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Why this traditional instrument is back on Tunisia's music charts

A wave of nostalgia has hit Tunisian clubs after the success of a 1990s-themed Ramadan TV series inspired by traditional mezoued music.

On a strip of beach outside the Tunisian capital at the Yuka night club, party-goers queue at the bar wearing red traditional “checheya” hats, jasmine behind their ears and floral scarves over their heads and shoulders. It's 10 p.m., and there is barely room to move in the packed venue, where thousands of Tunisians have come to dance to old “mezoued” songs. 

The event is one of a number of club nights inspired by the TV series “Nouba” (Mystic Trance), a story of love, vengeance and mezoued music. The series takes its cue from a 1991 concert by that name that put mezoued (commonly spelled “mezwed” in English) back on stage after years of being sidelined as “low culture.” Named after a type of North African bagpipe, mezoued traveled from Libya to Tunisia, where songs were composed and sung in rural communities, many of whose residents would later migrate to the capital, Tunis. 

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