“It’s facile to compare Mathlouthi to some of the great singer-songwriters she counts as her heroes…[but] she is no wannabe…Mathlouthi is a singular voice.”
“extraordinary range…hits the chest hard and makes you wonder about your soul”
“Bearing out influences of the East and West ranging from political Egyptian composer Sheikh Imam to Dylan to Björk….Her forthcoming second album, ‘Ensen,’…realizes her epic, gorgeously ornamented vision even further”
“Emel melds traditional Tunisian rhythms and instrumentation with electronic musical production, and it makes ‘Ensen’ unlike anything you’ve heard before.”
“[Emel] has plenty to say when it comes to fighting oppression, as well as what it means to resist.”
–PASTE MAGAZINE “BANDS WITHOUT BORDERS”
“pulsing…bold…a unique intermix of Tunisian folk music, electronica and rock.”
“[Her] music involves contemporary electronics and studio processing techniques married to traditional North African instruments…Emel’s voice soars implacably over it all.”
Prominent Tunisian Singer/Songwriter Emel returns with Ensen, out now.
From her home in New York Emel reaches for the international stage with Ensen, an album recorded in seven countries with numerous producers including Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Ros).
Emel’s first album, Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free), introduced her groundbreaking marriage of sounds steeped in Tunisian rhythms and electronic beats. On Ensen, she’s developed a style that’s even more uniquely her own, combining organic and electronic sounds to produce a record that will appeal to any lover of innovative and heartfelt music. “It took a couple of years to realize the visions that were popping up inside me,” Emel says. “I faced resistance from people wanting to keep me confined to an ‘ethnic box’ and trying to limit my creative freedom.”
Despite government censorship in Tunisia, Emel found relief and strength in the music of Baez, Dylan, Lennon, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin—she even formed her own metal band while at university. She soon became known on the Tunisian alternative scene for her protest songs, “little by little, more and more people started coming to my shows, telling me my words were a relief — but I knew I’d never get anywhere in Tunisia, no matter how talented I was.”
After saving money from gigs, Emel moved to France in 2008 and developed an international following through social media. During the Tunisian Revolution in 2011, her song “Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free/written in 2007)” reached millions of views on Youtube and eventually became the anthem for the Arab Spring.
“While the songs on my first album, Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free), developed on stage over a six-year period, Ensen is a fully realized studio album. Producing it was a process of soul searching and liberating musical experimentation. I was looking for a deeper, limitless way of expressing myself.”
With her main collaborator, French/Tunisian producer and physicist Amine Metani, Emel shaped an album of expansive soundscapes. She recorded Ensen in seven countries across three continents, with several additional producers including Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Ros, Bjork) and Johannes Berglund (The Knife, Shout Out Louds, Ane Brun).
“We initially recorded acoustic takes of the songs using piano, guitars and Tunisian style drumming. I then had the idea of create my own library of electronic beats by running percussion and recorded sounds through several homemade setups. Then we added in analog keyboards, mixers, effects and distortion, and the result sounded nothing like anything we’d ever heard before.”
The team’s production approach brought out the cinematic side of Emel’s music, also inspired by the dramatic electronic music of Forest Swords, Samaris, Ben Frost, and James Blake. “Ensen Dhaif (Helpless Human),” the title track, is propelled by sparkling gumbri (a Tunisian three-stringed big bass lute used in Gnawa music), feverish zukra (Tunisian flute), trance-inducing bendirs (North African frame drums), and heavy kick drum. “The lyrics call to disobedience when the oppression of social injustices run so deep.” Pulsing gamelan gongs and North African percussion introduce “Layem,” a song about the plight of the homeless. Emel’s vocals are full of restrained emotion as the song builds to a finish, awash with rich, distorted synthesizer textures.
“Fi Kolli Yawmen” has solemn echoes of church music as it follows Emel’s freely improvised vocal line over a horizon of organs and synthesizers. Flutes and gumbri give “Thamlaton (Drunkeness)” a funky feel, a song that combines Iraqi dabke with industrial rhythms, and Emel’s wild vocals.
“It’s contemporary abstract prose: Where are we? What are we doing? What the hell is going on inside us? It’s like the flesh and the body collapse in the form of interior anarchy, to raging states that we don’t yet know… it’s almost erotic.”
Emel will tour to support the record, but her concerts go far beyond the sounds on the album. “I never perform the same way twice. I am more of a theatre person than a studio artist; the songs take on multiple lives once the recording is done. I’m very free with my vocals. I often take unexpected, spontaneous paths with the feel of the moment.”
Briana Marela is a vocalist, composer, and sound conjurer from the Pacific Northwest. Marela stitches together bold melodies and lyrics filled with longing using max/MSP to achieve vocal looping, processing and sampling. Briana’s aesthetic sensibility derives from many kindred spirits in her home state of Washington, but is woven with her own unique vision of both her intimate world — its homes, its people — and the world at large.
Her debut album All Around Us was recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland with producer Alex Somers (Sigur Rós), and featuring strings by Amiina and some percussion by Samuli Kosminen of múm. The album was released August 21st 2015 on Jagjaguwar.
Briana is currently working on her next album for Jagjaguwar and is at this time, fall 2016, about to go record her new album in New York, a bit busy yet still seeking and accepting vocal features/songwriting work, please get in touch if you’d like to work together!