U-CEF

U-CEF

 London, England, GBR
BandWorldPop

U-CEF is a tour-de-force which puts gnawa music, dub, sinuous classic Arabic arrangements for qanun, flute & violins, electronic beats, MCs, big drums and crunchy rock guitars into a giant blender to produce something fresh and original... 'the potential is as limitless as the Sahara'

Biography

U-CEF – Short Biography

By Andy Morgan.

Clandestinos have to travel light. There’s little space in their kit bags for anything other than hopes, dreams, memories and music. That was pretty much all U-cef, aka Moulay Youssef Adel, had to declare when he arrived in the USA from his native Morocco back in the late 1980s.

Born in Rabat, the Moroccan Capital, U-cef grew up with the riches of Morocco’s traditional music ringing in his ears, from the raw trance of gnawa to the refined sophistication of andalusi and melhoun, from the challenging protest poetry of the Morocco’s new-breed of pop agitators like Nass El Ghiwane and Lem Chaheb to the gutsy roots music of the high Atlas. But very early on, foreign sounds entered the mix, starting with the lush orchestrated scores of Bollywood and Bruce Lee movies and moving through The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zep to disco and funk. Thanks to his music loving uncles, U-cef started learning the guitar before moving on to become a drummer. His group Quark dreamed of achieving the musical sophistication of heroes Return to Forever and Weather Report. But the contemporary Moroccan music scene simply didn’t nurture that kind of ambition, favouring bands who were happy to just play covers in the ballrooms of swanky hotels. Emigration became the only option.

In New York faith kept U-cef suspended just above the starvation line and immigrant courage earned him a foothold in the New York music scene. He ended up gigging regularly with fellow Moroccan exile Hassan Hakmoun, and other reggae and hip hop acts. Meanwhile he immersed himself in hip hop, reggae and R&B, building a solid, profound and first hand knowledge of late 20th century urban music culture. The process continued when U-cef moved to London with his English ex wife in 1994, except this time the input came from drum ‘n’ bass and ragga, styles that were burning up the underground music scene in the British capital at that time.

After brief success with polyglot jazz-funkateers Pan, U-cef decided it was time to plough his own musical patch, and plant the hybrid seed that would evolve into his signature urban Moroccan style. Mutating from being simply a musician to masterminding a project as producer, engineer and all-round studio hound, U-cef invited a huge cast of musician friends to his self-built home studio in West London, where his first album ‘Halalium’ came into being. With its hard urban edge and complex-free marriage of Moroccan roots, hip-hop and drum’n’bass, ‘Halalium’ was definitely ahead of its time. It went on to influence a whole generation of Moroccan hip hop artists, including Fnaîre, the current dons of the scene. But thanks to a number of factors…not least 9/11 and the mutation of his label Apartment 22 from a record label into a management company, U-cef found himself without a record deal and back in his home studio, pursuing his lonesome musical vision like some halal monk.

‘Halalwood’ is the next chapter in this immigrant story. It has been seven years coming and it reflects both U-cef’s evolving love-affair with rock and R&B and his ever widening circle of friends and musical collaborators. But despite the huge list of credits on the album, its making has often been a lonely experience, with solo sessions clamouring for space between odd-jobs, gigs, remixing for others and spending time with his two children Maysoun and Joshua. Still travelling light, still in exile, still struggling, U-cef’s music is the ultimate immigrant adventurer, clandestino warrior, halal pilgrim, living by courage and inspiration alone, busting boundaries and going from strength to strength.

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Lyrics

HILAL

Written By: U-CEF/MIRROR SYSTEM

A couple of years ago, someone called Paul Singh (Ayash music ltd) asked me to do an arabian remix version for, “Cop that disc” by Missy E, Timberland, and Magoo. So I did. But my remix version never made it to the release!… so as I met up with Steve Hillage and after I’ve explained the situation that the instrumentation on the track is so good that it can be used for a new track, Steve and his lovely wife Mikette Giraudy, that started their new act (Mirror System) were interested in taking on the project as a collaboration. And they did. A couple of weeks later, it was ready and what a transformation. It was so good and I was so happy with it, I put it on Halalwood as track one, as Hilal means 1st day of the month as the moon crescent, indicating 1st moon of the month.
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

