Arts and Culture

The voice of love and struggle: Emel Mathlouthi

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Emel Mathlouthi talks to Kaos GL about her new album Ensen: Love and Struggle. That is all.

Emel Mathlouthi starting her career as a metal singer has been interested in music since her early ages. As a woman living in a patriarchal society was already a struggle for her, so she decided to start out a “humanity” journey with her inspirational musical life.

Emel decided to move to Paris, France in 2008 when the Tunisian government banned her songs from the radio and TV. In 2011, thanks to her protest songs "Ya Tounes Ya Meskina" (Poor Tunisia) and "Kelmti Horra" (My Word is Free) which became anthems for the Tunisian revolution, she became a leading artist in the Arab Spring. She also performed during the award ceremony of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, which was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. Calling her “the musician of Love and Struggle” will not be wrong because of her passionate music. While there is no description to describe her musicMathlouthi demurely says  that she tries to improve her music . 

We made an interview with her for Kaos GL about her second album Ensen (“Human”), while she was in Turkey for her concert-tour.

Your new album, Ensen, will be released soon. How do you feel about your new album? What is your strongest feeling about it?

Thank you for interviewing me firstly, and I am so happy for your interest. Ensen my second studio album  will be released in February 2017. I think that people will understand it will be something ever done before. It is a privilege for me.

How was your latest concert in Stanford on 6th October?

That was a really special show for me, because Stanford has a great auditorium, and the audience wasquite excited. I was also so happy to be presented by Ramzi Salti, a wonderful Lebanese professor who has an inner connection with my work.

I watched a video from that concert that you were performing Kelmti Horra with just a guitar like you did in the Nobel Prize concert. By using only your voice and an electro-guitar, you achieved perfection with simplicity actually. I intend to go to your concert in İzmir on 24th October. Maybe you will play the song like that again? It could actually be very nice if you would record that version as a bonus track.

First of all, you are most welcome to my concert. You will be my guest. Secondly, thank you for your compliments and suggestions. I enjoy singing so much, and I have spent a lot of time and love on improving my voice, but to become agood musician you should spend time to improve the melody as well. While I was writingKelmti Horra, something appeared in my mind and in my heart, so I released it.

Yes, most probably I will play the song that night.

What are your plans about the album launch? Are you planning to play your new tracks before the album is released? For which song are you planning to record a video clip?

Thanks to the support from my fans and friends, I was able to create my own label  - Little Human Records. I also am partnering with a very cool indie label based in New York, Partisan records . We are working together on the launch of the album at the end of February 2017. I am very excited.

Your first album Kelmti Horra was released in 2012 and your new album will be released in January 2017. It takes so long to make a new album. Why?

I have had a great pleasure of going to tours around the world.By this time, I played in over 50 countries and I have enjoyed every moment. During this time, I actually fell in love, got married, and had a wonderful daughter who is now almost two-and-a-half.

My third album would come more quickly, but I will not hurry up for this. There is so many things in life to enjoy, so I want to live my life to the fullest.

Are there any differences between the sound of your new album and Kelmti Horra? Is there anything in the album to make your fans suprised?

The new album is actually quite innovative because it is kind of the first-ever melding of Arabic and Tunisian traditions with cutting-edge global production.  I want to surprise my audiences and the ones who can’t imagine that a girl from a small country in North Africa can be the boss of her own creative enterprise and  contribute something new to her own people and to the world.

What is the meaning of 'Ensen'? Why did you choose this name for the album?

It means ’human’. I make myself very raw and exposed in my production. But at the same time I guess that what is inside of me is similar to that of my brothers and sisters. That’s why I say that my work is a work of human- it is a work of humanity.

While making the new album, what were your motivations?

Love and Struggle. That is all.

Would you like to say any last words for people from Turkey?

Just a short message of love. The people of Turkey are of course some of the grandest people of the world. We know that some of the world does not recognize this, but I want you to know that at least I know this is true. The world is going through a very rough patch right now and we need the turks to be the very best they can be, to create an inclusive, democratic society, to embrace diversity, to show love for neighbors, and to work very hard to guarantee the full enjoyment of human rights for all. That is my hope and my dream.

Translation: Hazal Akpınar

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