50 People Shaping the Culture of the Middle East


Emel Mathlouthi, Tunisia

Emel Mathlouthi, Tunisia

Former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's government threatened to ban Emel Mathlouthi's music. She was a student activist who sang about freedom at the time and the intimidation forced her to leave for France in 2007. A few years later, Mathlouthi triumphantly sang “Kelmti Horra” (My Word is Free) in downtown Tunis, inspiring the revolution crowds. Earlier this year, Mathlouthi released her album, named after that very song. Singing mostly in Arabic, her voice has been compared to Joan Baez and her music has hints of electro and trip-hop that combine to create a uniquely Tunisian sound.

Credit: emelmathlouthi.com

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