BOOLANDRIX

Written By: U-CEF/SAID DAMIR/BIZMATIK

We know for a fact that the greatest Rock guitarist ever JIMI HENDRIX spent time in Morocco in the early seventies, and met with many different musicians throughout the country, from Tangiers to Essaouira, and he surely met with Gnawa musicians (we know that’s the case as many people still remember the time he was over)… and so in many ways this is U-Cef’s vision of a track by GNAWA & HENDRIX that’s never been released, till now.
This track is based on a Gnawa track called Samaoui. U-cef has been working on Gnawa music for many years, in order to put Morocco on the world’s musical map. Previous tracks based on Gnawa have been quite a success on Halalium. In Boolandrix, U-cef has taken this roots music to another level: as the Funk Rock influence has always interested him in relation to music fusion, he decided to bring one into the other. The featured vocals/Sintir, are by Said Damir who was on Halalium. Johnny Biz provides all the rapping and the guitar solo, and further session musicians have contributed to the recordings.
from HALALWOOD the album 2008 Crammed.

OUDDAMAK

Written By: U-CEF/NATACHA ATLAS/GAMAL ALKURDI

Natacha Atlas, in my opinion has done so much for Egyptian music in the west, she has mastered so many different styles and made it her signature, well done girl, and so as friends and support each other, and wanted always to collaborate, she played me the original track of Ouddamak by “Gamil Awad” a great Egyptian based in London, and we decided I do a remix for her album, so I done a version of the whole song with all its original arrangements… it was good, but I always wanted to do what they call “the rinse out”, it’s like riding a couple of sections of the song, and keep rinsing out, till you get the mix that feels right for dance floors as well as radio edit. I wanted it to be sexy and bubbly… so it is.
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

STICK

Written By: U-CEF/DAMON ALBARN

This is a collaboration with the front man in Gorillaz/Blur/The Good, The Bad and The Queen, Damon Albarn. Both being West London Ladbroke Grove residents, I kept seeing Damon every now and then, and I always said Respect to the man before Gorillaz’ first release, at the time I only knew his great work with Blur… in June 2002 we met on a flight to Marrakech and spent time together at the Essaouira Gnawa festival, along with Terry Hall, Jamie Hewletts and the drummer from Gorillaz, who made the same journey…
After knowing each other for a while, I suggested to Damon if he’d like to hear some tracks I’d been working on. Next he managed to find time to come to my studio and brought his Melodica… The challenge now was to do my best and also come up with the most amazing arrangement and production I ever did. We started listening to the track for a couple of times, we talked about this Gorillaz sticker hanging in my studio, that ran out of the sticky stuff, so I used white tack to put it on the wall… Damon got on the Mic he came up with the Stick lyrics, then moved to record the Melodica, that had two takes… I mean quick biz. Session one was over and also Damon was very busy with the release of the second Gorillaz album… By the time he turned up for the next session I had come up with the rock section, which was the only way I could progress with the arrangement. Damon listened to that section and added more vocals. He was quite happy with it. Later on I brought in couple of guitarists and Keyboardist who added their input to the track, also Damon did some guitars & bass. Couple of weeks later the mix was ready - I was nervous about the fact that Damon might not like what I did to the track, but he always gave me enthusiastic feedback and suggested doing more work together in the future… so again I was very delighted.
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

HAMDOU'LLAH

Written By: U-CEF/UK APACHE/OUM ALRIGHT/STEVE HILLAGE

This is a composition and a collaboration with Mirror System (S.Hillage & M.Giraudy), that I started working on in Casablanca in June 2005. Later on I met Oum Alright, an up and coming female singer from Casa, and I asked her if she would like to put vocals to the song. The session took place right away, and that became the chorus on the track. When I came back to London, I hooked up with MC junglist legend Uk Apache. He listen to the track and a couple of weeks later he rang me to say that he’s ready to lay down his verses. When he came to the studio, he nailed it in one take! The overall theme of the song is about being grateful to be part of life and humanity.
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

