Emel Mathlouthi

The Arab American Institute Foundation is delighted to announce that Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi will perform and receive a Special Recognition Award at the 2019 Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards on May 2, 2019.

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For more information about the 2019 Gala, including to reserve tickets, book accommodations, read about the history of the awards and more, please visit: www.aaiusa.org/gibran2019


The annual Gibran Awards program celebrates individuals and organizations whose work embodies the values of the great poet: inclusion, cooperation, and promotion of greater understanding among diverse communities in both the United States and throughout the world. This year, we honor Emel in recognition of the tremendous impact her music has made in the lives of people around the globe. We seek to commend the role she has played in transforming perceptions, not just in the lead-up to the Arab Spring, but throughout her musical career.

Emel Mathlouthi has been creating music that defies conventions from a young age. She was a finalist in the Prix RMC Moyen-Orient Musique competition in 2006. The Tunisian government banned her songs from radio and TV in 2008, though bootleg recordings of her live performances in France circulated on the internet in Tunisia. Following the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, she dedicated an Arabic language version of the Joan Baez song "Here's To You" to him, and footage of her performing “Kelmti Horra” (My Word is Free) on the streets amid the 2011 revolution there widely circulated across the globe. Her first album, of the same name, was released in January 2012 and the song has widely become known as the “anthem of the Arab Spring” (sic). She performed the song at the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony and concert in Oslo in 2015, when the prize was given to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet.

For listeners from Anaheim to Aleppo and beyond, the voice of Emel Mathlouthi broadcasts a message of empowerment and of our shared humanity. Her extraordinary musical creations embody the values of peace, justice, and a commitment to lifting up others. While there is no denying the vital role her voice played during a critical time in her home country, we seek to recognize both the bravery she exhibited in her early career in addition to the potential her future represents. She has consistently utilized her platform to push musical boundaries and the horizons of others’ perceptions; for these reasons we are delighted to honor her with an award of Special Recognition and we are eagerly anticipating her performance.