MCLA Presents Emel Mathlouthi, the Arab Spring songstress who is changing the world

When singer-songwriters dig down, and deep into their soul, they can change the world. Such is the case with Emel Mathlouthi will be the final performer of the 2015-16 MCLA Presents! season on Thursday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m., in the Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium at the MCLA Church Street Center.

A strong, strident songstress whose intensity is cloaked in melliflous vocals, Emel Mathlouthi is also known for her role as a leading artist in the Arab Spring. Born in Tunis, she was shunned from her country’s official airwaves but rose to prominence through social media.

Emel Mathlouthi will be the final performer of the 2015-16 MCLA Presents! season on Thursday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m., in the Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium at the MCLA Church Street Center. The event series if produced by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ (MCLA) Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC).

Emel Mathlouthi

Emel Mathlouthi

Mathlouthi began her artistic career at the age of 8 in Ibn Sina, a suburb of Tunis. As a young adult she moved to France to pursue her career as a singer. Already banned from the airwaves in her home country, in 2010 her song “Kelmti Horra” (My Word is Free) was taken up by the Arab Spring revolutionaries and sung on the streets of Tunis. In 2014, she moved to New York City.

According to BCRC Program Manager Michelle Daly, Mathlouthi is devoted to her Tunisian roots, but deeply influenced by Western artists.

“Her delicate and rousing songs express love, suffering and longing for home in a deeply confessional style, which verge on sacred Sufi music,” Daly said. “Her passion is evident in her deeply confessional music and powerful presence, and we are very fortunate to have such a talented global artist performing at MCLA.”

Mathlouthi’s gripping story underscores the considerable power of her music, according to Pitchfork Media, which went on to state, “Her international debut, 2012’s ‘Kelmti Horra,’ played like industrial folk—bearing out influences of the East and West ranging from political Egyptian composer Sheikh Imam to Dylan to Björk, earning comparisons to austere Arab pop legend Fairuz.”

Mathlouthi has performed concerts in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East, and also in Europe and North America. Recent performances include the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Stockholm, Sweden; National Sawdust in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

“She exists somewhere in the juncture of Björk’s electronic instrumentals and intensity, Joan Baez’s spirited political songs, and Lebanese legend Fairouz’s heart-rending vocals, with a side of Jeff Buckley’s emotive moodiness,” said Sebastian Bouknight of Afropop Worldwide.

Tickets may be purchased online at Admission to MCLA Presents! performances are $12 for general admission, $8 for MCLA Alumni, $5 for staff and faculty and non-MCLA students, $2 for MCLA students.

For more information, (413) 662-5320, or go to

MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) provides opportunities, resources, and support to the Northern Berkshire Community. BCRC brings together the Northern Berkshire, MCLA and greater creative communities through its cultural programming including: MCLA Gallery 51, DownStreet Art, B-HIP, and MCLA Presents! The BCRC promotes, facilitates and encourages a dialogue to foster a sustainable creative community.

A program of the BCRC, MCLA Presents! brings some of the world’s finest performers in music, dance, theatre, and spoken word to the Northern Berkshire community and the MCLA campus.

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