Cultures Meets in Amina’s Songs
Amina, a Tunisian singer based in Paris, performs in Arabic, French and English, and mixes traditional Arabic rhythms with romantic Parisian pop and modern dance beats.
Her voice has been heard with Grand Master Flash, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Lenny Kravitz, Manu Dibango, and Afrika Bambata.
Amina has appeared in a number of films, including Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Sheltering Sky" and "The Advocate" with Colin Firth.
"Arabic women, in their country, are expected to be totally Arabic," she told press. "But that's not being free. And I'm not like those women at all. I'm a free spirit in the body of a woman. I think I am French intellectually, in my way of thinking, but that my heart is really Arabic. And I try to make a bridge between both, between my heart and my head."
Amina's personal sense of liberation seems to have been present from an early age. Her grandmother played the oud and her mother, a poet who has provided Arabic words for most of Amina's recordings, was also an amateur singer. In her traditional family, however, women of good backgrounds did not perform in public. But seeing James Brown and Tina Turner, as well as the great Arabic singer Umm Kulthoum, when she was still a preteen in Carthage inevitably drew Amina to the stage. And when her family moved to France when she was 13, the path was opened.
Her eclecticism surfaced early. Signed to a contract by the legendary Paris music venue the Palace Theatre when she was 20, she recorded a single in which she rapped in Arabic over a piece of music by hip-hop artist Grandmaster Flash. Her first album, Ya Leil, included a track, belly dance, that mixed North African rhythms with a sample from James Brown's Cold Sweat.
In 1991, Amina made her breakthrough via the song Le Dernier Qui a Parle, the winning entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Written with Senegalese performer Wasis Diop, it was the first number by a North African artist ever picked to represent France in the competition.
After the release of her second album, Wa di ye, Amina shifted her focus somewhat, concentrating on acting and soundtrack work equally important, she focused on raising her daughter, now 15.
The arrival of her third album, Annabi, coincided with an active revival of Amina's singing career. But her approach to her art remains the same--the unflinching, open-eyed willingness to embrace whatever touches her, regardless of genre or style.
My Man is the most obvious example of her omnivorous eclecticism, but other compelling blends surface throughout her work: an Arabic version of a Yugoslavian song, Ederlezi; Dis-Moi Pourquoi, a hook-oriented pop hit in France; a trance-techno original titled Lirrili, based on a traditional Tunisian melody; the Spanish-Arabic sound of Atame, inspired by Amina's favorite film, Pedro Almodovar's "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" – Albawaba.com
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)