Interview: Meet the Psychedelic Gnawa Blues of Bab L' Bluz

We talk to the Moroccan-French quartet about their latest album Nayda! and the new wave of women fronting Gnawa bands.

Bab L' Bluz, translated as "The Door of the Blues," is a Franco-Moroccan group created in 2018 in Marrakech.

At the beginning of 2017, the Moroccan singer-guitarist Yousra Mansour met the French guitarist and producer Brice Bottin. They had been working with Moroccan musicians for several years, at an artistic residency mixing Gnawa music with other styles. Both passionate about Gnawa music, they decided to learn the Guembri together.

In mid-2017, while they were learning how to play Guembri (the primary instrument of the Gnawa music, with a bass sound and three strings) and Awisha (a descendant of the Guembri but smaller with the same strings, and with a high tone that sounds more like a guitar or looks and sounds like a Mauritanian Tidinît), they started composing the foundations of the first Bab L' Bluz album. It was a repertoire of ten songs that respected the analogical universe of the '60s and '70s. The group want to mix their influences tastefully and prefer to be a psychedelic Moroccan rock band, rather than just be labelled as world music.

In mid-2018, long time friends and musicians from Lyon, Jérôme Bartholomé on Qraqeb (Percussion used in Gnawa music)/ flute/vocals), and Hafid Zouaoui (drums/backing vocals), joined the band. They performed their first live concert on Radio Nova. Months after forming the quartet, they began recording their debut album called Nayda!, released by Real World Records in June.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Keep reading...Show less
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Interview: Bumi Thomas Was Given 14 Days to Leave the UK

We speak with the British-based singer-songwriter about her fight against a "hostile environment policy" and the release of her latest EP, Broken Silence.

There's a lot of vulnerability and soul packed into Bumi Thomas' latest EP. Given the surrounding context of a legal battle, Broken Silence was released, in Bumi's words, "at a time when microcosms of institutionalised racism have garnered so much momentum highlighting the domino effect of systems of oppression that have led to this powerful, global resurgence of the Black lives matter movement."

The inspiration behind this EP came at a time when Bumi faced a legal battle to stay in the UK, after receiving a letter from the UK Home Office to leave the country within 14 days. Understandably causing huge stress, this case turned from an isolated incident to national news, with 25,000 people signing her petition and raising money via crowdfunding for legal fees.

We spoke with the British-based singer about all of this below.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Keep reading...Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox


Interview: Shingai Speaks About Her New Record 'Life.Sounds.Dimensions'

We talk to Shingai Shoniwa of The Noisettes about her Zimbabwean influences and her new album, which is split in two parts—one out now and the other in autumn.