Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tunisia women mix beats and break strong taboos



Tunisia women mix beats and break strong taboos

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Yasmina Gaida (centre) – known professionally as Fouchika Junior – gives a demonstration before students during a DJ mixing class as part of the ‘DJ Academy for Girls’ at the French Institute of Tunisia in Tunis on November 25. AFP

Tunisia women mix beats and break strong taboos

Fouchika Junior adjusts her headphones, flicks a slider and seamlessly drops the next tune – one of Tunisia’s rare female DJs, she is helping other women break into a male-dominated world.

“DJing isn’t very common among women,” she said.

“I’m trying to give them an opportunity so they understand that a woman can be a DJ in Tunisia – or anywhere.”

The 29-year-old, whose real name is Yasmina Gaida, works in cinema by day.

But since taking a three-day DJing course five years ago, she has mastered the decks and now plays various styles of house music in clubs across Tunis.

At the French Institute in central Tunis recently, she was giving Nada Benmadi, 25, her first lesson in mixology.

“I want to bring music lovers together to dance and spread positive energy,” said Benmadi, an aspiring sound engineer who wants to one day open her own production studio.

‘Toxic’ environment

But “being a female DJ in Tunisia, that makes most families afraid,” she said.

“You get home late at night, and it’s mostly a male thing.”

Fouchika, whose DJ name means “hyper” in Tunisian Arabic, said club owners were sometimes wary of hiring a female DJ for a night.

“When it’s a man, they say ‘OK, send me your profile on SoundCloud’, and they can go and mix,” she said, referring to the streaming platform where DJs and musicians can share their work.

“But when it’s a girl, they ask, ‘have you ever mixed before?’”

“They see it as a technical thing and so not really made for girls,” said the DJ, wearing a loose blue shirt and her hair in an Afro.

Fouchika said her parents – a make-up artist and a hotel entertainer – didn’t stand in the way of her passion, but some of her students face more resistance.

“Sometimes I have to go and meet their families to tell them, ‘everything’s OK, we’re not doing anything bad, just music’,” she said.

While Benmadi said family members had encouraged her to do what she loves, many women in Tunisia face obstacles to pursuing their interests.

“DJing isn’t seen as ‘safe’ for Tunisian women,” said Olfa Arfaoui, who set up the DJ Academy for Girls in 2018.

“It’s seen as a difficult trade dominated by men, and which happens in an environment that can be toxic or even violent for women.”

‘Social change’

But now, she added, “women have started entering the clubbing space, which is getting used to their presence”.

In three years her academy, which she claims was the first in the Arab world, has trained about 100 young women.

And in a country with 40 per cent youth unemployment, and where only 28 per cent of women work, the hobby allows some “to use their passion for music to earn money”, Arfaoui added.

The academy also offers courses on sound engineering and design as well as music production.

Arfaoui said it all helped boost students’ self-confidence.

“Music helps them speak more freely and puts them at ease,” she said, adding that it can also be “a tool for social change, and to create more diversity and equality.”

Former student Roua Bida, 33, said she wanted to fight against men who “think we’re going to take away their space”.

Along with Fouchika and others, they are setting up a collective of female DJs.

“If we each battle on our own, we’ll always have the same problems, but if we’re united . . . people will give us a chance,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’