Just as Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was about to be overthrown by the popular uprising, he grasped at straws attempting to arrest and silence prominent and vocal citizens who spoke out. Hamada Ben-Amor, known to his fans as “The General” was one of them.
‘The General’ has long been respected as a social leader in West African rap-induced regime change, formerly heading the group, ‘Positive Black Soul.’ However, his latest, and most vehement criticism of the dictator for failing to address the staggering unemployment and poverty, called ‘President, Your People Are Dying,’ put him on a short list of agitators that Ben Ali needed quieted.
But, the Tunisian dictator couldn’t douse what had already been set alight. The single had already become a rallying cry for the young protesters in the streets. Arresting him was an admission that they couldn’t quiet the growing voice of dissent.
This would be a great story if this song, and this artist was a single voice in the night leading people to democratic reform, but it’s more than that. ‘The General’ is just one of many musicians in Africa filling a void left by the antiquating of the politically charged work of artists like Bob Dylan, who once did the same. Now, this baton has been picked up by artists in West Africa, and it’s actually sparking real democratic change.
Singers Innocent and Emerson wrote their songs ‘Ejectment Notice,’ and ‘Pot-Bellied Boy’ respectively, and sparked a youth-driven democratic regime change as the ‘Popular People’s Party’ was overthrown. (Sierra Express Media)
And, in 2000 in Darkur, a group of rappers from the Boul Fale, or ‘don’t worry’ generation pulled a bunch of other rappers together, including Positive Black Soul, for a series of concerts in the most destitute parts of the country, activating the passions of youth to vote for change. They ended decades of dictatorial control by then President Abdou Diouf (OneWorld).
We forget the power of music to change the world here in America. We’re so bought and sold by the influences of advertising and self-censorship, that we suck on lollipops instead of feasting on steak. Hopefully, these heroes of the Muse can teach young generations of musicians and artists all over the world that peace comes when youth understand that they have a say, and they can sing it to the Gods to bring it about.
Here’s the video of the General that got him arrested and sparked a revolution: