Posted on: 17 Febbraio 2018 Posted by: Elisa Russo Comments: 0

«Compito dell’artista è sottolineare quello che ci unisce in un momento in cui tutti sembrano voler parlare di quello che ci divide» dichiara Emel Mathlouthi, cantautrice tunisina che ora vive a New York, sabato alle 21.30 protagonista di Miela Music Live. Nata e cresciuta a Tunisi, ben presto le sue canzoni vengono censurate in tutto il paese per effetto della dittatura. Nel 2007 Emel si sposta a Parigi dove esplode il suo talento compositivo. Nel 2008 canta «Kelmti Horra» (La mia parola è libera) durante la Rivolta dei Gelsomini, diventando un’icona della Primavera Araba. Tra Joan Baez e Björk, con la particolarità dei testi in arabo, nel 2012 pubblica il primo album omonimo; il secondo «Ensen» è uscito un anno fa, un disco che attraversa i confini della musica, coniugando ritmi e strumenti tradizionali con le sonorità elettroniche all’avanguardia. «Al Miela proporrò il mio nuovo album – spiega Emel – e qualche versione rivista di brani precedenti. Apro sempre con una libera interpretazione di “New Year’s Prayer” di Jeff Buckley. Chissà… forse il mio tastierista, Pier Luigi Salami, viste le sue origini, mi convincerà a proporre una cover in italiano. Sul palco con noi anche il batterista Shawn Crowder. Penso che per il pubblico un mio concerto sia un’esperienza emotiva, sono intensa e non ho paura di essere profonda, umanamente e artisticamente». Amante del cinema e del canto, prosegue: «Adoro l’Italia, non solo per il cibo. Amo il cinema, ho visto quasi tutti i film di Fellini, Pasolini, De Sica, Antonioni, l’effetto dei film belli e potenti è indelebile. Nella mia fase pop adoravo le voci di Anna Oxa e Mietta e quando ero leader di una band metal, Cristina Scabbia e i suoi Lacuna Coil». Nel 2015 l’artista tunisina è stata invitata a cantare alla cerimonia di consegna del Premio Nobel per la pace: «Un’avventura magica. L’universo del Nobel ha i suoi difetti, ma è un importante raduno per idee e conquiste umane, estremamente prestigioso. Gli organizzatori hanno dimostrato grande rispetto e stima del mio lavoro. Sono stata me stessa, e accolta bene per questo. Suonare la mia “Kelmti Horra” con coro e orchestra è stato il coronamento di un sogno». La definizione di “cantante di protesta” comincia a starle stretta: «All’inizio della mia carriera il mio interesse era tutto rivolto all’arte, su come potevo usare e sviluppare la mia voce e la mia musica per creare nuove e toccanti melodie. Sono un animo sensibile, innamorata dell’umanità e crescendo in un contesto di dittatura, mi è venuto naturale enfatizzare l’importanza della libertà e della dignità, che ha un grande impatto su molte persone nel mio paese, anche durante la rivoluzione e ancora oggi smuove le persone in senso politico. Continuo a evolvermi e mi sto spostando verso una questione globale, più grande che coinvolge più l’occidente che il mio paese; la domanda è: perché gli artisti non occidentali devono essere considerati solo in un contesto etnico e politico – perché non possiamo essere visti semplicemente come artisti, e non come caricature di visioni esotiche o stereotipi politici? Sono cresciuta con una profonda consapevolezza della tirannia e della dittatura. Mi è venuto naturale usare il mio talento per combatterle e cercare di dare la speranza agli altri di poter fare altrettanto con i propri mezzi. Ho fatto parte di un movimento che è riuscito a liberarsi di un dittatore ma mi sto rendendo conto che rimangono problemi sistemici, radicati, che non fanno vivere bene le persone di certi paesi. Sto esplorando queste tematiche nei miei nuovi pezzi, ma uso anche un’angolazione più personale. Qualcuno potrebbe pensare che io sia cambiata, ma sotto la superficie spingono sempre le stesse lotte umane a cui ho sempre tenuto». Ai giovani artisti consiglia: «Essere veri, non smettere mai di cercare ed esplorare le parti più oneste di se stessi. Quello che possiamo davvero definire arte non è mai triviale né superficiale, viene dal cuore. Non avere mai paura di essere differenti e di smuovere la calma apparente di un mondo ingiusto». Sul prossimo disco anticipa: «Sto lavorando ad un nuovo album, sarà prevalentemente in inglese con 2-3 canzoni in arabo, è un lavoro cinematico, astratto e d’atmosfera; uscirà l’anno prossimo, spero piacerà». Conclude con una riflessione sul suo stile di vita: «Recentemente sono diventata vegetariana. Sono stanca di quell’egoismo che ci porta al punto di accettare le sofferenze di altri esseri viventi per soddisfare i nostri effimeri bisogni. Ovviamente estendo l’empatia alle persone, tutte quelle che incontriamo e magari preferiamo ignorare; homeless, quelli che lavorano duro nei parcheggi, negli hotel, in ristorante, cerco sempre di rivolger loro un pensiero, una parola, un sorriso, un gesto, un ponte che ci ricordi che nessuno di noi è meglio dell’altro».

Elisa Russo, Il Piccolo 17 Febbraio 2018

Emel

Emel Mathlouthi interview/ English:

Greetings, can you give us a brief explanation of who you are and what you do?
I am Emel, a singer songwriter and music producer from Tunisia living in New York
How does it feel to be coming to Italy? What do you think about our country/ our culture and do you know of any Italian artists/bands?
 
It feels wonderful! I love Italy so much! not only for the food 🙂
I am actually a big cinema fan, so of course I adore Italian cinema, the old and the new, I watched almost all of Fellini, Pasolini, De Sica, Antonioni movies, the effect that good and strong movies have on you is indelible, I was so fascinated and fell in love with this country intellectuals and artists.. in music I was a big fan of the band Lacuna Coil, having been a metal band leader myself, I also liked Anna Roxa and Mietta voices at my pop phase..
What can fans expect from your live show? (Who will be on stage with you? Will you be performing songs from the last cd songs list or even from the first cd… Will you be doing any covers? What experience or impact would an audience member take away from your live show?) 
 
I will be performing my new album, with a selection of songs from the old album as well, with new inspired versions. I am not sure about covers, but I always open with a free adaptation of one of Jeff Buckley songs, New year’s prayer.. who knows maybe my keyboardist, who is  Italian by the eay, will convince me to do an Italian song.. so I will be with a drummer and a keyboardist Shawn Crowder and Pier Luigi Salami.
I think usually people leave with a strong emotional experience, I am intense on stage, and I am not scared of being artistically deep and profoundly human, it’s definitely a special one of kind journey that I invite people to take with us, they won’t regret it.
The Nobel Peace Prize Concert had been an important moment for your career… What can you tell me about it?
 
It was just a magical adventure. The Nobel universe is not without its flaws but at least it is a rallying point for high ideas and human achievement. It’s extremely prestigious and people in the organisation had really a lot of  respect and estime for my work. 
I felt I just had to be myself and be welcomed for that. as an artist it’s an extremely intense adventure and I was so happy to realize my dream to play my song “Kelmti Horra” with a full orchestra and choir, I have always imagined it being played that way an epic and uniting moment. I am happy I lived for that moment.
What goals do you have with your music and its impact on the world? What message or messages are you trying to instill in your audience and listeners?
At the beginning of my career my interest was purely in art, in how I could use and develop my voice and my music and create new and touching melodies. 
I am also a sensitive soul and very in love with humanity so since I was coming of age artistically int eh context of dictatorship naturally in my art i began to emphasize the importance of freedom and dignity, which had a big impact on a lot of people in my country including during the revolution, and still moves people today in a basically political sense. 
As i continue to develop though i think i am moving towards a bigger and more global question, a question that challenges the west now more than challenging my own country, which is the question of why artists from beyond the west have to exit only in an ethnic and political context – can we be seen as artists just like your artists, and not as caricatures of exotic visons or political stereotypes? 
What ties it all together tho is that in every phase i’ve been trying to emphasize humanity, the essence that connects us all despite the strong forces that seek to fragment us. 
What first led you to the decision to utilize your gifts as musicians as a tool for expressing your personal views on environmental, social, and political issues?
I grew up with a profound awareness of the tyranny of dictactorship. It was very natural for me to use my gifts to fight against it and to try to give people hope that they could use to fight against it too. As I am continuing to develop and also as I’ve been part of a movement that got rid of a dictator, though, i’m realizing that there are stronger and deeper systemic issues that keep little countries, little people down. I’m exploring these themes now in my new work but also through a more personal angle. Some will say that I have changed but I’m not sure that people ever do. Under the surface I am still pushing for the same human struggle i always was, and i think it is one that people in italy can recognize. 
Do you have advice for other writers, musicians or artists who are creating politically focused art?
 
My advice for any artist who is doing any type of artistic expression, to be fully true to themselves and to never cease to search and explore the most honest expression of themselves. At the end of the day, what we can call art is never trivial, never superficial, it always conveys the profoundest sensations in us so it has to come from a good place, from the heart.
My other advice is to always keep exploring and never be scared of being different, shake the quietness of our unjust world.
What personal lifestyle choices have you made which reflect the view and opinions expressed through your music?
Most recently, becoming vegetarian. I am just tired of all of us being so selfish to the point to accept with such triviality the sufferance of another being for our own ephemera insignificant pleasures. the other thing i can mention is that I always always try to feel for others, all the others that we see on our daily journeys but that we in a secret arrangement with ourselves prefer to ignore, like the homeless, the hard workers in a hotel, in a parking lot, at a restaurant, I always try to carry a though, an action, a smile, a gesture to keep the connection the bridge between us as none of us is better than the other
What would you say has been the hardest part of your musical journey so far? And the best part?
 
The hardest part I think is to not be able to explore so many more artistic ideas and expressions the way I’d love to, and push my vision so much further, my music is quiet deep, I take inspirations from old poetry or modern abstract poetry, I sing in arabic so I am always restrained, on many levels. part of it is that unfortunately I am always pigeon held to wether peplos’s need of ethnic exotisme or political exoticism as if being a musician for someone like me wouldn’t be enough, I have to have s stamp of acceptance on my forehead and that stamp is not the music that I create and produce but the story it has to advertise.
The best part is when I am on stage.. there is simply no other moment in life where I feel as fully alive as on stage, that is the instant of truth and depth, the moment of connection from soul to soul with audience, I hope I can live those moments as long and intently as possible.
What’s next? Any plans beyond touring?
I am working on a new album, it’s going to be mostly in english with maybe 2 or 3 songs in arabic, I am quite excited about it, it’s very cinematic, very atmospheric and abstract, I hope people will like it.
It’ll be out hopefully next year.