By Amel Bouslama
Interacting with her lutenist Moufadhel Adhoum and her double bassist Vincent Noiret, the contemporary multidisciplinary artist Ghalia Benali brought an intense and flamboyant evening to a large audience. Drawing from the immense repertoire of Sufi poets, she sang verses from the Arabic mystical repertoire of the Tarab, whose music was mostly composed by herself, but also songs by the diva Oum Khalthoum.
Due to the record crowd of spectators on Thursday April 28, 2022 in the courtyard of the French Institute of Tunisia, the planned program has been somewhat modified. The attentive listening of the room, the contemplation that the spiritual song requires, were not there. Regardless, the artist must be able to adapt to his audience and to new conditions.
Usually, when you attend a Ghalia Benali concert, you enter as if for and in a prayer. Everything is concentration and contemplation, translated in the following terms written by the artist: “The soul rises and the heart beats”. It is not staged to put us in an appropriate atmosphere and because the context of the holy and pious month of Ramadan invites us to do so. In his creations, the spiritual constantly resonates with the literary Arabic language. The values advocated by Islam are an integral part of the life and state of mind of the artist Ghalia Benali. His singing is spiritual in nature and goes hand in hand with his convictions of humility, sobriety, mutual aid and love for others. This ritual is in harmony with an idea dear to the artist Ghalia Benali and which constitutes the key to her art. It is the presence to oneself “Al houdhour” hence the name “El hadhra”. In this regard, she explains this state of grace by speaking of communion between the musician and his instrument, between the singer and his audience, between the singer and the musician, to the point that a fusion takes place between the two parts. At this culminating stage, where the connection is at its height – as the artist testifies in one of his publications on social networks – the rhythm of the heart of one and the other is synchronized in putting to beat together. Everything is annihilated, only the masters of the moment remain, the song and the music which rise in the air.
This is a healthy spiritual state that may not be of a religious nature, the secret of which is the intense experience of the present moment through music, song, dance. It is expressed in Arabic by “Saltana”, a euphoric state, a letting go that has no equivalent but inner joy, accompanied by a feeling of peace and serenity.
The powerful and deep voice of Ghalia rises. It stretches the moment by energizing it, sharpens the senses and awakens our awareness to what is taking place. She testifies to her concert experience when she sang in Palestine, expressing it in Arabic as follows: “The deployment of this titanic energy through song and who is this communion” Al houdhour “is one of the most important weapons of resistance capable of bombarding the morale of the dominating settler”. Further on, the artist continues by writing: “Communion is the most important state that describes our existence on earth, it is the most important experience that the human being goes through … Be present to you and do not be absent not. This conductive state of self-presence is the thread that guides Ghalia Benali’s artistic journey in everything she undertakes in art. His choices in terms of writing, musical composition, written, drawn and published text, costume and accessories granted, gestures and dances adopted, resonate. This invitation to be present to oneself is not a call to melt into a blissful adoration of the Creator, but rather to the urgency of an awareness rooted in a real complex that invites a salutary vigilance and foolproof. Ghalia Benali’s art has the characteristic of capturing our attention. On the contrary, it is not to make us escape our reality, his art invites us to be fully engaged with our experience, to give us the means to resist what hurts us in a world in loss of bearings. , where unbridled consumption, the accumulation of material goods, show business are commonplace. Singing becomes, with the authentic artist Ghalia Benali, a space of freedom freed from torment. In addition, it gives access to a dimension that metaphorically makes us grow wings to free our deepest being.