MARHAbAHIA

Written By: U-CEF/SAID DAMIR/PASTEL

Gnawa meets Capoera, Morocco meets Brazil… this is a gnawa based track called Marhaba (welcome) that initiated the Brazilian collaboration, as I wanted to bring the 2 and so similar cultures, especially whith Gnawa music, they are very related, as they both related to the music of the slavery time, and way back to Africa… and so I decided to keep it on the southern sphere, in a world that has been together, since it started, centuries ago, when sonic arts travelled the waves of lights… with no elctro sounds, as if that fusion took place before elctronica started. So there it is, the joint venture was between Said Damir (aka Saghout) on Gnawa vocals and Sintir, collaborating with Joan B Santos (aka Pastel) on Brazilian vocals and Birimbao, also a Capoera master… it was a perfect and a natural match. However, the intro, is recorded live in Jamaa Lfna in Marrakech, with Said Kouyo & crew, later I joined it to MarhaBahia. The song is about welcoming all on earth…obregado! Later, in Essaouira, we did it live in front of 60000 people, and all the Capoera masters and Said Damir, Said Kouyo, Hassan Hajjaj, and Gnawa crew… we all did the track live, sure that sent a great message, since then, there has been a Capoera school and the locals are amazing now, combining Gnawa & Capoera!… keep your eyes on this space… Sahha Kouyo.
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

YA RAYAH

Written By: ABDERRAHMANE HARRACHI

REMIX STORY:
Thanks to Rachid Taha & Steve Hillage, this track is one the most famous song of the Arabian music catalogue in the world. And I’m a big fan & friend of Rachid, and I always wanted to collaborate with him and Steve, so during the time they have been working on Rachid’s album “T’es qui toi” we discussed doing a remix for “Ya Rayah” and soon after, they handed the tracks to me, spent a couple of week on it, and bang on, dance hall… however, to me this track is timeless, as it will be remixed, fixed and refixed… for the years to come, so I’m glad to be one of the first once… thanks to Rachid, Steve and everyone at Barclay & Universal.
from HALALWOOD album remix version on Crammed 2008.

MO'ROCK'N'ROLL

Written By: U-CEF

As U-Cef was hopeful to get one BIG final collaboration, with Robert Plant!!! And Atlas berber female singer, so I set off to hook up with Najat Aatabou, the star of atlas music, so we met in Casablanca through a dear friend & musician called Malek, in his office at the time running some of the artistic direction at Platinium (label in Morocco) so she like the demo song that I worked on, presumablly for Robert Plant, with many guys like Justin adams and other, we decided to stay in touch till my return to Morocco. A couple of months later I called her to see the best time for her, then at her call, I turned up in Marrakech, as we agreed that I book her a room with her husband, and so she comes to Marrakech, but would not come inside the medina as she is famous locally she turned down to stay in this great Riad “YIMA” designed by Hassan Hajjaj, where we could have had a great and memorable session, she decided with her husband that we do it in Casablanca next day, so off she went then on my way next day, I called her to see where we can meet, then she told me that she was on her way to Tangiers for a job, so I had to wait for 2 days, till she’s back… so I hang out with friends, when she finaly got back, we only had that night left, and so we missed the opportunity!!! However, before I set off, we agreed, that it’ll be a collaboration, that she would share the right to the lyrics with Robert, when it’s registered and out, and so, all the times I’ve seen her in Morocco with her husband, I felt that she was evasive and not professional in relation to say yes or no to the project, without waisting all the energy!!! Back in London, I decided to link up with another singer from atlas and her name is Cherifa, I’ve met her at Womad festival, and I help assisting her with translating… so I thought, she can do the job, and again I called her up, and reminded her of me, as she remembered, and I explain, in the same way to Najat about the potential of Robert voicing the song, she didn’t know who’s Robert!… still, she agreed to meet up in Morocco, so once again, off to Morocco, and exactly Khenifra, where Charifa is based, and so we met the evening I arraive to Khenifra, we had a couple of hours listening to the track, as she was sure she can freestyle to it, as we talked about the terms, as to register her share of lyrics at 50% like Robert… finaly she seems to be happy to do it, so we decided, next day we can work in the country side on the atlas mountains. Next day, I go to meet her, and of with her husband, that was in the meeting, this time only he turned up!!! So I asked where’s Charifa? He rplied, that she’s gonna need a couple of weeks to practice!!! So I suggested, that I can help coatching her through the recording of the session and that all she needs to do is freestyle to the long demo version, at the time, so it’s easy to jam with, whatever sound you can do as professional!!! Her husband, said that if I stay for a couple of weeks till she can do it, then that will be great, to my surprise, so I felt again, just because, I thought working with one of these 2 famous professionals it would be great thing for berber atlas music to meet rock’n’roll music, with the legend and humble Robert Plant. Once again, I missed the session with Charifa, knowing that I was in the heart of the atlas I should ask the record shops, if they can hook me up with some other local singers, didn’t go well, and back at the hotel, last night before leaving Khenifra, we had few drink at the bar, and the story of the manager, that came to our table, to offer us drinks, women and Hachich… anything!!! Wow, so I asked, it’ll be great if you hook me up with a singer that might be in the cabaret that night!… and the manager, straight away said “no mate, can’t help you with that!!!” amazingly, offering all kind of things, but “no singer” in the capital of atlas music!!! Later, I hang out in the cabaret, where there was a little band playing (all men) and all the girls in there, prostitutes… it was a bit depressing!… and so I went back to Marrakech where my flight was for the next day… but on that evening, in Marrakech, I told my friend and Gnawi collaborator, about the story… then he said, there’s an Atlas band in the same hotel he worked at the time, and I suggested to ask her if she’d be interested!… she turned up “Mbarka”… with her husband, they heard the song, they said how much, I said £100, they said ok, then we did it, in less then 1 hour!!! Fantastic, I could’ve done it in Marrakech, that’s why I love that city, things really happen. Long story, worth telling, and so it’s Mo’Rock’N’Roll.
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

