Diaspo #171 : Ziad Qoulaii, setting reality to music

Montreal-based singer Ziad Qoulaii released in November a new mini-album in which he tells the story of a Moroccan who wants to cross the sea and migrate. The EP includes three songs inspired by a film scenario he wrote and encouraged by his love for cinema.

Ziad Qoulaii, a Moroccan singer based in Montreal. / Ph. Lian Benoit
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He was born in Casablanca but raised in Rabat’s Yacoub El Mansour, a neighborhood that inspires his artistic journey to this day. Since childhood, Ziad Qoulaii, who currently lives in Canada, was dreaming of becoming a movie director.

Growing up in one of Rabat’s most popular neighborhoods fed his imagination and gave him a thirst for creation. When he turned 16 years old, Ziad joined a group of young photographers in Rabat. The step allowed him to rub shoulders with young artists with different artistic orientations and attend events of all kinds.

His love for art, cinema and music grew with these experiences, especially while listening to the stories of his neighborhood. «There, I was an observant, I watched everything around me and always thought that one day I would tell all these stories in a movie», Ziad told Yabiladi.

Ziad Qoulaii and Simon Pierre. / Ph. Lian BenoitZiad Qoulaii and Simon Pierre. / Ph. Lian Benoit

To make his dream come true, Ziad decided to move to Canada. In 2013, he packed and left his neighborhood and family to study cinema in Montreal.

Music in Canada

Soon after arriving in Canada, Ziad who used to be a casual singer in his hometown, started showing more interest in developing his talent. After having put his film studies on standby, the Montreal-based artist started attending jam nights in his new town, meeting young musicians, singers and music producers.

His unique singing style attracted the attention of his friends and he became more interested in singing. «Back in Morocco, I used to sing for fun with friends and sometimes alone. It was not something I wanted to do for a living», Ziad recalled.

«In Canada, I found myself attending all of these music events and jamming nights and meeting talented people who made music and liked my style», he added.

Ziad Qoulaii in the music video Atlantic. / Ph. Telescope FilmsZiad Qoulaii in the Atlantic music video. / Ph. Telescope Films

During one of these gatherings, Ziad met Simon Pierre, a local musician. While visiting Morocco, Ziad and Simon spoke about music he was making and decided to meet again once back to Canada.

«When I returned to Montreal, I went to see him and he made me listen to what became thereafter our first song together as a duo», Ziad recalled. Together with Simon, who takes care of the production of their music, the two formed Montreal-based duo De.Ville.


Singing in Darija, Classical Arabic, French and English, Ziad writes the lyrics to the songs and gets inspired by his encounters in Morocco to make music that young Moroccans can also relate to. Making music together, the duo released in November a mini-album that speaks to every Moroccan dreaming of leaving the country.

Inspired by a movie scenario written by Ziad, the three songs represent the beginning, middle and end of an immigrant’s story. «The first song is called 'Atlantic' and it tells the story of a Moroccan who wants to cross the sea», he explained. The second and third songs ('Dopamina' and 'Water') show his adventures when he realized his dream and how everything crashed and ended before his eyes.

Atlantic’s music video was shot and released, with Ziad starring as the young immigrant. «Financially we could not film the movie nor do music videos for the three songs, so we ended up only working on Atlantic’s music video», Ziad explained.

«Because of my interest in cinema it was very important for me to have a music video and have a story translated into images», the young artist recalled.

Ziad’s interest in cinema is still persisting, however. In addition to his music, the young man is studying filmmaking at the university and planning to return to Morocco one day and make his childhood dream come true.

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