“I dedicate this album to all those who gave their lives so that one day Tunisia might be free. The road is long but every day…a new sun rises and new hopes emerge…and we are these hopes.” EM Gifted with a powerful, melodic voice singing rebellious lyrics about social justice, singer, songwriter and guitarist Emel Mathlouthi has been hailed as the ‘The Joan Baez of Tunisia’ and the ‘Fairuz of this Generation’. Her captivating style fuses rock and folk with oriental and trip hop influences. The range of Mathlouthi’s eclectic tonality is stimulated by musicians from around the world. Inspired by Marcel Khalife and influenced by Bjork, she has recorded with Tricky and performed with Dead Can Dance.
Her track ‘Kelmeti Horra’ (My Voice is Free) went viral in the early months of 2011, being sung on the streets of Tunis, gaining her the title as ‘The Voice of the Tunisian Revolution’. Incorporating the words of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Mathlouthi started writing lyrics at the age of 15. Her political message and direct aim against the then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali lead her to being banned by the Tunisian government.
Dreaming and singing of revolution since her schooldays, after the 2011 protests across the Arab world, her music began to address the people’s demands for change. Sampling sounds of protest and including sound bites of deposed presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak’s speeches, her songs became directly in tuned with the zeitgeist. But it was her presence at demonstrations, singing into journalists’ microphones that strengthened her credibility. Her music, new and old, was shared across social media, creating a soundtrack to the Arab Spring.