Emel Mathlouthi

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Emel Mathlouthi
Emel Mathlouthi - Cabaret Frappé 2012.jpg
Emel Mathlouthi in 2012
Background information
Born (1982-01-11) January 11, 1982 (age 35)
Tunis, Tunisia
Occupation(s) Singer songwriter music producer
Instruments Electric guitar
Years active 2008–present
Labels Partisan Records, Little Human Records
Website www.emelmathlouthi.com

Emel Mathlouthi (Arabic: آمال المثلوثي) (born January 11, 1982) is a Tunisian singer-songwriter best known for her protest songs "Ya Tounes Ya Meskina" ("Poor Tunisia") and "Kelmti Horra" ("My Word is Free"), which became anthems for the Tunisian revolution. Her first studio album, also titled Kelmti Horra, was released worldwide by Harmonia Mundi in 2012 to critical acclaim. Her second album, "Ensen, was released by Partisan Records in 2017, also to comsiderable acclaim.


Early life and career[edit]

Emel Mathlouthi first began writing songs as a student. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities and the apathy of her classmates and family, she began writing political songs such as "Ya Tounes Ya Meskina" ("Poor Tunisia"). In 2006 she was a finalist in the Prix RMC Moyen-Orient Musique competition.[4] She decided to move to Paris, France, in 2008 when the Tunisian government banned her songs from radio and TV.[5] Although banned from Tunisian airwaves, bootlegs of her live performances in France circulated on the internet in Tunisia. After the death of Mohamed Bouazizi she dedicated an Arabic version of the Joan Baez song "Here's To You" to him.[6] She was recorded on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba singing "Kelmti Horra" to protesters and it became a viral video.[7][8][9] She has given concerts in Egypt and Iraq, and performed in Canada at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and the Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal.[1] At the beginning of July 2012, she gave a groundbreaking concert in Baghdad, Iraq.[10] On July 28 she gave a concert at the Sfinks Festival in Belgium, where she received a standing ovation for her cover of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah".[11] In 2013, after her first concert in Cairo since the revolution, Ahram Online described her as "The Fairuz of her generation". She opened for Dead Can Dance in the festival Les nuits de Fourvière in Lyon and performed at the WOMAD Festival at Charlton Parkin the UK. Israeli authorities refused to let her enter Ramallah to perform, so she sang in front of a camera in Jordan. The small show was broadcast to the Palestinian audience in a theater in Ramallah.

In 2015 she was invited to perform at both the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony and The Nobel Peace Prize Concert along with A-ha and Aurora, where she performed two renditions of her song "Kelmti Horra," one accompanied only by a guitarist, Karim Attoumane, and the other with a full orchestra and chorus. The concert was hosted by Jay Leno, who praised her in the concert press conference as being the first Arabic-language singer to catch his attention.

Debut album: Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free)[edit]

Emel Mathlouthi released her debut, Kelmti Horra, in January 2012. The album was influenced by Joan Baez, Massive Attack, and Björk. As a politically aware musician, the songs in the album have made promising duty to speak out on any injustice that Emel has witnessed about her beloved Tunisia. While she sings about humanity and a better world, the success of this album has made her to reach many more people in different parts of the world. As the song, "Kelmti Horra" (My Word is Free), was considered as "the anthem of the Arab Spring," it has been Emel's most famous song so far. The outstanding success of this songs led her to perform the song on December 11, 2015, during the award ceremony of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, which was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet.

Second album: Ensen (Human)[edit]

Ensen (Human), the sophomore album of Emel was released on February 24, 2017 by Partisan Records. The album was recorded in seven countries including Iceland, Sweden, France, and the US.[12] Producers of the album include the former Björk collaborator, Icelandic producer Valgeir Sigurðsson and her main collaborator French/Tunisian producer Amine Metani.[13] The first single off the album, "Ensen Dhaif" (Human, Helpless Human), was named as "best new track" by Pitchfork on February 16, 2016. As Mathlouthi explains, the song is dedicated to the "people that have to carry the weight and all the struggles so that a very small percentage can enjoy the power."[12]


Mathlouthi lists her primary musical influences as Joan Baez, Marcel Khalife and Sheikh Imam.[12] Her other musical influences include Janis Joplin, Sinéad O’Connor, Led Zeppelin, James Blake, Susanne Sundfør, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters and Fuck Buttons.[14]


