MEN WE LOVE: AHMED SOULTAN #tolerance #music #noboundaries #AFRIMA #awards #AfrobianSoul
We like to mix things up a bit – and so does Ahmed Soultan, one of Morocco’s most influential music artists whose inimitable Afrobian Soul (as in Afro-Arabian) is a style all his own.
Rather like The Beauty Shortlist, Soultan is taking the indie route. In fact he’s criss-crossing Europe, Africa and Morocco right now, prior to the release of his latest album, an intriguing-sounding multi-collaboration called “Music Has No Boundaries” featuring an eclectic group of music greats including George Clinton, Femi Kuti, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, Tekitha (Wu-Tang) and brilliant UK rapper and lyricist Akala.
Thankfully for his English speaking fans, he sings in Berber (Amazigh), Moroccan Arabic (Darija), French – and 99% perfect English.
I first discovered his music by chance on YouTube while in Essaouira a few years back, and as I’m heading to Morocco again soon Moroccan music has been on my mind. (Hard to single out a favourite track but Ya Salam is one of my favourite tracks for Moroccan road trips – here’s the VIDEO). And you know you’ve arrived in Morocco when you catch the first few seconds of the intro to Achkide – VIDEO
I had the chance to catch up with him for a quick 60-second interview for The Beauty Shortlist’s MEN WE LOVE series (Q&A below).
(Skip this bit if you’re already a fan!)
But first, for anyone not familiar with his music, a quick round-up:
Fans of artists such as Talib Kweli, Angelique Kidjo, Ne-Yo, Don Bigg and Akala already know him, as do MTV North Africa/Arabia fans but although Soultan has performed live in London, been up for MTV Awards and done BBC interviews, his name and music may still be new to many of us in the UK.
After album no. 1 “Tolerance” came out – which pretty much sums up a big part of Ahmed Soultan’s message – Soultan quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the Nayda Moroccan music movement, mixing Moroccan beats with a fresh, soulful reggae-meets-urban feel. And, always, a message.
Album 2, “Code” followed to much acclaim and his 3rd album Music Has No Boundaries is coming soon…
“We cannot judge people without knowing them and looking at their countries and their lives …before having an idea of what they are going through” – BBC interview
– Ahmed Soultan
BBC 1Xtra ‘s DJ Edu, Ahmed Soultan, Eve-Yasmine and Akala (pic courtesy of Eve-Yasmine)
While Morocco’s native music is vast and varied (Essaouira/Marrakech is more or less the invisible line between the Arabs to the north and Berbers to the south, if I’m not mistaken?) Soultan wants to encourage younger listeners to “reconnect” with their African roots – in addition to the Middle Eastern music influences that permeate the radio airwaves.
Morocco’s African neighbours are part of Morocco’s own tapestry and everywhere you look it’s such a country of contrasts. The earthy, ancient simplicity of a small Berber village versus the colourful, heady frenzy of geometric tile-work in a Marrakech riad.
Simple, elaborate. Mystical, mystifying. Earthy, dreamy. Ancient, modern. African…Arabian…Moroccan.
Morocco fascinates me. It’s a bridge between North Africa and Europe. In a western world which moves way too fast and has become way too superficial, Morocco’s real, artisan, heart-led slower pace and intricate culture is like fresh oxygen in a radioactive, not-enough-time-for-the-important-things world. If you’ve never ventured south of Malaga you’ll never know how different, alive and mystical Morocco feels, and how warm the people are. I’ve learned more about life, capital “L”, from the people there, than anywhere. A week after I’ve left, I want to go back!
“We are, as Berbers and North Africans, very connected to Africa but we have to regenerate this old link to Africa that has been lost…”
– Ahmed Soultan
So here’s the interview and good luck Ahmed for the AFRIMA Awards and “shukran” – thank you!
Ahmed Soultan is up for an AFRIMA Award (mid-November) for Best Male Artist (North Africa)
60-Seconds with Ahmed Soultan – Q&A
- You’re one of the leaders of Morocco’s NAYDA (new urban Moroccan) music scene and you really caught the attention of fans and critics by breaking new ground with your “tri-brid” Afro-Maroc-Soul style – 100% your trademark. Where does that come from, how did your style “gel”? And who are the musicians you listen to when you’re alone or just chilling?
I just wanted to be me, an African, a Moroccan, someone who can speak 3/4 languages (most of Moroccans speak 2/3 like Darija (Moroccan Arabic), French and Amazigh) , who likes soul music, but loves the traditional instruments of my country and continent, someone who love surf, videos etc… so I did all that trying to be as authentic and aesthetic as possible:). Most of the time I listen to contemporary African artists, and some classic Soul but I try to stay connected to new genres.
- For you, “the music is the messenger”. Your music carries important messages about tolerance, not judging, and the fact that at the end of every single day we are all essentially the same, within our human hearts and skins. If you had to sum it up into a couple of sentences, what is your message?
You know it’s about respect and responsibility , yes we are all the same. “Respect my way of life , I will respect yours, I will never try to impose mine on you , don’t impose yours on me ” etc..
- You’ve said in interviews “Je suis un positiviste”. Do you have a specific life philosophy and if so, how has this helped you through your life and career?
There is always someone more miserable than you, so instead of singing about what’s wrong I prefer to sing about positive aspect of our life or positive aspect of a bad situation…just smile, we are all gonna die…
- If you could cut some new tracks with just ONE artist you’ve never met – alive or dead – who would that be?
I don’t know, but let’s say a crazy Afrobian track with Michael Jackson to spread the genre globally 🙂
- And, last but not least we’re excited to hear you’ve got a new album – Music Has No Boundaries – out soon – can you tell us more about that, the title, and how it all came together?
Yes, I have spent 5 years to produce it – remember I’m independent 🙂
I’ve recorded songs in English, Moroccan, Amazigh and French with artists like George Clinton, Femi Kuti, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, Tekitha (Wu-Tang), Akala (the UK Rapper) and recorded with traditional instruments like guembri, ribab, krakeb, derbuka etc… so after this big “Salsa” I decided to call the album “Music Has No Boundaries”.
Because it’s true – look at you.
Ahmed Soultan’s music is on iTunes and Amazon.co.uk
Spotify – Ahmed Soultan
Latest single: This Is Who I Am (with Wiyaala) – YOUTUBE CHANNEL