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Cherif Triki Wants You to Imagine //

byMarwa Helal

cherif_triki_nakba_stage1It’s 6:00 pm and FEN just walked into the coolest after school program you ever saw, a Youth Speaks workshop at the Arab Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco, CA.

FEN Favorite – “Imagine”

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In the huddle of youth is poet-mentor, Tunisian hip-hopper Cherif Triki telling a small group of Arab-American teens to, “let me feel what you’re sayin’.” He’s helping them prepare for their upcoming spoken word showcase.

Born and raised in Tunisia, Triki immigrated to California’s Bay Area in 1999 and has been a part of the hip-hop scene ever since. “I hooked up with my good friend from back home, DJ Saif who had put this hip-hop group together called 216–which is the code to call Tunisia. I was a part of it until about 2006,” he says. “In 2007, I started working on my own with my producer, Range.”

As a solo-artist Triki has taken on a large task:

“I want to show people what it is to be an immigrant in the U.S. and what we have to deal with after 9/11. But more importantly, I want to represent my country–Tunisia is small and no one knows much about it–and hip-hop is a positive way to do that.”

His new song “Imagine” is an anthem for every dreamer, evoking the same captivating optimism as John Lennon’s track by the same name. “The concept of my new song is based on a conversation I had with my friend who lives in Tunisia. Together, we came to the conclusion that no matter where you are, we all have to go through the same struggle.”

His lyrics consist of a seamless blend of English, French and his native Tunisian dialect. “All my music is in my head, I don’t use paper.” He explains. “Sometimes it takes one week to finish a song, sometimes it takes two months. But even if it’s a two-month long song I keep it in my head.

“I keep them all there because when I perform, I don’t want to be reading off of a piece of paper. I want it to come from my heart.” And no matter what language you speak, one listen to “Imagine” will confirm that that’s exactly where his words are coming from.

You can look forward to Triki’s album The Way I See It, due to be complete by the end of 2009.

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