Date City Country
July 17, 2010 Arles France
Date City Country
May 26, 2012 Angoulême France
June 18, 2012 Bursa Turkey
June 19, 2012 Konya Turkey
June 21, 2012 Tunis Tunisia
June 22, 2012 Lisbon Portugal
June 24, 2012 Audincourt France
June 28, 2012 Montgiscard France
June 30, 2012 Châlons-en-Champagne France
July 3, 2012 Baghdad Iraq
July 7, 2012 Rudolstadt Germany
July 8, 2012 Rudolstadt Germany
July 10, 2012 Stuttgart Germany
July 11, 2012 Hanover Germany
July 14, 2012 Vancouver Canada
July 17, 2012 Montreal Canada
July 19, 2012 Robion France
July 21, 2012 Barcelona Spain
July 22, 2012 Mèze France
July 23, 2012 Grenoble France
July 28, 2012 Boechout Belgium
August 3, 2012 Floreffe Belgium
August 4, 2012 Brest France
August 19, 2012 Zurich Switzerland
September 22, 2012 Meaux France
September 23, 2012 Barcelona Spain
Date City Country
January 28, 2013 Paris France
March 12, 2013 Meylan France
March 16, 2013 Balzac France
March 21, 2013 Niort France
March 22, 2013 Montlouis-sur-Loire France
March 23, 2013 Ludwigshafen Germany
March 30, 2013 Saint-Brieuc France
April 2, 2013 Verdun France
April 4, 2013 Vire France
April 5, 2013 Brest France
April 13, 2013 Marseille France
April 18, 2013 Innsbruck Austria
April 19, 2013 Bregenz Austria
April 26, 2013 Cairo Egypt
May 10, 2013 Ljubljana Slovenia
May 16, 2013 Istanbul Turkey
May 24, 2013 Rabat Morocco
June 14, 2013


June 22, 2013 Miramas France
June 27, 2013 Moissac France
July 28, 2013 WOMAD UK
June 30, 2013 Amman Jordan
July 1, 2013 Ramallah Palestine
Date City Country
March 8, 2014 Adelaide Australia


Contributing artist


  1. ^ a b Varty, Alexander (July 12, 2012). "Vancouver Folk Music Festival performers use music to make a difference". Vanvouver Free Press. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  2. ^ Curiel, Jonathan (May 9, 2012). "Emel Mathlouthi: The Arab Singer Who Inspired Tunisians in Revolution". KQED. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ Caroline Kulsum and Noor Al Khatib (25 June 2011). "Minstrels of the Arab Revolution". Gulf News. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2012. Emel Mathlouthi, a Tunisian musician is yet another protester who asks for equality and tranquility in her native country: The morphine we've been injected with for 23 years is no longer enough to dull our pain. She had always said that one of the artists that she looked up to the most was Bob Dylan, she considered him to be her idol. 
  4. ^ "1e édition du Prix RMC Moyen-Orient Musique" (in French). RFI Musique. June 16, 2006. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  5. ^ Westall, Sylvia (July 4, 2012). "Voice of Tunisian spring calls for justice, equality". Reuters. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ "A Song for Bouazizi by Emel Mathlouthi". France 24 (in Arabic). January 18, 2011. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ Daniel Gumbiner (2012). Now That We Have Tasted Hope: Voices from the Arab Spring. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 22. ISBN 1614520208. 
  8. ^ Mathlouthi, Amel. "My word is Free, English Subtitled (Tunisian revolution)". youtube.com. 
  9. ^ "Emel Mathlouthi, le jasmin et la voix". Mars Actu (in French). July 20, 2012. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2012. 
  10. ^ Westall, Sylvia (July 11, 2012). "After Saddam and war, Iraq's musicians look to home". Reuters. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  11. ^ Crooijmans, Charlie. ""In France I found my Tunisian identity"- an interview with Emel Mathlouthi". NewsAndNoise.Wordpress.com (self-publicised). Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Pelly, Jenn (September 14, 2016). "Why the World Needs Emel Mathlouthi’s Anthems Against the Dictatorship Machine". Pitchfork. 
  13. ^ "Store | Partisan Records". shop.partisanrecords.com. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  14. ^ Olbrich, Suze (February 24, 2017). "Emel Mathlouthi: ‘It’s important to be out there as a creative woman from a Muslim culture'". The Guardian. 
  15. ^ Neil Spencer, "Emel Mathlouthi: Kelmti Horra – review", The Observer, February 19, 2012.

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