IDMAN

Written By: U-CEF/DAR GNAWA/STAIFFY/SWEETMAN

is a global hip hop explosion that features “Dar Gnawa” Manjal Abdelghani, and Bounaama Guy Naim, also London based Mc Sweetmen and Rahil Hafassa aka, Styfee, aka Mighty Frero. It is a hip hop tracks about addictions, and abuse to youself & others around you, especially targeting the youth to do well for themselves and the loved once… from Casablanca, Paris & London to New York city… the message is “clean up”
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

KALZOOM

Written By: COPY RIGHT CONTROL

with Amina Annabi, some time ago we met through the music, and since we always wanted to collaborate, till the opportunity came along to do a track, so we decided to honore the biggest star of Egypt “Oum Kalthoum” so covered “Inta Oumri” a composition by “Mohammed Abdelwahab” a great egyptian composer, as this song is the only one he manage to ever write for “Oum Kalthoum”, so in respect to “Kalzoom” track, is the only one I manage to do with “Amina Annabi”.

HALALWOOD outro on Jamaa Lfna, wishing the best to the album, praises and cheerings over the sounds of Mizmars, bendirs, mopeds, souks and cheerings, ending phrase by Said Damir “when the music hits, you feel no pain” in Moroccan words… salamz.
from HALALWOOD album on Crammed 2008.

Discography

U-CEF GIG HISTORY:

2009 gigs:
La Mar de Musicas (Spain), Masala Festival (Germany), The Kulturbrauerei (Germany), Rio Loco (France), SKETCH (London), SAATCHI (London), AiM Biennale (Riad El Fenn Marrakech), AFRICA EXPREZ @ Hôtel de ville (Paris), THE PEGGY GUGGENHEIM for The Biennale (Venice), MOMO's (London), Passing Clouds (London)

Between 2000 & 2008.

Touring the debut album: Halalium.
Line ups, U-CEF dj set (1 pers), U-CEF & the halal joint sound system, dj/mc/percussion (3 pers), U-CEF live band, 6 piece.

2000 to 2008:

Womex Berlin, Womad festival, The Barbican centre, Summer stage (NYC), Jazz No Jazz (Swiss), Club Raza (Holland), Café de La Dance (Paris), Sfinx festival (Belgium), The Big Chill, Respect festival, Portobello festival, Metro Chicago World music festival, USA. Cargo London, Cactus Belgium, Zodiac Oxford, Palmeraie Marrakech, Potobello festival, Festival Rawafid Casablanca, Essaouira Gnawa festival.Moscow, Casafestival Casablanca, L’Usine France, Melbourne festival Australia, Zanzibar Film festival, MEG festival Montreal, Bidoun Festival Dubai, Damascus French institute festival, Timitar festival Agadir, Global Drums tour Spain, Milkvegh Amsterdam, Afro-Pfingsten festival Swiss, Cabaret Sauvage Paris, Africa Exprez, Moussem festival Belgium, Victoria & Albert museum London, Rise festival London, Tate Britain… and more.

Also, since 2000, many clubs & venues where I had many residencies as a dj and curator…etc, like: Cargo, Momo’s, Gilgamesh , and many others in the May Fair and Knights bridge and underground joints… etc.

