'brilliant work' - Amnesty International
Tse Tse Fly Middle East was a non-profit arts and activism that existed from 2015 until 2023.
Formed in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in September 2015 by artist, curator and writer Simon Coates, Tse Tse Fly Middle East started life as a monthly experimental music, noise and film night in the Al Barsha district of the city. Intended as a safe space for multi-media artists, we showcased local experimental musicians, noise-makers, film-makers and visual creatives, with the night spawning a collective of like-minded individuals. Based in London from 2017, and influenced by rights and censorship issues endemic in the Middle East and surrounding regions, Tse Tse Fly Middle East became a non-profit platform that produced and curated live events, radio work, interventions and artworks in the name of human rights and freedom of speech. In February 2020 Coates received a Special Mention for his work with Tse Tse Fly Middle East in the Amnesty International Brave Awards.
Since January 2016 Coates produced a monthly, two-hour Tse Tse Fly Middle East radio programme for UK arts station Resonance EXTRA, showcasing experimental music from practitioners from the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Other radio productions included a monthly deconstructed noise mix for Moscow-based radio station New New World Radio by Tse Tse Fly side project Ubu Kung, as well as Tse Tse Fly Further East, a series of programmes examining the history of the noise scenes in South East Asia, and one-off productions for the likes of UK’s Noods Radio and London's Art Licks weekend.
In the live environment, Tse Tse Fly Middle East produced events in partnership with human rights and freedom of speech charities and NGOs, typically mixing curated experimental short films with live music and performance art. We partnered with Reprieve, Amnesty International, Index On Censorship, English PEN, War On Want, Labour Behind the Label and others in order to highlight their work. Tse Tse Fly Middle East was commissioned to produce live events for the Al Quoz Arts Festival (Dubai), the Maraya Art Centre (Sharjah), the Other Worlds Festival (Blackpool), Fringe Arts Bath Festival (UK) and more. Tse Tse Fly Middle East interventions were intended to be invigorating, thought-provoking and unpredictable.
Sonic experimentation was a tenet of our work and Tse Tse Fly Middle East produced four albums of adventures in sound, music and noise. In late 2016, UK record label Must Die Records released the debut Tse Tse Fly Middle East album Easy Listening Vol.1. The set featured solo and collaborative tracks from members of the original UAE-based Tse Tse Fly Middle East collective and extended family, and garnered radio play and praise from the likes of Andrew Weatherall. The album was re-released in 2018 with bonus tracks. In November 2018 we self-released the Instruments of the State album - and, again, Andrew Weatherall featured tracks from the set. In September 2019 we partnered with UK charity FORWARD to release an album of spoken word and experimental music entitled These Are Our Friends Too that highlights issues around female genital mutilation. Tracks from the set were featured on, among others, the BBC radio programme Late Junction and Resonance FM programme Sonic Imperfections. In late 2020 we embarked on the This Is Kafala project, creating an online exhibition and album of the same name. The project drew attention to the kafala system of modern slavery that is used to abuse migrant workers in the Middle East. Critically acclaimed, the This Is Kafala album received attention from global social / political magazine New Internationalist, among others.
In 2018 the British Library deemed our work as culturally significant, and requested permission to add our audio productions to their archives. In March 2019 we were invited to spend a month making work in artist Yinka Shonibare’s London studio as part of his Guest Projects initiative, during which we produced a gallery exhibition from our own collection of production visuals, a film night highlighting the work of experimental film-makers based in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus and an evening of live experimental music and performance art.
In 2020 we have put together four online exhibitions on the Tse Tse Fly Middle East website. Station Electric was a collection of radio documentaries and podcasts on themes of civil rights and censorship, Okay. Ready. Let's Do It. brought together a selection of free-to-use online noise-making tools, and India Shorts was a curated online film festival of short animations, dramas and documentaries. All sat alongside the This Is Kafala exhibition. In June 2020 India Shorts was featured in Mumbai's newspaper Mid-Day.
In 2022 we launched The Radio At Night, an open-ended project that manifests as an online archive and set of tools intended to inspire others to make political statements and form movements to instigate change.
Tse Tse Fly Middle East was a loose collective of like-minded, risk taking artists, activists, film-makers, and experimental musicians. Our projects page features a comprehensive list of our events and interventions. Most Tse Tse Fly Middle East radio productions are archived here.
'(Tse Tse Fly) deliver a sting to the hindquarters of authority, making a noise as it does so' - New Internationalist