Diaspo #169 : Distorting guitar strings from Meknes all the way to Quebec

A member of one of the earliest metal bands in Meknes during the 2000s, Achraf Loudiy is today a figure of the music genre in Quebec. A founding member of Aeternam, he sings and plays the guitar with his unique Oriental-styled metal.

Achraf Loudyi, founding member of Canadian band Aeternam. / DR
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Before creating Aeternam, one of the most famous metal bands in Quebec, Achraf Loudiy was introduced to the musical genre in Meknes, where he was born and raised until he graduated high school. A great music lover since childhood, he was immersed in a rather oriental artistic environment, despite his great interest in Western music. «My mother sang a lot and I grew up listening to Arabic music. In the kitchen, she would put cassettes of Oum Kalthoum, Abdelhalim Hafez and so on», he recalled.

His big brother introduced him to metal. «When he went to study at the military academy in Marrakech, he would often come back with Metallica or Nirvana tapes. I was listening to pop music at the time, he was making fun of me and advising me to listen to his tapes», he remembered. In the early 2000s, Achraf had a computer at home on which he would watch Metallica concerts. He then became «crazy about this music» and developed a true passion for the genre.

An introduction to the metal scene in Meknès

It was during this period that one of his friends began to play the guitar. He asked his parents for one, but they were not enchanted at the idea. «Even though I grew up in a rather wealthy family, my parents enrolled me in public education since middle school, and wanted me to evolve in the social world of the city», he recalled. Faced with his insistence, he was finally authorized to use a guitar hung on the wall of the house, «which served rather as a decoration».

«I learned to play the first songs of Metallica or Marylin Manson on that guitar», he proudly said. Eventually, Achraf was offered his first guitar and he went on to spend «sleepless nights learning to play solos».

«At that time there were hardly any metal fans in my hometown.We were sort of aliens.This caused some problems during our first concerts, but we were helped a lot by a venue owner, who lent us his space».

Achraf Loudyi

During his first concert, Achraf and his group played in front of an audience that was attending the event mainly out of curiosity. Some people thought that metal musicians were apostles of Satan, especially as everyone had in mind the case of rockers in Casablanca who were tried before being released.

Achraf ended up playing in multiple shows with his schoolmates with several bands, until he got to perform with Imperium. The latter band had more visibility, which allowed it to be programmed in other cities, in particular in Rabat, in Sidi Kacem as well as at the ‘L'Boulevard des jeunes’ festival in Casablanca circa 2007. But every adventure must come to an end: Achraf had to leave, to pursue studies in Canada.

A new life in Quebec, between music and IT

While in Quebec, he graduated with a bachelor in software engineering. His field then led him to work in web and app development. After sharpening his skills at SharePoint, the computer scientist went on to work in consulting for a while. Now a freelancer, he currently mostly takes on government projects.

But the Moroccan musician did not forget his artistic side: shortly after his arrival in Quebec, Achraf met Antoine Guertin, in their student accommodation. Antoine, Aeternam’s current drummer was, back then, a music student. «We played music together and he asked me whether I would be interesting in starting a band. We worked on a few Nordic folk metal compositions while I was bringing more oriental rhythms», he recalled.

It is then from his first compositions that the current style of Aeternam emerged. The band then grew: since 2012, Maxime Boucher, a bassist, has joined and remained a pillar of the group to this day. Thence their first album was born, and released on MySpace before it was sent to magazines. The decision proved successful as «we were put in contact with metal bookers», the Moroccan musician recalled.

«We then released our second album continuing to explore new musical worlds, and then took five years to release the third, reflecting on our future as a band within the music industry».

Achraf Loudyi

The latter album was a success in Quebec: Aeternam received proposals for European tours and eventually participated twice in the biggest metal festival organized at sea, 70,000 Tons of Metal.

From his career, Achraf Loudiy retains all the positive experiences and relationships that have marked him. Nevertheless, some bad memories spring back such as «the first time [he was] confronted to racism, when [he] came to Canada». «In Morocco, I was not aware of it, but here I had to face physical attacks. It was difficult at times but I learned to overcome it, especially since at a professional level, I have not really experienced these situations. I was mostly surrounded by good people», he told us.

An evolution in musical inspiration

Over the years, when Achraf was not working in IT, he would listen to different styles of metal, looking for new bands.

«By writing Al Qassam, I wanted to experiment with new things with lyrics in Arabic, to talk about witchcraft in Morocco. It is often mocked but I wanted to treat the topic with more research».

Achraf Loudyi

To Achraf, this is actually done by many Western musicians to make their local folklore better known. «We also have one, it is very rich but we don't talk much about it. I wanted to treat it in the most artistically applied of ways. Listening to this song, you can also hear instruments like the derbouka, the lute, the classical guitar, distortions… It was very difficult to compose it, because it contains a lot of styles and the production must do justice to this heritage», the musician explained.

The leader of Aeternam thus hopes «to continue to produce quality albums and to improve, to make live performances always better». Due to a lack of proposals, the band has not been able to schedule any date to perform in Morocco as of yet, but Achraf is still thinking about it. «I will gladly make it happen, if we get invited to festivals like ‘L'Boulevard’, or others. We will do it above all for the pleasure of being on the Moroccan scene and for the pleasure of our Moroccan fans», he concluded, hoping he will be able to perform again in his native land.

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