Song of the Day: Emel – Ensen Dhaif

photo by Julien Bourgeois

photo by Julien Bourgeois

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unrealeased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Ensen Dhaif” from Emel off her 2017 album Ensen on Partisan Records.

Emel – Ensen Dhaif (MP3)Try as you may, but there’s no silencing a warrior voice like the now New York-based, Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel (Emel Mathlouthi). Having been sonically shunned by her local airwaves due to her political indignation and affinity for cultural activism in her North African country, Emel circumvented the powers that be and transcended in age of social media. By infusing her heart-purging pipes with deep cut electronic beats and dark cinematic intensity, she has garnered both a loyal fan base and the royal title “voice of the Tunisian revolution.” Rising out of the ashes of the Arab Spring, she immediately found success in 2012 with her debut album Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free). Given the political climate America is currently undergoing and the fact that Tunisia is a Muslim country, Emel’s existence and music is radical now more than ever. So now in her mid thirties, she’s following up with her solid sophomore album Ensen out later this month on February 24.

Being the provocateur that she is, Emel has released yet another maverick-minded single entitled “Ensen Dhaif.” Allie Avital, the music video director for “Ensen Dhaif,” described to Nowness the kinetic essence of the song as “a rhythm of urgency, violence, and perhaps an uplifting sense of revolution.” Rigidly strummed strings ignite the song as Emel then swiftly comes in singing mellifluous Tunisian melodies. A myriad of eastern rhythms and instruments find there way into the climactic parts of the 4-minute track. The dynamic of volume-based drop out plays a disarming role in the song that demonstrates that sense of urgency. There’s rising tension between her voice, the hard bass-hitting electronic beat, and cascading of what sounds like a room full of percussionists synchronized to one ceremonial drum beat. It’s a song that’ll give you chills.

Emel has a show coming up in New York on later this month and then is touring throughout Europe. She’ll be playing in Seattle on May 17th at Meany Hall. Tickets can be purchased here. To keep tabs on her upcoming videos, news, and sophomore album Ensen check out her website or follow her on Facebook. But before you do, check out the music video directed by Allie Avital for “Ensen Dhaif” below.

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