Charlie would've loved her. We all fell a bit in love with her... the four blokes I was with. Emel is a Tunisian based in Paris for the last four years. She speaks great English, sings in Tunisian Arabic, French, English, Turkish and Kurdish (though the last two not on this occasion) and can perform to audiences of 1000 over in Tunisia and Egypt. She was here in her UK premiere for the Barbican's A Night In Tahrir Square event waving a flag for the Tunisia's December revolution (yes it started way back then).
Petite, damn cute, sitting on a high chair on the stage with just a guitar, what a voice! Crystal clear, never wavering out of tune, delicate and powerful. Emel chatted in a very relaxed way between songs, she had no trouble captivating the small audience (appreciative in their foyer silence) for an hour without a band or any stage tricks, letting the music and her personality speak for itself.
Her songs are mostly her own; she's a singer songwriter who is hard to pigeonhole. The generally slow music has a rhapsodic feel, with creative chord changes, and structures that indicate a Classical music background alongside her love of the 60s. Her Tunisian Arabic songs have a style of their own which of course references North Africa and Arabic, though she admits she never really got into the Arabic classical traditions, but would feel at home in a British folk club or supporting Billy Bragg.
Emel does a cover of Jefferson Airplane, speaks of her love of Joan Baez, and sings We Shall Overcome in a way that makes you wonder why you've not heard it performed recently and think about getting on a plane to Syria. She finishes with the song Kelmti Horra (meaning I think My word is free) which is the song she was filmed singing in a sit-in in Bourghiba Avenue in Tunis a short time after the revolution had reached it's climax. It's long and relaxed but full of depth of passion and makes more sense seeing her perform it live than just online.
The queue to buy CDs was long and impressive for a foyer act. As I said, one to watch.
ok, I admit it. I was one of the four blokes falling in love with this gorgeous charming young Tunisian musician.
I was working away at St Ethels last Fri and decided to check this site and Froots site for gigs comign up. Someone posted a link for gigs on free stage at the Barbican on Froots site, St Ethels is near Barbican so had a look to see. Discovered Emel was due on the free stage in one hour, dropped everything and made my way over. When i arrived she was on her own with sound engineer and very few people in foyer focused on this stage. She is a friendly, down to earth person, nervous to begin her set infront of about 2 people at the time. Can't add much to what Seb has said, he's captured how she performed very well, I can relate to his description. The variety of styles she performed, with this fabulous voice, meant each song held me and those conintuing arriving for the main act at Barbican, captivated and engaged with her. She is also definitely cute.
I had booked her to perform at St Ethels on Nov 5th, that's now been cancelled as her new agent in Paris has booked for a gig in Canada. Seb is planning to organise some gigs for her in UK next year including one at St Ethelburga's. Watch this space.
Especially as Bristle is the new hub of the universe now that fRoots has been rusticated. Here is a relevant but abstruse reference from Wikipedia:- "In the 2009 feature film Morris: A Life with Bells On the team Milsham Morris are "Formally Rusticated" [my italics] from a fictional Morris Dancing governing body known as 'The Morris Circle', for an apparent infringement of the governing body rules". Any excuse to mention Morris dancing...
Well, I can’t comment on the live experience , but (thanks to Seb) on the CD, – and it’s a lovely album - more acoustic than the tracks I heard on myspace, just her amazing voice, accompanied by her acoustic guitar playing, percussion, a cello and an oud – the recording gives it a very immediate and intimate feel. Highly recommended – and hopefully I can see her live some time too