Radio Flouka is a resplendent guide to cultural, political, and musical synthesis in Paris's vibrant cultural belly. Amidst the chic cafes and historic boulevards, a different kind of revolution is happening—not with protests and placards, but with beats and basslines. With over 100 residents from 50 cities worldwide, Radio Flouka is renowned for its grassroots and regionally focused curation. At its helm is Haroun Ben Hmida, a Tunisian expat who weaves a narrative of integration, identity, and resistance amidst the backdrop of ongoing geopolitical tensions and social struggles affecting the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and broader Global South.

From Tunisia to Paris

Ben Hmida's migration from Tunisia to Paris in 2014 was a quest for greater opportunities amidst the economic and social challenges back home. "Everyone in Tunisia, my age and generation, wants to leave because of the economic context," Haroun recounts. When you're in Tunisia, you cannot travel so much in Europe and the world because you need a visa. The local currencies are also too low," he adds.

The journey was also marked by Haroun’s academic and professional background. "I studied computer science and am a software developer," he shares. These technical skills facilitated his transition into the Parisian job market, where he secured employment in IT, supporting his livelihood and becoming an asset in launching and managing an online radio station. "The good thing about Paris is that it's very cosmopolitan," Haroun reflects. "I met people from Egypt, Morocco, Algeria here, not in Tunisia. In Tunisia, we only have Tunisians." This diverse cultural milieu inspired Haroun to ask: "Why not create a platform that could be a voice for all these people from different countries?"  

Ben Hmida's passion for electronic music and alternative genres was another driving force, given his journey as a DJ intertwines with Radio Flouka's. His initial interest back home as a listener with Tunis' World of Bass collective grew into a deeper engagement with the DJ community in Paris. "In 2016, I started DJing, which helped me connect with many people in the music scene," he recounts. Haroun's DJ sets as D3MOR often reflect the diverse influences and genres he aims to promote through Radio Flouka. "I play a lot of electronic music, but I also enjoy mixing in hip-hop, bossa nova, and other groovy styles," he explains. 

 "Why not create a platform that could be a voice for all these people from different countries?"   - Haroun

The Genesis of Radio Flouka

"When we launched, we were three guys, but I was the one pushing the idea of the web radio," Haroun recalls the station's early days. Initially, the team intended to cover both music and political issues. "We started to focus more on music but still feature political content when possible," he notes on the station's ongoing commitment to both cultural and political programming across its channels. 

"When I started it, I didn't have a studio; it was 100% online," Haroun recalls. The first physical space for Radio Flouka was nontraditional in the suburbs of Paris. "The first studio was in an occupied building, not a squat, but a corporate squat," he explains. This arrangement provided a low-cost solution and a starting point for the station's physical presence.

Currently, Radio Flouka operates out of a studio in a suburban public garden. "We are now based in a place called Vive Les Groues, Haroun shares. This Nanterre setting offers a serene environment and aligns with the station's community-focused values. Across the locations activities, there is a strong eco and artistic focus. A compost school, food collective, honey bee sanctuary, and more can be found on its premisis. 

Central to Radio Flouka's mission is its role in fostering cultural integration among MENA expatriates in Paris. "We prioritize people from the MENA region and also focus on gender balance, pushing more for female DJs," Haroun says of its curation approach. He further emphasizes the importance of representation, noting, "When you come from another country, it's harder to get known and recognized in the local music scene." 

Cultural Integration and Community-Building

For Haroun, the concept of community extends beyond mere geography or shared interests; it encompasses a sense of belonging and mutual support. "Community is about creating a space where people can express themselves freely and connect with others," he explains. But he also acknowledges the challenges of building a community in the digital age. "Today, we often live in virtual bubbles, which can be isolating." To counter this, Radio Flouka emphasizes physical gatherings and events to foster real-world connections. "We do events to showcase the radio and connect physically with our audience," he explains. These events range from intimate sessions to larger gatherings, providing a platform for both established and emerging artists.

The events are varied and strategically planned to maximize impact and engagement through primarily club and bass music. "We try to do one event every two months, sometimes more," Haroun says. These include Friday night sessions where DJs perform live sets that are recorded and broadcasted. Some of the names appearing are Deena Abdelwaheed, Aquarian, 3Phaz, Asifeh, and more.  

The choice of venues for these events is equally important, reflecting Radio Flouka's eclectic and underground nature. "We have a kind of residency at La Station-Gare de mines," Haroun mentions, noting the importance of this partnership in establishing a regular presence in the Parisian music scene. They also work with other venues like La Marbrerie, La Machine du Moulin Rouge, and Petit Bain—spaces that support diverse musical acts and cultural events.

"When you come from another country, it's harder to get known and recognized in the local music scene."  - Haroun

Advocacy Through Cultural Expression

Radio Flouka's mission extends beyond music. It actively engages with the political dimensions that shape the MENA community's experiences. "It's crucial to raise awareness about issues like the Palestinian struggle," Haroun asserts. "We push for the emancipation of any oppressed people," he explains, underlining the station's broader societal goals. "We are all witnessing the demonization of Palestinian people and the criminalization of those who support them," he continues. "It's about supporting the right of people to live freely and not be oppressed. From the beginning, I felt the responsibility to talk about the Palestinian struggle," Haroun emphasizes. Featuring Palestinian DJs, sharing their stories, fundraisers, and consistent calls for a ceasefire are but some of the ways Radio Flouka fulfills this mission.

The Reality of Community Radio

But despite all good intentions, we consistently learn that running a community radio station is fraught with logistical and financial challenges. Haroun candidly discusses, "Lack of funding is a significant challenge." Currently, Radio Flouka operates on a donation-based model, supplemented with merchandise and external events. This has also resulted in the station being dependent on volunteers. "We rely on volunteers to help with various tasks, from programming to event coordination," he explains. "Sometimes it can be counterproductive because managing volunteers requires time and effort," Haroun admits, "but their contribution is invaluable," he admits, stressing the precarious balancing act required to maintain the station's momentum. 

Haroun envisions a structured growth strategy for Radio Flouka, ensuring the station's sustainability and enhancing its impact. A vital element of this strategy involves leveraging community funding through alternative models. "We are thinking of initiating a Patreon model," Haroun reveals. "Patreon allows us to build a community of supporters who are invested in our mission," Haroun explains. Through Patreon, supporters can contribute financially to the station in exchange for exclusive content, early access to shows, and other perks. 

"We push for the emancipation of any oppressed people" - Haroun

Under Haroun's guidance, Radio Flouka redefines the scope of radio, delivering messages of unity, diversity, resistance, and the profound impact of media in connecting disparate communities and fostering mutual understanding. "We believe that everyone needs to be free to live and be identified as they want," Haroun states, capturing the spirit that propels Radio Flouka forward.