Tunisian/American, New York City-based art pop musician Emel Mathlouthi, aka EMEL, has shared the new single + video “Lose My Mind (feat. Nayomi)” off her newest LP MRA. A beguiling coalescence of ethereal hip-hop and indie-pop sounds that is, at turns, a call to compassion and to action, it is due out April 19th via her own Little Human label.
“Lose My Mind” is a multicultural excursion blending a unique, bouncing Arabic reggaeton drumbeat with EMEL’s own flair, and a bilingual guest verse from smokey-voiced Iraqi-Swedish rapper Nayomi, the track is about the distance that can’t be unbridged between two people, when they lose connection and drift apart. It explores one’s desperate quest for liberation and meaning as they get stuck between a fading passion and fear of the unknown.
On her new album, EMEL continues her musical exploration, as well as her fight for Global freedom, through an explicitly feminine/feminist lens. MRA, meaning “woman” in Arabic, seeks to amplify and strengthen the voices of women worldwide, specifically in a largely male driven music industry, through heavy beats and hooky melodies. The record is as much about EMEL using her voice as it is a rally cry that her fellow women do so freely, with the same opportunities and in the same spaces as their male counterparts.
Every single collaborator on MRA is a woman: producers, musicians, technicians, photographers and beyond. The result is alluringly visceral. As EMEL puts it herself, the record is about “taking back control of our bodies, our lives, our narrative, of our color, our speech. We are building a new structure, writing a new story where we reclaim the women’s voice and her power. As an Arab woman from Africa I was never allowed to define myself in my own terms, I was often stripped from the multiple layers that composed me and my music. For the west, I had only two ways of existing: exotic or political.”
EMEL’s career is punctuated with eclectic collaborations with iconic artists like Alaïa and Jean-Paul Gaultier on her stage wardrobe and scoring work with Shirin Neshat, Robert Del Naja, and more recently on Assassin’s Creed: Mirage. In 2010, she was named the voice of the Arab Spring when her folk-hymnal “Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free),” once banned, was resurrected as a protest anthem. She’d later perform the track at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and concert in Oslo. Two years later, amongst touring all over Europe and the US, EMEL furtively played an underground concert in volatile Baghdad, Iraq, and a highly illegal, all-women performance in Iran, as chronicled in the documentary No Land’s Song. And last summer, she performed for Palestinians — the subject of her track “Naci En Palestina (I Was Born in Palestine)”— in East Jerusalem and the West Bank facing backlash.