Gnawa, Chaabi and blues as the anthem of a French-Moroccan band Bab L'Bluz

After releasing the digital versionof their first album in June, French-Moroccan band Bab L'Bluz released their new album «Nayda” on CD and vinyl last week. A first opus, which pays homage to the guembri, Gnawa and Hassani music as well as African rhythms.

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Yousra et Brice with Jérôme Bartholomé and Hafid Zouaoui. / DR

After a first single, then a music video, French-Moroccan band Bab L'Bluz released, in June, the digital version of their first album «Nayda». Last week, the band released the album on CD and vinyl with FNAC and Virgin in France, which will soon make its way to Morocco. The album brings together Gnawa, Chaabi and rock music and rhythms from Africa.

«We were lucky, given the current times. We managed to release the digital version of the album then the physical one», Yousra Mansour, lead singer of Bab L’Bluz and co-composer of the songs alongside French musician and producer Brice Bottin, told Yabiladi.

«It is true that there is no concerts any time soon and that we will have to wait for a relaunch next month but we only had positive things so far», the El Jadida-native said.

An album in peculiar times

Bab L'Bluz was born in 2017 following the meeting of Yousra and Brice, before they began collaborating together. The album was then recorded in Lyon with Jérôme Bartholomé and Hafid Zouaoui.

The album was released during peculiar times, with the emergence of the global pandemic. «Before the lockdown, we had prepared for the release of the album but we did not have a specific date. We only knew it had to be around June. And as soon as we signed with the label (Real World Records) the confinement happened», Yousra recalled.

So, instead of shooting the music video for the song in Morocco as planned, the band ended up shooting it at home, as France was imposing a lockdown at the time. «So everyone did their own parts and the director turned out to be very talented», she said. «Fortunately, the album was already ready by February», Yousra said. «There are many people online, a concentrated audience», she added, referring to the period during which the album was released.

«It was a good factor for us and we had very good feedback.We worked hard and despite all odds we got very lucky».

Yousra Mansour

A musical identity

To mark the spirits through their first album, Bab L'Bluz went for a mixture between Gnawa, Hassani and African music. «Our identity is forged with this rock-sounding project, paying tribute not only to Gnawa music but also to Hassani music», the singer said. «We had a specific vision for our musical identity before starting to compose the songs», she added, recalling having decided after meeting Brice Bottin to learn the basic instruments of Gnawa music, in particular the «Aouicha» (small learning guembri) and the Guembri.

Other artists who participated in «Nayda» had gone to Morocco to discover the culture and learn about music. «Today, they manage traditional Moroccan rhythms very well. On stage, you can’t tell that they are foreigners who play Moroccan music», she added.

For Yousra Mansour, this also reflects the identity of the project. «You can be from any place and you can play any music. Music is about sharing and love and if you like music, you can learn it», she explained.

Yousra announced that Bab L'Bluz is already working on a second album, while enjoying the success of this first opus.

«Nayda», «African Rock-Blues» and the identity of Bab L'Bluz

If «Ila Mata» is presented as «sweet», sung in classical Arabic with lyrics inspired by the Tunisian poet Anis Shoshan, «Nayda» is above all a cocktail mixing love letters, like «Glibi» influenced by Tebraa (female poetry from Mauritania), and others dedicated to Africa such as «El Watan» and «Africa Manayo» which speaks about the exploitation of Africa’s riches.

It also presents festive songs like «Gamra» and «Bab L'Bluzz», which remains the only song combining guitar and guembri, all within the framework of an «invitation to gather, party and share the joy and good energy».

The album also includes a cover of «Waydelel», a song from the Mauritanian repertoire written and composed by Dimi Mint Abba and Khalifa Ould Eidaa, as well as «Gnawa Beat» which denounces corruption in certain societies.

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