Balti, The Tunisian rap

This article is also available in: Italiano

One of the best known artists of the entire Arab music scene. Balti has managed, thanks to his talent, to get out of decidedly uncomfortable political situations, confirming himself as one of the most important and influential artists of recent years. Very famous are his “Ya Lili” and “Clandestino”, some of the most popular songs of recent years.


Balti’s career began in 2002 when, at the age of 22, he made his debut with the band Wled Bled; in the same years he will also begin to make himself known as a producer of backing tracks, which will ensure him immediately important knowledge in the recording world. In 2003 he will in fact collaborate with the director Mohamed Zran for one of his soundtracks and as early as 2004 he will begin to perform throughout Tunisia, becoming more and more famous and popular. The problems for him, however, will begin with the outbreak of the “Arab Spring“.


Unlike many raps who at that moment in history knew fame, for Balti it will be one of the lowest points of his recording career. In fact, his connivance towards the dictator Ben Ali becomes more and more evident, forcing him to leave the music scene for a year. Like many artists with a similar history, however, he will return a few years later in grand style, also sending strong signals of love to his audience, winning them back in a very short time. In fact, since 2012 he has become more and more one of the most important rappers of the Maghreb and Arab scene, thanks also to the successes of “Ya Lili” and “Clandestino”.


The first represents the biggest success in the history of Arab music since Youtube: 603 million views, numbers beyond all logic. Just think that the inhabitants of Tunisia are 11 million to understand the scope and virality of this song, with one of the protagonists absolutely neophyte.

In fact, the song also makes his debut Hamouda, a young boy protagonist of the video together with Balti, probably one of the most viewed debuts ever. Ya Lili is also a perfect example to understand the style and dynamics of this artist, who is absolutely Arab but with a musical background that takes full advantage of the black rap of the USA.


We wanted to mention this too, not only for its popularity, but also for the text, which has remained particularly attached to us. The first time we heard this song, it was an evening spent in a reception center on the outskirts of Milan. Hearing these words, associated with men with whom we were talking until recently, with boys who, of course, had nothing different from us, made us reflect. We confess that we spent the whole trip home thinking about this text, we felt it as a sort of responsibility that was entrusted to us.

We, who saw those problems only from afar, had to do something, at least in our small way, to make those men proud for what they are and what they had gone through. The “Middle East and Surroundings” project, in a certain sense, also stems from this great desire. P.s. the video was made in Milan and most of the text is, in fact, in Italian.

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