NOW, WITH THE NEW ALBUM “HALALWOOD” RELEASED, WE ARE READY WITH A NEW BAND: U-CEF & THE ARAB LEAGUE, WILL TOURING FROM MARCH 2009… GET IN TOUCH

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HALALWOOD U-CEF's new album.

Morocco's first and foremost digitalizer delivers his debut album for Crammed Discs.

‘Halalwood’ is a tour-de-force which puts gnawa music, dub, sinuous classic Arabic arrangements for qanun, flute & violins, electronic beats, MCs, big drums and crunchy rock guitars into a giant blender to produce something fresh and original. U-Cef has all the legitimacy and inspiration needed to navigate between cultures without any prejudice, disrespect or fear. Born and raised in Rabat, he absorbed much of his native Morocco's multiple traditions before moving first to New York and then to London, immersing himself along the way in the Western world's electronic & rock scenes. His first CD ‘Halalium’ (2001) was a milestone in Moroccan urban dance music, and has inspired a whole generation of rappers, b-boys and pro-tools adventurers, from Tangiers to Taroudant and Melilla to Marrakech.

‘Halalwood’ boasts an exciting cast of high-profile guests including Damon Albarn, Natacha Atlas, Rachid Taha, Mirror System (Steve Hillage & Miquette Giraudy), UK Apache, Amina Annabi, Justin Adams and rap duo Dar Gnawa.

Tracklist:

1. Hilal (feat. Mirror System)
2. Boolandrix (feat. Bizmatik & Said Damir)
3. Ouddamak (feat. Natacha Atlas)
4. Stick (feat. Damon Albarn)
5. Hamdou'llah (feat. Oum & Arabingi aka UK Apache)
6. MarhaBahia (feat. Said Damir & Pastel)
7. Rachid Taha's Ya Rayah [Urban Fix] (feat.Rachid Taha)
8. Mo' Rock'n'Roll (feat. Mbarka & Justin Adams)
9. Idman (feat. Dar Gnawa, Sweetman & Staiffy)
10. Kalzoom (feat. Amina Annabi)


THE CONCEPT

STORIES BEHIND SONGS:

1-HILAL:
A couple of years ago, someone called Paul Singh (Ayash music ltd) asked me to do an arabian remix version for, “Cop that disc” by Missy E, Timberland, and Magoo. So I did. But my remix version never made it to the release!… so as I met up with Steve Hillage and after I’ve explained the situation that the instrumentation on the track is so good that it can be used for a new track, Steve and his lovely wife Mikette Giraudy, that started their new act (Mirror System) were interested in taking on the project as a collaboration. And they did. A couple of weeks later, it was ready and what a transformation. It was so good and I was so happy with it, I put it on Halalwood as track one, as Hilal means 1st day of the month as the moon crescent, indicating 1st moon of the month.

2-BOOLANDRIX:
We know for a fact that the greatest Rock guitarist ever JIMI HENDRIX spent time in Morocco in the early seventies, and met with many different musicians throughout the country, from Tangiers to Essaouira, and he surely met with Gnawa musicians (we know that’s the case as many people still remember the time he was over)… and so in many ways this is U-Cef’s vision of a track by GNAWA & HENDRIX that’s never been released, till now.
This track is based on a Gnawa track called Samaoui. U-cef has been working on Gnawa music for many years, in order to put Morocco on the wo

Set List

U-CEF & THE ARAB LEAGUE LIVE 6 PIECE BAND, BRINGS YOU A HOT AN UPBEAT SET, WITH THE FOLLOWING LIST:

-1- HILAL, with a twist of hip hop and crunchy guitars, adding some original ideas and a hint of Timberland & Missy samples...
-2- BOOLANDRIX, where Hendrix meets Gnawa, and New York meets Marrakech... on this track U-Cef does...! to find out, come to the gig :)
-3- STICK, where Damon Albarn, might join us if possible, otherwise, surprise performance again :)...
-4- MARHAbAHIA, where Gnawa meets Capoera, and Morocco meets Brazil... best live :)
-5- 50 CENT A SESSION, where east meets west, and 50 cent meets Sheikh of Beirut... to find out, join us in Da Club :)
-6- YA RAYAH, the ragga muffin live mash up, and we always hope to bump into Rachid Taha to join us :)
-7- DABKA HALL, where Cairo meets Kingston Jamaica, and where belly dance meets booty dance... hall, a massive rinse out !!!
-8- HERBIE & ONB, the last track on stage, a big mash up where Herbie Hancock meet Barbes... s