Aziz Sahmaoui and University of Gnawa

Aziz Sahmaoui and University of Gnawa

 Paris, Île-de-France, FRA
BandWorldJazz

With a few plucks of the guembri, surrounded by a squadron of musicians both
talented and inspired, Moroccan Aziz Sahmaoui gets everyone going. His
second album is a work of maturity that brings together his musical passions,
gnawa, rock and fusion - affirming himself as an writer, composer and musical
interpreter who must be reckoned with.

Biography

Since then, Aziz Sahmaoui has graced the stages of France, Europe, North Africa,

the United States where his sound has never stopped growing. He's known in Algeria

thanks to the ONB and has become a star there because of his first solo album.

Today his music spreads its antennas as far as Egypt and Lebanon. The audiences

love him and younger musicians copy his work. It seems that Aziz was born to write:

heady choruses, an unstoppable groove and a feel for improvisation all turn his

music into an idiom of perpetual movement. If there's no groove there's nothing, he

explains. The groove means to slip into the phrasing of the other, but not to ruffle him,

just listen to him and let the rhythm grow. Everyone has their own responsibility, even

if it's rhythmically very small. The singer and multi-instrumentalist adds: the groove,

you've either got it or you haven't. Those who went before me initiated me. It's thanks

to them that I've learnt how to share this space.

Often returning to Morocco to replenish himself alongside his Gnawa masters friends,

Aziz always wants to keep going forwards and evolve. On this new album, he wanted

to introduce a different perspective: I'm trying to break away from the usual image

associated with me and to find a balance between gnawa music, writing and melody.

And when Aziz wants something he makes it happens. The result: a breathtaking

album full of many facets, recorded in a few days at the legendary Gang Studio in

Paris by Sodi (producer of Femi Kuti, Rachid Taha, Chinese Man and previously

several albums by Fela). Unstoppable choruses in tracks like "Mazal " (which means

“to carry on”, “to persist”…), "Hada Ma Jari" and "Une Dune pour Deux"; riveting

North African rock on "Inch Allah". And lastly, a show of feeling and improvisation

with his gang of musicians, united as they attack, singing in unison and going on a

hunt for notes and emotions were there normally aren't any.

We find the same inspired virtuosity on the track "Yasmine", which features the

flamenco guitarist, El Niño Josele. The two musicians have known each other a long

time since Niño Josele had called upon Aziz in 2002 to record a Spanish version of

"Zawiya” a track originally by ONB. Niño Josele is a worthy representative of a

modern style of flamenco which knows how to regenerate itself and blend in. He

shares Aziz's vision of a renewed tradition and an interest in jazz - both of which can

be heard. A new, parallel version of "Zawiya (Lawah Lawah)" appears on the album,

and hence the loop is looped with this track which never ceases to amaze its writer,

because it always manages to go in different directions.

Aziz, the poet

As regards to his writing, Aziz is as talented a poet as he is a musician. He writes

and sings in Arabic but always takes care to have his texts translated in his booklets

and albums. Aziz likes to make nature sing, get trees to talk and turn women to

flowers. Like his music, each text offers multiple readings. Among the love songs and

hymns to life, there are also songs of commitment such as « Une Dune pour Deux »

("A Dune for Two") which tells of a man who plants a tree in his neighbour's garden.

He looks after the seedling, nurtures the tree but can never gather the fruit. "There

are too many wars and conflicts both on the international and private sphere. I prefer

using metaphors rather than pointing my finger at so and so".

Describing himself as naive and a dreamer, Aziz has just one mission in mind: to

always keep the circle open, to share and to evolve. His bewitching voice, adept at

alternating between the inflexions of a bluesman, a muezzin and a crooner, pulls us

inexorably into his poetic universe where any bitterness of the day to day melts away into a jubilatory energy.

Discography

University of Gnawa feat Aziz Sahmaoui
(General Pattern - Naive)