This stunning album was recorded in different studios in Iceland and Stockholm, and mixed by LÃ¡rus and Birgir JÃ³n Birgisson (Sigur RÃ³s’s studio engineer) in Sundlaugin studio, Reykjavik. It is the first release by fledgling Gotlandic label Kaip.
This is very difficult for me to write, but itâ€™s extremely important that I do so. I have tried to be patient. I offered my gifts to you freely, as a lover does, and all I expected in return was that you would respect me and treat me well. But something sinister has come between us that threatens to rip us violently from our warm embrace. Read more >>
Drawing based on a photograph by Alaa Alyousef via AP
It was the photograph, really. There is always a defining moment when an awful situation reaches its apex. In this case, it was the image of the grieving Syrian father and his 9-month-old twins. He holds the eternally sleeping, dead from poisonous gas babies for the cameras, for the world to see, as if to say “See? See what our world has come to?”
And we did see. In one crystal clear, revolting moment, we were spun once again into a darkened dystopia. It is a reality seen in harrowing fiction like Cormac McCarthyâ€™s â€œThe Road,â€ where our humanity is reduced to pushing around a shopping cart in a barren world, trying desperately to pull scraps of food and hope from the embers. Read more >>
Tunisian musician Emel Mathlouthi, known as Emel, is a visceral artist who prefers that you connect with her music on a purely emotional level, rather than study it in depth. But it is nearly impossible not to want to translate and analyze her Arabic words, once you know her story. With her unique blend of traditional Tunisian acoustic music, electronic beats and fiercely independent lyrics, her work gained widespread recognition after she recorded “Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free)” in 2007 and it became an anthem of the Arab Spring. She found herself being called “the voice of the Tunisian revolution” and was invited to perform at the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
On Ensen, her second album, she incorporates diverse musical styles, with influences such as Joan Baez, Massive Attack, BjÃ¶rk and Egyptian protest singer Sheikh Imam. The album, released in February on Little Human / Partisan Records, was recorded across seven countries on two continents with several producers. This included her primary collaborator, French/Tunisian producer Amine Metani and Valgeir SigurÃ°sson (BjÃ¶rk, Sigur Ros). The music has an expansive, cinematic feel that accompanies Emel’s powerful, heartfelt vocals.
Here is the official video for “Ensen Dhaif (Human, Helpless Human).”
Emel Mathlouthi now lives in New York, where she relocated after living for a while in Paris. In 2008 during the rule of Ben Ali, she was forced to move from Tunisia after her music was banned for her messages about personal freedom and government corruption. Her debut album Kelmti Horra was released on World Village in France in 2012. NPR covered her music in 2013, in a piece called “Emel Mathlouthi: Voice Of The Tunisian Revolution,” and fellow Tunisian singer and composer MC Rai said, “She has so much courage to sing that around that time. When the dictators in Tunisia, the old regime, were in the top of their power — and for her to even have the courage to sing that, when she was living still between France and Tunisia — I thought she really was a true artist, because that’s what the art is about.” Four years later, her music was once again at the center of a grassroots uprising, as she sang “Kelmti Horra” in the streets of Tunisia, hours before Ben Ali fled the country. Here are the lyrics, translated from Arabic.
Emel is currently in Europe on tour, and she’ll be performing a string of dates across the U.S. beginning on May 3 in Washington, DC. See the list of shows below. Her new album can be purchased from Partisan Records (CD, vinyl or digital) or on iTunes.
5/03/2017 â€“ Washington, DC â€“ DC9
5/04/2017 â€“ Philadelphia, PA â€“ World Cafe Live
5/05/2017 â€“ Boston, MA â€“ Brighton Music Hall
5/06/2017 â€“ New York, NY â€“ (Le) Poisson Rouge
5/09/2017 â€“ Evanston, IL â€“ Evanston SPACE
5/10/2017 â€“ Minneapolis, MN â€“ Cedar Cultural Center
5/13/2017 â€“ Seattle, WA â€“ Seattle Meany Center
5/14/2017 â€“ Vancouver, BC â€“ The Rio Theatre
5/15/2017 â€“ Portland, OR â€“ Newmark Theatre
5/16/2017 â€“ San Francisco, CA â€“ Swedish American Hall
5/17/2017 â€“ Los Angeles, CA â€“ Echo
If this year has a “global theme,” then it most certainly has to be the issue of immigration. Nearly every day we hear of the struggles that so many people face when trying to flee war-torn regions or hopeless economic conditions for a better life for themselves and their families. The world’s artists who speak out against injustices and celebrate our planet’s diversity are providing an essential public service, especially in our troubling times of rising xenophobia and nationalism.
Nano Stern is one such artist who uses music to celebrate diversity and denounce intolerance. An internationally recognized Chilean human rights activist, poet and folk rock artist, Stern recently released “Festejo de Color” (“Festival of Color”), from his recent album Mil 500 Vueltas. In this beautiful and timely song, he addresses the subject of migration and speaks of the mixing of different cultures in a far more positive light than current news stories.
The song was written as a tribute to his grandparents, who had to flee Eastern Europe during World War II. What began as a personal story became a recognition for the journey of all migrants, as they overcame challenges and celebrated their new lives in their adopted homes. Issues of intolerance and nationalism are pushed away in favor of the colorful mixing of races, cultures and ethnicities. Fastejo is both the Spanish word for “festival” and an Afro-Peruvian music and dance that the song is based on. In the song, you’ll also hear traditional rhythms from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
In this KKUP interview, Stern discusses the personal meaning behind the song.
As the grandson of Jewish refugees who fled persecution to resettle in Chile, Stern’s upbringing is rooted in his own family’s musicial traditions and activism as well as the highly influential Nueva CanciÃ³n movement, which was spearheaded by Chilean musical activists as a protest to Pinochet’s dictatorship. Those who suffered at the hands of this oppressive regime still inspires Stern’s artistic vision. At 15, he joined Chilean underground band Mattoral, which added the South American rock and punk tradition to the mix that included jazz and classical elements along with folk traditions. This results in a powerful stew of indigenous Chilean, European and African musical languages.
Stern’s many admirers includes Joan Baez, who said “[Nano] may be the best young Chilean songwriter of his generation. With his lyrics, melodies, message, delivery, humor and heart, he gets my vote.” And in fact, he was the only Latin artist to be invited to perform with her at the Beacon Theater in New York City for her 75th birthday celebration, which was aired nationally last year.
“In the measure that I’m able to vibrate strongly, other people will resonate. If that frequency is intense, other things around it will vibrate together with it. Music in the end is that. We can put aside words, and genre, and tradition. In the end, it is all about a movement of air that makes our bodies move. It’s the most mysterious thing.” – Nano Stern