Wide Angle  

Diaspo #126 : Mohamed Ziani, a Rif star in Spain

Settled down in Spain for more than 21 years, artist Mohamed Ziani made more than ten artistic collaborations around the world performed in more than 300 concerts across Europe and Morocco and managed to create his own fusion music style.

Moroccan singer Mohamed Ziani. / DR
Estimated read time: 3'

Born in Al Hoceima in 1981, Mohamed Ziani was immersed in music from an early age. As a child among six sisters and one brother, his two parents, both elementary school teachers, shared their love for music with him. «I learned to play the first melodies on the piano at the age of four, self-taught on a small children's piano that my mother gave me», says the man who currently lives in Madrid.

Fond of Donny Hathaway’s American soul music, Mohamed Ziani was not the only music lover among his siblings. His older sister, Amal, was a guitarist during the 1980s, where she shared the local scene with many musicians.

«My father, Mekki Ziani, played the lute and composed several songs for a well-known song festival of that era».

Mohamed Ziani

A musical family

Deeply influenced by his elders’ artistic fiber, the then-aspiring musician started playing the guitar at the age of 12, and took part to his first Amazigh pop-rock group, called Sorif. It was during this first musical experience that he released, in 1998, a first album (Awaren), recorded at the Master studio in Casablanca.

In addition to the success he enjoyed on the Amazigh music scene in Morocco, Mohamed Ziani did not give up his studies. This is even the main reason for his departure from Morocco: after graduating high school, he took courses in Hispanic philology at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, and then left for Spain where he followed his studies through in the same major at the University of Granada.

His love for music followed him all the way to Spain as he went on to collaborate with jazz fusion group Bybus, with Moroccan, Spanish, Syrian, Chilean and British musicians, which led to the release of album «Couscous clan» in 2006. His passion for music even got him to branch off to studies in sound engineering.

Universal music to promote Amazigh cultures

«I write about experiences I or my relatives lived, especially on social themes that concern Moroccans around the world and the diaspora in general, but also against racism and for cultural diversity», Mohamed Ziani explains.

In addition, the artist collaborates in a third group, Jammindose, which combines funk, soul, reggae, rock and Amazigh cultural influences. Along the way, the artist also created another band : «Med Ziani & Amazigh Groove».

Ziani released band and solo albums in 2009, 2011 and 2014. His latest album, «Road to Rifland», even got the privilege of being the first Rifi-language album to integrate the catalog of the National Library of Spain.

The originality of the artistic universe that he has managed to create enjoys notable success with the Spanish and European audiences, as evidenced by distinctions such as the Espaciu Live in 2009, in addition to around forty awards and special mentions.

Throughout these years, the music of Mohamed Ziani was broadcast on the largest Spanish radio stations and in 2012, the composer/producer even won second prize in the second edition of the Spain Tweet Awards in the «best musical group» category.

Break the «concrete ceiling»

Three years later, Mohamed Ziani participated to The Voice Spain and show «El Plan B», broadcast in prime time on the fourth Spanish channel, with producer Carlos Jean and other artists. «With our band, we have been number one on the and soundlift platforms for world music and fusion», the artist said proudly.

Throughout his successful career, Mohamed Ziani has also worked with a number of artists and bands, including Vandan Srinivasan and Zaha (India), Emma Shah (Kuwait), Solea Morente, Chambao and Kepa Junkera (Spain), Hjörtur Blondal (Iceland) and Morocco’s Mustapha Slameur. Moreover, he was also highly praised during the first part of Maher Zain's concert in Germany, or during tours that took him to Sweden and Morocco, where he performed four times.

«I make Amazigh music because I am proud of my origins and to introduce our culture to everyone, everywhere, without limits or prejudice».

Mohamed Ziani

Mohamed Ziani believes that Spanish artists from immigrant backgrounds do not always have the visibility they deserve in the country’s artistic scene: although he made it, he still refers to «not only a glass ceiling but a concrete one».

Indeed, according to the artist : «compared to other scenes in France, Belgium or the Netherlands, Spain still has a long way to go to accept artists from immigrant backgrounds», Ziani explains. The Moroccan artist is currently working on his next album full of songs telling, «personal stories based on social themes».

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