The Musical Scene in Tunisia in the 19th Century - Through the Works of European Travellers
Abir Al Sharif: a researcher in music and musical sciences. She is in her fourth year of PhD in Cultural Sciences, majoring in Music and Musical Sciences at the High Institute of Music in Tunisia.
The paper studies the musical scene in Tunisia during the nineteenth century through the writings of travellers and Western diplomats. It documents the Europeans’ perceptions of the music in Tunisia at that time.
There is no doubt that reviving the image of the Tunisian musical scene in that period bears some risk, but the study looks to documented and confirmed historical facts with an aim to bring us closer to that image as much as possible. The preference to refer to the texts of European travellers and diplomats was for for several reasons, the main one being their interest in music in general (which is clearly evident in their observations made while touring the Arab and Tunisian countries). In addition to this, that period did not receive adequate studies on music, especially between the beginnings of the nineteenth century to the period of French protectorate.
Our focus in this abridged research will be on some of the works of European Orientalist scholars, travellers and diplomats that have either made music their main subject or touched on it indirectly. We have studied these works and classified their subjects and elements in order to present a general view of the musical life experienced in Tunisia in the nineteenth century.