Nomadic Night

Emel The Tunis Diaries

Location: Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, View access map

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Live-streamed on our Facebook and Instagram accounts at 9pm (France) / 3pm (United States, East Coast)

With: Emel (guitar-vocals) and Karim Attoumane (guitar)

In the spring of 2020, confined in her home town of Tunis, singer Emel filmed herself on a rooftop, singing “Holm”. 2.7 millions views later, she released a double album, The Tunis Diaries: a guitar and vocal re-reading of her repertoire and a number of haunting covers from David Bowie to Nirvana.

In 2011, her song “Kelmti Horra” [My word is free] became the anthem of the Tunisian revolution and later the Arab Spring. In 2015, she was invited to sing the song at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony.

Emel experienced lockdown in Tunis this spring with a laptop, tape recorder and a borrowed classical guitar, obtained thanks to the help of a fan on Facebook. “I was separated from my husband, my band, my collaborators and all my work materials. I was submerged by a wave of nostalgia and memories, surrounded by wild flowers, chirping birds and the blue sky of my hometown,” she says. This was the genesis of The Tunis Diaries*, a double album with a “Day” CD and “Night” CD, combining acoustic reinterpretations of her repertoire and covers (David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, The Cranberries…), all artists who influenced her musical career.

Presented within the context of the exhibition Sarah Sze, Night into Day, this concert is a unique opportunity to listen to this activist with a remarkable voice, perform for the first time in France, her latest album, at once highly personal and touching.

*The album The Tunis Diaries was released on October 23 by Partisan Records.


Emel Mathlouthi rose to global fame in 2011 after a clip of her performing her song "Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free)" in the streets amidst protests went viral, generating millions of views throughout the Tunisian Revolution and serving as the anthem for the Arab Spring. In 2015 she performed the song at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony to thunderous applause. Emel’s 2019 album - ‘Everywhere We Looked Was Burning’ - received some of the best reviews of her career, with NPR declaring her “the 21stcentury catalyst for change” and included her among the ‘200 Best Songs of the 21st Century’. The album was also her first sung almost entirely in English after previously only recording a handful of tracks in the language. In 2020 she released a special double album – ‘The Tunis Diaries’ – which was created entirely in Tunis after she was unexpectedly quarantined in her childhood home due to COVID-19 restrictions. The collection features newly recorded reworks from Emel’s catalog (‘Day’), and an eclectic selection of covers (‘Night’).