Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Emel Mathlouthi at Nuits d'Afrique

In January and February of 2011, fernhill and I followed the Tunisian uprising and posted about the events.

This young woman came to my attention, via a #Sidibouzid tweet that drew attention to footage posted of her singing at one of many huge protests in Tunisia.

Last evening I attended her concert in Montréal. She is a gifted musician, a dedicated activist, and an emerging artist who reaches her audience in many inspired and uplifting ways.

First: her voice. None of the online videos do justice to the range, strength and power of this petite woman's live performance.

She talked to us between her songs, sharing the stories behind their creation and recognizing the contribution of poets and other writers who gave her bits of text to set to music.

Her signature song is "Kelmti Horra" - "Ma parole est libre":
Je suis une étoile dans l'obscurité,
Je suis une épine dans la gorge de l'oppresseur,
Je suis un vent par le feu attisé,
Je suis l'âme de ceux qui n'oublient pas,
Je suis la voix de ceux qui ne meurent pas.
Mathlouthi set the words of Amin El Ghozzi to her music; she first sang this song of revolution in 2007 in Paris, foreshadowing Mohamed Bouazizi's act of self-immolation that would set off the Arab Spring.

In addition to her own compositions, she sang "White Rabbit" from Jefferson Airplane in a manner that honoured Grace Slick, then enlisted our voices in support of a very joyous version of Cohen's "Allelujah". That was an inspired convergence of Abrahamic traditions that nurtured optimism.

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