(1982-01-11) January 11, 1982 (age 35) Tunis, Tunisia
Emel Mathlouthi (Arabic: آمال المثلوثي) is a Tunisian singer-songwriter best known for her protest songs "Ya Tounes Ya Meskina" (Poor Tunisia) and "Kelmti Horra" (My Word is Free) which became anthems for the Tunisian revolution and the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Her first studio album, also titled Kelmti Horra, was released worldwide by Harmonia Mundi in 2012 to critical acclaim.
Early life and career
Mathlouthi first began writing songs as a student. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities and the apathy of her classmates and family, she began writing political songs like "Ya Tounes Ya Meskina" ("Poor Tunisia"). In 2006 she was a finalist in the Prix RMC Moyen-Orient Musique competition. She decided to move to Paris, France in 2008 when the Tunisian government banned her songs from the radio and TV.Although banned from Tunisian airwaves, bootlegs of her live performances in France circulated on the internet in Tunisia. After the death of Mohamed Bouazizi she dedicated an Arabic version of the Joan Baez song "Here's To You" to him. She was recorded on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba singing "Kelmti Horra" to protesters and it became a viral video. She released her first album Kelmti Horra in January 2012. The album was influenced by Joan Baez, Massive attack and Björk. She has given concerts in Egypt and Iraq, and performed in Canada at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and the Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal. Beginning of July 2012, she gave a groundbreaking concert in Baghdad, Iraq. On July 28 she gave a concert at the Sfinks Festival in Belgium, where she received a standing ovation for her cover of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah". In 2013, her first concert in Cairo after the revolution had a huge success and Ahram Online described her as "The Fairuz of her generation" She opened for Dead Can Dance in the festival Les nuits de Fourviere in Lyon and performed at the Womad Festival at Charlton's Park UK. Israeli authorities refused to let her enter Ramallah to perform, so she sang in front of a camera in Jordan. The small show was broadcast to the Palestinian audience in a theatre in Ramallah.