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Kelmti Horra. Emel Mathlouthi

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 13 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: World Village
  • ASIN: B0065HDMAM
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,468 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

One of the figureheads of the "Arab Spring," Tunisian Emel Mathlouthi, also has immense stage presence and a voice that spells revolution and freedom. This album and her unforgettable songs will place her firmly on the international pop scene.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xac306984) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xac175708) out of 5 stars The Power of Music: Emel Mathlouthi's Jasmine Revolution May 6 2012
By Sue Leigh Waugh - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Among the iconic images to emerge from the "Arab Spring" was a YouTube video of a stylish young Tunisian woman singing a capella, surrounded by chanting demonstrators during the final weeks of President Ben Ali's regime. The singer was Emel Mathlouthi and in the video she sings her signature song, "Kelmti Horra" (My Word is Free).

Despite her youth, (the French wiki page lists her birthday as January 11, 1982), Mathlouthi has already absorbed a wide-range of musical influences: from western and Arabic classical music at home, to Dylan, Pink Floyd and Joan Baez (so claims her biography...). In retrospect, the most significant encounters in Mathlouthi's artistic development were the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and the music of Palestinian folk singer Marcel Khalife. Her identification with the Palestinian cause gave her music a new sense of seriousness and purpose. In 2007, Mathlouthi immigrated to Paris where she connected with the musical and cultural life of the North African Diaspora there and further broadened her musical experience through collaborations with progressive DJs and producers such as Tricky and CharlElie Couture.

Mathlouthi's first international release is a remarkably mature and consistent effort. She sings in Arabic, French and English and her arrangements, most of which prominently feature an acoustic string ensemble and Tunisian percussion, reflect influences of "arabesque" and classical Tunisian Malouf, deftly blended with Trip Hop atmospherics and an art rock sensibility.

From the very first track (Houdou'on (Calm)), you are gripped by the sound of Mathlouthi's rich, unaccompanied voice. A gentle wash of electronics and later, a string trio establish a strong sense of locale, weaving a distinctive tapestry of sound, rich in the musical traditions of the Maghreb. From here, we follow Mathlouthi as she tells the story of her Tunisia, "...the story of the dark years as seen through my eyes: through my experience as a student, a young rebel and dissenter, through my years of artistic and ideological struggle, and through my immigrant tears, my suffering and my love of freedom."

Standout tracks include Ma lkit (Not Found), a passionate lament about life's obstacles and the rarity of friends and "Dhalem" (Tyrant), whose gentle opening sounds almost like a lullaby before blossoming with near-operatic vocals sung in classical Arabic to a dirge-like cadence. At the other end of the spectrum, both "Stranger" (sung in English) and "Hinama" (When) are deeply indebted to Bjork, but it's the title track, Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free) that steals the show: its calm confidence and tight vocal harmonies transcend place and time - there is little wonder how this became the theme for Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution.

Make no mistake, Mathlouthi's songs are political, as indeed all art is politically bound by the circumstance in which it was created, but do not expect any adrenaline-filled martial anthems or urgently voiced histrionics. Much of the album plays like a late night meditation, something much more intimate than a "call to action" and herein is Mathlouthi's genius: she persuades us with a whisper and not a shout.

"Kelmti Horra" is an eloquent and thoughtful document of the "Arab Spring" but even more, it presents Mathlouthi as a sensitive and gifted songwriter, able to draw upon a wide range of influences and fuse them into something beautiful and moving. I can only hope that out of the current tragedy in Syria that similar voices may arise to prick our conscience.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xac1d39d8) out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning Jan. 5 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
The second I heard Emel Mathlouthi's voice on NPR's Weekend Edition, I immediately went and looked up every video I could find of her on YouTube. Her music doesn't need to be in English for you to hear her pain, her hopes, her love of her homeland, her bravery. Her voice is practically effortless and her interpretation of her music across genre is really captivating. Together with the strength of her words, you have magic. I hope more people come to love her.

A quote from her NPR interview:
"I was posting my songs on the social media, and I was trying to reach a larger audience, especially in Tunisia, so I can talk to them, and I can give them all my strength," Mathlouthi says. "But I felt, from time to time, like everyone and every artist -- I was desperate, and I was saying, so the dictatorship is growing and I am here, like, writing songs, and so what?"
"I realize that that was the power," Mathlouthi says. "The power is to write songs, because the songs are eternal; the melodies will be here like witnesses. But the dictatorship and the persons will go, and this is why I wrote [these] song[s]."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xac1ac2e8) out of 5 stars Stunning! June 4 2012
By Rowena - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I can only agree with everything said in the first review. Emel Mathlouthi and her musicial partners have created the perfect balance of political affirmation and poetry. Her lyrics show great maturity for her young age, her voice is compelling listening. A commendable debut.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xac1e33f0) out of 5 stars "National" music through a global filter Jan. 24 2013
By John Geffroy - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Emel Mathlouti has emerged as the principal musical voice of the Tunisian movement which became known as the "Arab Spring," but this is from a young singer with "roots" in Europe as well as in North Africa--a situation not at all unusual for Tunisians. The music is a compelling fusion of Maghrebi traditions and virtuosiity and European instrumental arranging. Emel Mathlouthi has not been a mere bystander, but a participant in the emergence of a new Tunisia. The title song, "Kelmti Horra," or "My Words are Free," would probably not be acceptable from someone not having a stake in the changes taking place: "We are free men who are not afraid,/ We are the secrets that never die," the song begins. In all, Kelmti Horra is an album that is much more than merely sincere. It is an essential voice and record of the "revolution" itself. Words and notes in Arabic as well as French and English are a great help to an outsider's appreciation here.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xac1e3bd0) out of 5 stars Five Stars Nov. 21 2014
By fit & fab - Published on
Verified Purchase
What talent, passion and a voice that transports you and inspires you.

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