حومة . . . والرآب يتكلم على المناطق الشعبية إلي تجمع الطبقة الفقيرة من الشعب إلي نادر ما يذكرهم مسؤول أو شخصية مشهورة

Houmani refers to someone living in a working class area. A working class area in Tunisia is called Houma…And rap speaks about these districts inhabited by the poor class, which officials and famous personalities rarely talk about

An Alien listening to Houmani. Carticature by

An Alien listening to Houmani. Caricature by ZOOart

In the song, Hamzaoui and Kafon describe how life is like for youth living in working-class neighborhoods in Tunisia. The song lyrics say:

We are living like trash in a garbage can…[life] is suffocating here

Blogger Mehdi Lamloum explains howHoumani has been successful [fr]:

7oumani, une chanson simple, avec un titre étrange et un clip produit a peu de frais a créé des débats énormes ces dernières semaines…Et c’est ce qui est intéressant dans cette oeuvre. Elle est entrée rapidement dans la culture populaire en générant des conversations et débats sur plusieurs sujets…La question des quartiers populaires vs quartiers riches, même si elle n’est pas directement abordées dans la chanson, y est très présente. Une question a émergé a ce propos sur … qui a le droit d'écouter 7oumani?
Est-ce que les habitants des “quartiers riches”… ont le droit de s’identifier au quotidien que relate 7oumani?

Houmani, a simple song with a strange title and a video clip that did not cost much, has generated big debates these recent weeks.The song has quickly blended into the popular culture generating several conversations and debates…The issue of working class neighborhoods vs rich neighborhoods, though not directly tackled in the song, is very present. A question has been raised regarding this: who has the right to listen to Houmani? Do residents of ‘rich neighborhoods’ have the right to identify themselves with the everyday life recounted by Houmani?

He adds:

Ceux qui critique la chanson sur un point de vue musical ont parfaitement raison…
Mais ils devraient voir ce qu’il y a au-delà du morceau lui-même : une oeuvre qui a réussi a transcrire une partie de ce que ressentent les tunisiens, qu’ils viennent des quartiers populaires ou pas, qu’ils vivent le quotidien décrit ou pas…

Those who criticize the song from a musical perspective are totally right. But, they need to see what is beyond the piece: the work has succeeded in transcribing part of what Tunisians feel, whether they come from poor districts or not and whether they are living the everyday life described in the song or not…


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