Emel Mathlouthi

Tunisia

Biography :

Emel Mathlouthi, born in Tunis in 1982, has in recent years become one of the most prominent voices on the Arabic scene, the deep voice of a diva, with unbridled energy and assumed freedom.
 
Nothing foretold this destiny, however. True, she first went up on stage when only eight years old, in a theatre in the Tunis suburbs. And true, in childhood, she was surrounded by her father’s vinyls, becoming familiar with classical music and with Arab and Latin American protest music. But it was not until age 15 that she began singing. And since fate cannot be escaped, at her university friends’ insistence, she created a rock group. It was then that she took up the guitar.
 
Through this precocious but long learning period, she included among her influences Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, the Egyptian Chikh Imam and the Lebanese Marcel Khalifa. Listening to her, it becomes obvious that her voice borrows from Joan Baez and also from fado singer Amalia Rodriguez. Her musical styles alternate Oriental sounds and rock, sometimes tinged with hip hop and Gypsy music.
 
On stage, she conveys intensely the emotion and depth of the lyrics she writes, in both Tunisian and literary Arabic. She also composes her melodies. In 2006, she was a finalist for the RMC Middle East award. The following year, she settled in France. Her lyrics then took on a more nostalgic form: she sang of the pain of exile, of nostalgia for the homeland, of hopes and disillusions.
 
She soon became one of the most emblematic figures in current Arab musical styles. The Tunisian revolution, early in 2010, put her in the frontline of free and hoped-filled young artists, determined to take advantage of this fresh breeze. In 2012, she brought out her first album, Kelmti Horra, which means “My word is free.” 
 
Her success did not diminish in the years that followed. She took part in 2013 in the first concert given by women soloists at the Tehran opera house since the 1979 Revolution and participated in the documentary film No Land’s Song by Ayat Najafi, which recounts that event. Her song Kelmti Horra, which had become an anthem during the Jasmine Revolution in 2010, was performed by a large orchestra during the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
 
Her second album, Ensen, was released in early 2017. In it, electro music meets the sounds of traditional instruments, and the artist turns to emotion to go beyond genre and belonging. While Emel Mathlouthi has moved outside the context of the Arab revolutions, her songs continue to convey a sense of commitment, in particular against the inequalities of the contemporary world. She calls for hope and struggle in songs directed toward youth and the future. Now based in New York, the artist continues to explore and try new paths, always in search of freedom.

Emel Mathlouthi

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Concerts of the artist:

Albums :

Festival International Nuits d'Afrique -Compilation 2012