Album review: “Ensenity” — Emel Mathlouthi

Emel Mathlouthi (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2018
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Album review: “Ensenity” — Emel Mathlouthi

Emel Mathlouthi has long endured, and enjoyed, comparisons to Björk, and the daring, dazzling Tunisian singer-songwriter’s latest release will do little to plug the current. “Ensenity” is a collection of “reworkings” based on her acclaimed second album, 2017’s “Ensen” — a tasty, guest-produced coda arriving little more than a year after the main event.

There is a distinctly Björk-ish feel to this turn: It was the Icelandic icon who popularized the remix album more than 20 years ago with “Telegram” — a collection of guest remixes of Björk’s own second album, “Post” — and she has proceeded to release alternative and/or live versions of all but two of her eight “proper” albums to date. But “Ensenity” is pointedly a collection of “reworkings” – not “remixes” — presumably to highlight that many of these fresh takes tout newly recorded, or perhaps deleted, instrumental layers, rather than strictly electronic trickery.

Built around beats, vamps and dirges, but perennially stained with searing vocal laments soaring above the audio storm, the stark, primal music of “Ensen” is genetically suited to the endeavor. Reworked by Cubenx, the tribal drive of “Ensen Dhaif” is stripped down and spaced out, Mathlouthi’s processed cries emerging from a misty fog somewhere in the distance.

Most often, the strategy is to magnify an existing element of a track, elevating the micro to macro. The trip-hop influences already evident in “Sallem,” for example, are further massaged by the live drums driving Free the Robots’ groovier, moodier take. The jagged, unnervingly relentless riffing of “Thamlaton,” however, is disappointedly diluted by Karim Attoumane’s overwrought, spooky sci-fi effects and misplaced barrage of emo guitar.

Oddly the more introspective material fares best: In Ash Koosha’s hands, the mellow invocation of “Kaddesh” is sped up, imbued with disorientating subterranean warbles and glitches, while the reflective electro-simmer of “Layem” takes shades of mature, minimal R&B, courtesy of Muudra, without sacrificing an atom of the emotional urgency which defines Mathlouthi’s singular songwriting.


Vogue shines a light on Yara Shahidi, Priyanka Chopra and maybe even the Khadra twins

Updated 21 July 2018
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Vogue shines a light on Yara Shahidi, Priyanka Chopra and maybe even the Khadra twins

DUBAI: Vogue magazine is set to spotlight young talent in its August 2018 issue, with a feature on Iranian-American actress Yara Shahidi, possible photos of US-Palestinian DJs Simi and Haze Khadra and snaps of Bollywood-to-Hollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra.
The Khadra twins took to Instagram late last week to post a shot from their project with Vogue, which they captioned “(Behind the scenes) for @voguemagazine August issue.” The magazine has released scant information about the apparent collaboration, but it’s safe to say the final product will be interesting to say the least — the twins wore puffed up, oversized neon coats in the photo with each of their sharp hair-dos dyed to match the green and pink outfits.

Born in Saudi Arabia and partly raised in Dubai, Simi and Haze Khadra, known around the world by their moniker “SimiHaze,” are regularly seen with the likes of Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez and the Hadid sisters.
The pair regularly play DJ sets at parties and festivals and have even played for eager crowds at this year’s Instagram-famous Coachella festival in the US.
Iranian-American actress Shahidi, of “Black-ish” fame, is also set to be featured in the hallowed pages of the magazine.
Shahidi, who hails from a highly accomplished family — one of her cousins is the rapper Nas, while another, Anousheh Ansari, was the first Iranian-American astronaut — talks about her astonishing achievements in the interview, which is available on Vogue’s website.
“She has discussed political activism with Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, is a brand ambassador for Chanel, and started a voting guide for young people called Eighteen x ‘18. She graduated last year from the Dwight School in New York, having received acceptance letters from every college she applied to, and will start at Harvard in the fall. She can tell you the year she becomes eligible to run for president off the top of her head,” an excerpt from the interview conducted by Vogue’s Carina Chocano reads.
The actress has, in the past, been vocal about her Iranian-African-American heritage and even called herself “a proud black Iranian” — her father, Afshin Shahidi, moved from Iran to the US when he was eight-years-old, while her mother is a US-born actress.
“One of my greatest fears is living a self-centric life. I think this industry is bred to create that — especially if your physical body is your tool or your face is what makes you money,” the wise-beyond-her-years 18-year-old told the magazine.
She is as known for her political activism as her acting chops, and famously opposed the proposed US immigration ban that caused uproar last year, shairng a message on her social media accounts at the time saying: “If my baba was stuck in an airport because of a Muslim ban 39 years ago, he would have never fallen in love with my mama. I would not exist and I wouldn’t have two amazing brothers.”