Amel Mathlouthi Take Two: Voice of the Unsubmissive

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Mathlouthi shot to fame in the Arab world as a committed artist with the song 'Mawloud fi Falastine' (Born in Palestine). (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Rasha Hilwi

Published Monday, February 6, 2012

A second album is out by the young Tunisian singer whose work has come to express the nascent revolutionary culture of her home country.

Acre – At a protest held last year by Tunisians in Paris in solidarity with their country’s revolution, a young women in a red jacket seated among the protesters sat up and began to sign in a distinctive Tunisian dialect: “I am the free who never fear / I am the secrets that never die / I am the voice of those who did not submit/ I am free and my word is free…”

The song is one of 13 that feature in the young Tunisian singer Amel Mathlouthi’s soon-to-be-released second album Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free).

Most of the lyrics and compositions are her own, although she collaborated with Amine Ghouzi on the title song. One of the numbers, Ghareeb (Stranger) is inspired by Khalil Gibran’s poem al-Awasif (The Storms). All speak of Tunisia’s recent political tribulations and current hopes, with titles such as Ya Tunis Ya Meskina (Poor Tunisia) and January 14.

Mathlouthi shot to fame in the Arab world as a committed artist with the song Mawloud fi Falastine (Born in Palestine). It combined the melody of the well-known Spanish song Naci en Alamo – from French director Tony Gatlif’s move Vengo – with lyrics addressing the daily reality lived by Palestinians and their attachment to their usurped homeland. It featured in her acclaimed debut album Helma, following her participation in a competition organized by Radio Monte Carlo ME in 2006.

Mathlouthi was born in Tunis in 1982. She moved to Paris a few years ago, accompanied by her guitar and her distinctive voice. She cites Marcel Khalife, Sheikh Imam, and Fairouz as her earliest musical influences. She has also drawn inspiration from other musical traditions, including Tunisian, French, and Japanese. This was reflected in both her signing and her instrumental work. The new musical fusion that resulted from her mix of talents was a hit among young people.

Mathlouthi was active in the Tunisian revolution that launched the Arab Spring, and her new album marks its first anniversary. It features a song she performed frequently during protest marches, which opens with the words: “I am a star in the midst of darkness / I am a thorn in the oppressor’s throat…”

Mathlouthi has chosen her musical course. Her work is committed and reflects both the burdens and dreams shared by rebellious youth throughout the Arab world. Her first steps into the new Arab musical scene seem highly confident. Much more is awaited from her.

Amel Mathlouthi’s second album, Kelmti Horra, will be launched on March 6 at a concert in Paris. Details on emelmathlouthi.com

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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