(via Emel Mathlouthi)
"A stark figure in red and black, Emel Mathlouthi walked on to slowly building, ambient noise. A drummer gently worked his kit while a keyboardist pressed keys and twisted knobs to create a sound that’s perhaps best characterized as foreboding. Mathlouthi, who rose to prominence a few years ago when her songs were adopted by the Arab Spring protesters, is on her first U.S. tour and made a stop at CSPS Hall on Friday, September 19 as part of the 2014 Landfall World Music Festival.
Like her musical influences Bjork, Massive Attack, and previous collaborator, Tricky, Mathlouthi’s music carries a sense of looming danger. Songs start with a beat, often played on electronic drum pads, while violins and other sounds from her native Tunisia are layered on top as each song builds to a towering crescendo. This is to say nothing of Mathlouthi’s voice, which was at times whispered and ethereal, and in those climactic moments, truly soaring — it felt as if her vocal range was without limits.
Midway through her set, Mathlouthi and her band introduced “Houdou’on (Calm)”, which like many of her songs, is beautifully ominous, and deals with the “silence hanging over Arab countries.” A few songs later Mathlouthi jumped into a song whose title translates into “Freedom” and which features a skittering drum beat and lyrics with a highly accusatorial tone. However, the night’s standout moments involved only Mathlouthi and her electric guitar. Her bandmates left the stage for chill-inducing covers of Bjork’s “All is Full of Love” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the latter of which ranks as one of the most gorgeous moments I’ve experienced at a concert. For an encore, her band remained in the wings as she performed her most famous song, and the one that was adopted by Tunisian revolutionaries, “Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free).” Her final song was a gypsy tune that she dedicated to the Palestinian people and which she sung a cappella. The audience, which sat in rapt silence all evening, sent Mathlouthi off with a standing ovation.
Credit to Legion Arts for bringing this enchanting and essential artist to Landfall Festival 2014. Mathlouthi’s sound borrows from tradition and infuses it with forward-thinking electronica in a manner that excites the ears and the mind. It’s her voice and her words, however, that excite the heart.”
Emel Mathlouthi in The Chicago Tribune for World Music Festival Chicago this Sunday & Monday! http://ow.ly/BqT2N
”Mathlouthi was a voice for Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution,” which forced the country’s dictatorial president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s resignation in January 2011. Mathlouthi was initially surprised at the demonstrations that had started in Tunis that sparked this uprising. But she had also prepared for this movement her entire life.
When Mathlouthi was growing up in Tunis, she absorbed her father’s eclectic record collection — jazz, blues, Vivaldi — but also had an affinity for a small community of heavy metal and grunge musicians. And as a young singer, rock matched her growing sense of resentment.
"Most kids, maybe the more sensitive ones, are kind of angry when they’re teenagers," Mathlouthi said. "But that was especially the case with living in Tunisia where everyone was pretending that we were OK while everyone knew we were living in a prison. Those different angers melded together in a natural way."
At first, Mathlouthi ignored traditional Arabic music, especially because she saw its women performers presented as passive. But she grew to appreciate Lebanese singer Marcel Khalife and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Mathlouthi also encountered a wide range of international musicians — including an Argentine cellist and French trip-hop producer — while she was studying graphic design in Paris about five years ago.
These diverse influences shape Mathlouthi’s 2012 debut disc, “Kelmti Horra” (World Village). The title track means “My word is free” and her song “Dhalem” means “tyrant.” Her deceptively soft voice, classical-influenced strings and Arabic percussion delivers sharp lyrics…”
Lili Boniche’s Trésors de la musique judéo-arabe is out today! Get it on Amazon: http://ow.ly/xQq8v The album includes 3 previously unreleased bonus tracks!
Praise for 2013’s Anthologie:
"incredible dexterity and creativity…He’s a fantastic singer." - PRI’s The World
"You hear wonderful Arabic modes, great guitar playing, and a powerful Imam-Cantor style voice…The songs drip with feeling." - KCRW Rhythm Planet
Coming on June 10 is Trésors de la musique judéo-arabe by Algerian crooner Lili Boniche! With the added bonus of three previously unreleased tracks, this album is one of the cornerstones of modern Arab-Andalusian music. Music infused with the heady aromas of the spice markets and the scents of the Mediterranean, here the rumba of Algiers, there the festive chaabi. The album is an absolute must-have for all lovers of these joyful songs, which remain both timeless and strikingly modern.
Pre-order it on iTunes: http://ow.ly/x1gQL or Amazon: http://ow.ly/x1hjJ
Praise for Anthologie (2013):
"[Boniche has] this incredible dexterity and creativity…He’s a fantastic singer."
- PRI The World
"You hear wonderful Arabic modes, great guitar playing, and a powerful Imam-Cantor style voice…The songs drip with feeling."
-KCRW Rhythm Planet
Coming in June, World Village releases the late Algerian singer Lili Boniche’s classic album Trésors de la musique judéo-arabe with 3 previously unreleased tracks! http://ow.ly/wOvpt