My Word Is Free

07/04/2017Tunisia's Emel Mathlouthi Drops A Powerful Mix Of Traditional North African Music

Back in 2011, Tunisia played a significant role in the uprising now known as the Arab Spring with its own revolution, which resulted in the ousting of then president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and lead to the implementation of a democratic parliamentary system. Around the same time, Tunisian singer/songwriter Emel Mathlouthi landed a viral hit with her powerful song "Kelmti Horra" (Arabic transl. 'my word is free'), which went on to become an anthem of sorts among Arab Spring protesters.

Earlier this year, she released her latest album "Ensen" on Partisan Records, alongside her main collaborator, the French/Tunisian producer and physicist Amine Metani. Recorded in seven countries across three continents the album's expansive soundscapes feature additional production by Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Ros, Bjork) and Johannes Berglund (The Knife, Shout Out Louds, Ane Brun). Leading up to the album, Emel put together a noteworthy 27-minute mix of traditional music from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania for leading music/lifestyle publication The FADER.

"Growing up in Tunisia we were so open to anything that came from the West," she explains. "It wasn’t a big deal that it was from the other side of the world, and that we didn’t understand the lyrics... it’s such a shame that the connectivity and the openness doesn’t work both ways. Maybe this moment will help open ears and hearts."

Read the full interview here, watch the "Ensen" album trailer below and listen to the full mix in the player above.

Louisa Tounsia - "Al Bab"
El Hadhra - "Fares Baghdad"
Chikh El Efrit - "Lach Tfakker Fia"
Bouètaiba Sghir - "Malgré Tout"
Line Monty - "Ektebli Chouaya"
Ouleya Mauritania - Unknown
Unknown (old Tunisian track from the '50s)
Chichi Imam - "Idha Chams"

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom