The Interview

What are your first musical memories back in Morocco? What kind of music did you listen to as a child?

When I was around 7 I remember my uncle playing the oud and singing «Ana alabi lik mayal».

This image is still in my memory and I knew from that moment that I like music more than anything else in life, because I really don’t remember many things of my childhood except music.

I was not attracted to percussion when I was child, but I enjoyed listening the songs of Abdel Halim Hafez, Oum Kalthoum and Warda. When I was 8 years old I took singing lessons at my school Alghizlan Addahabia and was a member of the chorus.

This was one of the most important periods in my life because I understood that music was my passion. I love the song «Hawel teftekerni» and «Madah el kamar» of Abdel Halim Hafez. These songs for me are perfect and they will be eternal in oriental music.

Why do you say being a percussionist is a spiritual experience?

I never imagined that I would become a percussionist because I played the oud that my uncle gave me as a gift when I was 11 years old and I also sang Moroccan shaabi music.

But I loved the percussionists of the Moroccan singer Hajib. His frame drum or bendir players are strong, and the sound of their instruments reaches deep into the soul.

When my cousin gave me a derbouka I started to play in the neighborhood with my friends and at school parties. That is when I realized that I was made to play this instrument because I learnt alone and I became a professional very fast.

So when I play this instrument it connects me with my soul, I fly and am never tired of playing. The sound of its doum comes from my inner being. I don’t play it hard, but yet the sound is very powerful. That is why I say that I have a spiritual connection with it.

How would you describe yourself as a musician?

I feel I was born to be a musician. I don’t have a beautiful voice, but I sing right and on time. I understand quality in music and can also make quality musical work that can become better with time.

What I do is unique because I never copy the style of other people.

Whatever I create comes from the inside. Normally I don’t prepare what I will play, I simply enter the stage with the story that I want to tell and play it.

My instrument is sometimes considered boring because most derbouka players in the Arab world do similar things, but when I play, I see that the audience really focuses and I don’t feel they are bored or tired, on the contrary, they follow my movements and always get surprised when I finish.

My emotions when I play are stronger than the sound of my instrument because I am really into the moment, laying a real life story.

What is the effect of being an economist in your music? Other than the obvious relation between math and music, what ideas of economy do you apply in music and viceversa, what music ideas do you think could be used in economy?

I don’t use a lot of economy in my artistic career because ART is not a market, art is a life philosophy.

My studies and work helped me organize myself and also to become a good teacher.

Rhythms are numbers and times, and math is also numbers and logics. So there is a strong relation between percussion and math because everything is numbers, times and logics.

Honestly I don’t like the economy of nowadays because everything is based on interest, the intelligence of the economy is used to maximize the benefits of market agents, while consumers, who are normal citizens, are hypnotized by these economic effects and are hostage to them.

They behave exactly as economists want.
In art, I try to change this idea and share positivism with people. I try to send them different vibes that make them more free and awake. I am an economist, but I try to be a positive economist.

As for belly dance I try not to see it in economic terms; cabarets, restaurants or night clubs have all kinds of workers, including musicians and dancers.

These places are not made for art. Art needs some protocols, such as being at an art venue like a theater or an opera house, where people come to watch a show because they feel attracted to this particular art and will concentrate on watching it and enjoying it.

What do you consider is your greatest achievement in music so far?

I am proud of creating pieces and that my derbouka solos are now present in many belly dance schools all over the world. Some dance to them, while others teach with them or use them in competitions. It is a big pleasure to witness such a universal achievement.

In an interview with the Mexican newspaper El Universal you said that your love for belly dance
started at 12, when you were infatuated with belly dancers. In your opinion, what makes belly dance
special?

I always liked how belly dance expresses music, as if music came from the dancer’s body.

Why do you say sexuality shouldn’t be an essential part of this dance, that has always been perceived
as something erotic or at least undeniably sensual?

Sexuality is something intimate that should not be public. When someone shows her sexuality to attract men so that they drink and eat more and come to the place more often that is not art, but a mere sale of services.

When the woman is young, she is attractive, but as she grows older, she loses popularity. For me art doesn’t have an age; it can be done by anyone at any age. That is why I believe that open sexuality is not for artists, but for entertainers who look for money.

Tell us about your upcoming book «My conviction». What do you seek to achieve with it? Why did you choose Giselle Rodríguez as your partner to write this book?

My upcoming book will discuss my ideas about art, who is an artist and how an artist should behave. I will also discuss the history of art and dance, as well as the psychological, ethnical and other elements of dance and how to do it.

I want to share my ideas and opinions with the people who are interested and give them useful information. About Giselle Rodriguez, I believe that any good work needs a good team, and I feel that we can be a good team because apart from being a dancer and knowing about Middle Eastern culture, she a good writer and analyst and I am very happy to collaborate with her in this project.

What makes a dancer an artist instead of just an entertainer?

To be an artist you need to create new things. The main qualities of artists are creativity and innovation. Artist must share their emotions more than their technical skills.

So a dancer can be successful because she is a good entertainer, but that doesn’t mean that she is an artist. And a dancer who is an artist may not be successful, but she (or he) will remain an artist. It is a very long topic that I will discuss in my upcoming book.