On my first night in Tunis this November, I was whisked away by my new colleagues to a club on the beach in La Marsa. I had my first taste of Tunisia’s trademark beer, Celtia, and danced until 3 a.m. in the morning. This wasn’t the Tunis I was expecting; the place I had heard about on the news was a divided country struggling with an ailing economy and its own identity. This Tunis, however, was full of energy, creativity, optimism, and fun. And the name of the club: Le Plug.
Located on the top floor of Kobet El Hawa (Dome of the Wind) in La Marsa, Le Plug juts out into the Mediterranean and commands a panoramic view of the sea and nearby hills of the upscale Tunis suburb of Sidi Bou Said. During the day, Le Plug offers an eclectic mix of music for intellectuals playing a game of chess or young people waiting for their turn at the tattoo parlor housed in the bar (tattoos and piercings are made by appointment, and the parlor opens at 3 p.m.). But at night, tables are replaced with speakers, and the space is consumed by heavy metal and electronic beats.
Le Plug is a collaborative project between Khaled Trabelsi, who describes his role as “manager and rock god,” and Haythem Achour, artistic director and member of Waveform, a collective of Tunisian electronic DJs and artists. Monday through Wednesday evenings, it hosts local bands that play heavy metal and classic rock, and on the weekend Waveform organizes a lineup of techno and electronic DJs. Tunisia Live sat down with Khaled recently to learn more about Le Plug, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary.
“I was working as a PR consultant for Kobet El Hawa,” Khaled explains. “And I told my boss I had an idea for the space upstairs.”
Tunisian artist Fatima Shammari was brought in to design and decorate Le Plug. Khaled says he wanted something alternative, but still appealing to a broad audience. The result is a mix of street art and graffiti with homemade furniture. Fifty-five gallon oil drums and wooden pallets have been transformed into tables and chairs. The large outside terrace overlooking the water boasts an attractive wooden bar and is encased in glass.
The name, Le Plug, is intended to conjure ideas of energy and connectivity. “People feel free when they are here, like they are in their own home. There is no judgement,” he says.
As a kid, Khaled watched rap and hip hop music on MTV. One day, he saw a Metallica video and was hooked on the heavy metal genre. “We never had that kind of music in Tunisia,” Khaled says. “I wanted a place for people to be able to play and listen to heavy music.”
“The heavy metal scene had been dead for the last ten years here in Tunis, but now we’ve hosted six international shows in the last year alone,” he continues.
One year in, Khaled is not content to rest on his laurels. His goal is to build Le Plug’s credibility with the international heavy metal community by continuing to host concerts with well-known artists. After three years, he hopes to be able to organize a massive heavy metal festival similar to ones in Europe and the United States. “I’ve been to many festivals in Europe and had a great time. I want other Tunisians to be able to have that experience.”
Khaled’s boss always wonders why Le Plug does so well. “This place is magic,” Khaled responds. “We have put a part of our souls in it.”
Le Plug is the type of place where you come with one group of friends and leave with another. Everyone is friendly and having a good time. Crazy and full of energy at night, it’s also surprisingly relaxing during the day with a beautiful view and sophisticated company.
Away from the music inside, all types of people gather on the terrace to discuss current issues facing the country. Khaled rejects the idea that these people represent a counter culture against more conservative values.
“We are not the resistance,” he insists. “We are in fact the first line of defense of the true Tunisia. Tunisia is not what people see on TV. We are not a country of Islamists. We are many things. Here you can see the real Tunisia. The message that heavy metal gives us is ‘We are free!’”
Le Plug is located in La Marsa at 1 rue Mongi Slim on the top floor of Kobet El Hawa. For more information about Le Plug’s upcoming events, please visit its website. There is a Happy Hour everyday from 3:00 – 9:00 p.m. with half-liter Celtia drafts for 5 dinar ($3.20). Food includes pizza, tapas, and pasta from the kitchen of Kobet El Hawa.