Amina Annabi... On the bridge between cultures
Florence, January 6 2007
Amina was born in Carthage,
Tunesia in 1962. As a bilingual with French father and Tunesian mother, she’s familiar with both French and Arab and sings in both languages. Granny played the Oud (a snare instrument) and mother sang, inside the domestic realm that
from childhood to fusion making
After moving to France – aged 12 – Amina lived musical influences of Jazz and Pop. She attended Conservatory, though it was for a short time. When she was 27 she released “Yalil” (“night”),
her debut album (prod. Martin messonier). But true fame wasn’t achieved before the Eurovision Song Contest in 1991. Here she sang “le dernier qui a parlé”, a surprising entry arranged by a.o. Wasis Diop (Senegal). Representing
France, the Tunesian Diva established herself throughout Europe. I remember she was fabulous at this (victory-shared or lost?*) battle against Sweden.
Besides fame there’s is the issue of political engagement. Amina herself says the
Gulf war was her main concern those days and “le dernier qui a parlé” was a message. In the same year she sang in Leny Kravitz’ cover of “Give peace a chance”, an antiwar pledge.
Adventure meant a stronger drive to her than mere success. Her development towards Euro, Jazz & Afro Fusions in the decade to follow was – if we may believe her – a conscious choice she didn’t take with regards to commerciality.
The web domain demgmt.com claims that Annabi was into fusion even before the word existed. A disappointment to me was her cover of Billy Holliday’s “My man”
Queen of the Night
The Queen of the Night as she once was called by D. Heckman (LA Times) is not only a singer. She also invested much
of her energy in Acting, she featured in many titles, a.o. “Inch’Allah dimanche” by Yamina Benguigui (2001) and “Dream trespass” (2002) the latter a nuanced Feminist approach to childhood in a Moroccan
harem, a movie by Stephany Danan, to an autobiography by Fátima Mernissi. But she had no reason to quit singing cause there was enough work to do in making Sountracks for other movies as well and Drama series like “Odysseus”, Late
A Concert registration that I consider one of her best as far as You Tube is concerned, is from Istanbul (last year). A guest performance at Goran Bregovic’ concert, with Yael Badash.It’s far more classical than what we hear on
the album “Nomad” of course. The venue was based on Balkan genres in modern shapes with strong Arab influences. The whole thing was done by a zestful orchestra.
high quality of work
if one quotes Zekeriyah (who also reviewed Tekbilek en Al Muwasharat), Amina goes beyond more stereotypical musical styles such as Rai. I agree
on this for a 90 % though I still love a good amount of Rai when I’m in Morocco or Tunisia but also in Parisian clubs. What sometimes fails in her music however is the rhythmic complexity of some important Arab styles. Slow downs and surprising
count changes – like often seen in Raq Sharqi performances might make part of Amina’s songs more elaborate and catchy.
I’ve only met Amina
once and her philosophies spread out the beautiful naivité of a true artist. She had the same spark and charisma that illuminates her appearance on stage. I also felt this singer has a very mature vision on the research she does on the bridge
between the North African and North Atlantic music domain. And the offspring of this is in songs that keep me listening all of the time…
Keith L. Chester
* in 1991 Amina Annabi (representing France) and Carola (Sweden) both scored 146 points - a shared top position - in the Eurovision Final, but the decisive factor was
the number of "twelves" rewarded to each of both. This was in favour of Carola