Emel Mathlouthi

I fully accept that I have a conscience, I don’t want to apologise for having ideas and questions and saying them out loud. But at the same time, I want to be thought of as an artist, musician, composer and producer.

An activist who is first and foremost a singer, Emel Mathlouthi is committed to the fight for personal freedom, human rights and women's rights, which she expresses in her rock-tinged songs.

Updated on 06/03/2020

2 min

Born in 1982 in Tunis, Emel Mathlouthi began by singing on records for Céline Dion, Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos as teenager.

During her engineering studies, she was part of a metal group and is increasingly dedicated herself to music. It was when she discovered Joan Baez that she was inspired to learn the guitar, to communicate her energy to an audience during solo concerts.

In 2011, she sings "Kelmti Horra” (My word is free) among the protesters in Tunis. From then on she became the face of the Tunisian revolution.

An activist, Emel Mathlouthi saw her music banned from the Tunisian airwaves in 2010. She then left Tunisia for France, where, in 2014, she released a first album, Kelmti Horra, that seemed influenced by Björk and mixed electro stylings with the singer's more rock-inflected past.

Her second album, Ensen (2016), was that of a “woman who refuses compromises”, as  Patchwork festival webzine said. The song “Ensen Dhaif (Human, Helpless Human)” discusses the oppression created both by external factors and by ourselves.

In 2018, Emel Mathlouthi reworked the songs from this second album, in collaboration with nine other artists, including guitarist Karim Attoumane, or the Pandhoraduo: This would become Ensenity.

Emel Mathlouthi, who sings only in Arabic, participates in activist events worldwide. In 2013, she was invited by Iranian composer Sara Najafi to take part in the Tehran Opera for the No Land's Song concert: for the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, women performed on stage to denounce the absurdity of a law that prohibits them from singing if they are not accompanied by a man.

In December 2015, the Tunisian singer sang during the Nobel Peace Prize concert.

In March 2017, as a continuation of the Women’s March, she performed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York – where she now lives – with other foreign artists to protest against Donald Trump’s policies.

EMEL - Insanity
EMEL - Insanity
  • 1982


    Emel Mathlouthi is born in Tunis.

  • 2006


    Emel Mathlouthi is a finalist for the first edition of the RMC-Middle East prize, an initiative aimed at connecting the two shores of the Mediterranean through music.

  • 2011


    The singer becomes the face of the Tunisian revolution by performing "Kelmti Horra" among the protesters.

  • 2013


    Emel Mathlouthi takes part in the No Land's Song concert and film.

  • 2015


    Emel Mathlouthi is invited to sing at the concert for the Nobel Peace Prize given to Tunisian national dialogue.

  • 2018


    Emel Mathlouthi moves behind the camera for the first time for the “Insanity” video, in which she also performs.

The Institut français and the artist

In 2018, Emel Mathlouthi toured Europe with the support of the Institut français, as part of the Creation in Africa and the Caribbean programme.

L'institut français, LAB