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The Mawazine Sessions, part 1: The Voice winner Mourad Bouriki

Saeed Saeed travelled to Morocco's Mawazine Festival recently to quiz artists about their muse and their approach to music. First up in the eight-part series: The Voice winner Mourad Bouriki

Mourad Bouriki. Despite coming from such a musically distinguished family, Bouriki says he encountered no opposition from his relatives in 2009 when he entered the talent show Studio 2M on a local Moroccan station. Courtesy Universal Music Mena
Mourad Bouriki. Despite coming from such a musically distinguished family, Bouriki says he encountered no opposition from his relatives in 2009 when he entered the talent show Studio 2M on a local Moroccan station. Courtesy Universal Music Mena

Saeed Saeed travelled to Morocco’s Mawazine Festival recently to quiz artists about their muse and their approach to music. First up in the eight-part series: The Voice winner Mourad Bouriki

Play time is over. Such is the attitude now for Mourad Bouriki, the inaugural winner of the Arab edition of The Voice.

Ever since he won the coveted crown this year, the 28-year-old Moroccan’s first taste of the professional music world left his head spinning.

“It has been non-stop,” he admits. “I feel as though I graduated with The Voice and now the real work has begun. I have been in the studio and performing at concerts. It has been hectic. I don’t mind, though; this is what I wanted.”

As well as instant regional fame, not to mention bragging rights for the Lebanese pop-star and mentor Assi Helani, Bouriki’s triumph earned him the opportunity to record his debut album, the first taste of which released recently with Ya Sayidati (My Lady).

Produced by Bouriki’s compatriot RedOne (who helmed chart toppers by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias), Ya Sayidati is a tasteful blend of Bouriki’s traditional ballad style – also known as tareb – and pop-sheen.

With RedOne’s Midas touch, was there an urge to ditch traditionalism to embrace a full-bodied pop sound?

Not a chance, states Bouriki.

“I wanted to show where I was coming from, musically,” he explains. “The thing is, if you look at the track, it doesn’t sound like -RedOne was pushing me in the direction of modern pop. I think it was the other way around. I brought him towards me and he did a wonderful job working within this musical world.”

With Ya Sayidati in high rotation on Arab pop stations around the region, Bouriki hopes it introduces the tareb genre to a new generation of Arab fans.

“What I have is a mixture of the traditional and the modern,” he says. “I hope we can open people’s eyes to this important piece of our history. I am not against modern music. I enjoy performing it and I support it, but we also have to protect our musical tradition.”

Born in Safi in Morocco’s north, Bouriki grew up in a musical family focusing on oriental classic music.

Bouriki’s father conducts a local orchestra specialising in classical pieces from the Andalusian period while his grandfather and uncle were trained in the violin and lute.

By the time Bouriki reached his 20s, he was a multi--instrumentalist and soon became known for his husky voice, too.

Despite coming from such a musically distinguished family, Bouriki says he encountered no opposition from his relatives in 2009 when he entered the talent show Studio 2M on a local Moroccan station.

“It was the opposite, actually,” he recalls. “They supported me but they also warned me that I had to work hard. I had to respect my time on the stage and give a sincere performance.”

While exiting the programme at the semi-final stage was an initial disappointment, Bouriki says it was the time spent soul-searching afterwards that informed his decision to audition for the debut season of The Voice. “That saying is true: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he says. “Yes, it was a blow for me but it wasn’t fatal by any means. It actually clarified for me what I want to do: be a professional artist who’s always performing.”

Now that he is well on his way, Bouriki is experiencing some of the challenges of the music world.

While shooting The Voice had him moderately cocooned in MBC’s Beirut studios, his arrival in Morocco as victor was his first taste of full-blown stardom. As well as the huge crowds turning up to his public appearances, Bouriki was even personally congratulated by the Moroccan king, Mohammed VI.

“The reception was totally unexpected because in Morocco, these talent shows don’t always get a big audience all the time,” he says.

“I guess one way to explain it is that The Voice is a little different – the show allows the viewers to know the contestants more. This way, both the viewers and the local media are more involved.”

Bouriki says he is realising he could become tomorrow’s tabloid fodder and seeks counsel in his The Voice coach Helani.

Bouriki says that the mentor-student relationship with the Lebanese singer extends beyond the show. “I am so grateful to have him and I definitely view him as my teacher,” he says. “Mr Assi has been teaching me how to be calm and generally how to behave in such public situations as you do need experience to handle it.”

Bouriki says he handles stardom and the pressures of the music industry by constantly reminding himself where he comes from.

“I try to be as normal as I can and be myself,” he says. “I remind myself of who I am and what it is about me and my performances that pleased the people in the first place. That focus keeps me going.”

Team work

They may have been the winning team on The Voice, but the musical appreciation between Assi Helani and Mourad Bouriki will also extend on the latter’s debut album.

Bouriki confirms that the next single, Ashqeen Sahari Layali, to be released from the as-yet-untitled album, will have melodies written by Helani.

“It will be another mix,” Bouriki says. “The song is performed in the Egyptian dialect but the melodies are very Lebanese. I am really happy to work with Mr Assi again and I hope people enjoy the song.”

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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