Interview with Yuba

Interview with Yuba

Yuba was born and raised in Dcheira, a small town near Agadir (Southern Morocco). He was greatly affected by the way in which his Amazigh (Berber) culture was slowly but surely being strangled and so joined the identity protest movement to try and contribute, in his own way, to the defence and protection of this thousand-year-old culture. So, before being drawn into the world of music, he wrote poems in Amazigh to signify his attachment to his primary identity.
Yuba is a name which should not be forgotten, and a singer worth listening to. He is a talented musician; he knows how to make an impression and also how to make a new style popular. This new style is original, a clever mixture of amazigh music and very different foreign influences. This did not put the noses of Amazigh music-lovers out of joint: on the contrary, he was given such a warm welcome that others were soon following in his footsteps. A good number of young musicians took a leaf out of his book and started to imitate his style. He has brought out two very successful albums up: Tawargit and Itran azal. In this interview, he opens up his heart to talk about his beginning, his influences, his friends…

L. Oulhadj: Could you introduce yourself in a few words?

Yuba: I was born in Dcheira, a large working-class town between Inzggane and Agadir. I spent the best years of my life there and enjoyed a very happy childhood. At that time, people knew everybody else and were so carefree! I m sure you ll agree that this is unfortunately no longer the case. As far back as I can remember, we spent most afternoons in boisterous musical sessions.

What happened during these musical sessions and who organised them?

It was the women. Around an aromatic glass of mint tea, woman of all ages would take the slightest excuse to gather together and sing. We children took great joy in participating in this as well, even though we were badly-behaved. They used the tagganza (a tambourine with a frame), their cookery and anything else at hand to accompany themselves. At that time, I must confess that I had no idea of what lay behind all of this. It was only later that I realised that behind its festive, playful side, there lay a tradition of great wealth. In truth, it is all of this that saved a large part of our musical culture and which later gave birth to our modern songs, even though it was indirectly.

How is that?

By simply nurturing a musical vocation in a lot of our young people, who, once they grew up, gave full rein to their talent by founding groups as mythical as Tabghaynuzt, Imurigen, Inzezanren (Chamkh and Iggout), Igidar… Dcheira, as everybody knows, is above all the musicians capital.

Did your family play any part in your musical vocation?

My family only acted as a trigger for my musical “revolt”. Singing was not something that just happened to me. I saw it as a duty to my culture and my cause. My mother wasn t against it. My father, on the other hand, was very dubious. In fact he hit me over the head once with a guitar that I had made from a can of insecticide. To cut things short, the decision to sing was, at the end of the day, purely personal. We did have a taggenza at home, but it was at my aunt s that I saw the women sing nearly every day. I discovered folk dances such as ahiyyad, and ahwach, and traditional or modern musical groups at family weddings and circumcision ceremonies and during the various festivals held throughout the year.

I have been told that your great-grandfather is the late rrays El-Houssayn Amzil. What can you tell us about that?

El-Houssayn Amzil was a great musician in the traditional Amazigh genre. He was the principal rrays of Aksimen and Imsgginen (the region of Inezggan, Dcheira, Benrsrgao…) He was supposed to have composed several of Boubakr Anchad s songs and even some of Lhaj Belaid. I wasn t lucky enough to have known him, because he passed away in 1964, several years before I was born. But I knew practically all of his descendants, including my grandmother, who was his eldest daughter and whom I had the great honour of listening to singing some of his songs. He stood out because he had his own personal style, strong lyrics, love songs, his playing of the tallunt (tambourine with a frame) and his musical feeling. I hope that one day all of the poetical and musical heritage of this man will be collected together, because it has remained at the oral stage. It would really be a shame if it were lost forever.

How did you decide to start playing the guitar? I know that we usually play the banjo.

I am really no exception to the rest of my generation. When I was young, I was a fan of the legendary Izenzaren. I first learned how to play the banjo and used to love to sing the songs in the repertory of this mythical group. I was also mad about Usman, the leading group on the Amazigh scene during the seventies and all the musical wave that followed them. And like every true Amazigh, I also listened a lot to the irreplaceable rrays. I don t see how it could be otherwise, as they make up part of our daily lives. Once I had decided to launch my musical career, I knew that I had to stand out, be original and not just be content with going along the same well-trodden path. So I started to play the guitar because it is an instrument with enormous potential, without forgetting, of course, the revolutionary symbolism which goes with it. Musical revolution, that is.

What can you tell us about the duo that you formed with Asid?

My time with Asid was very positive. We used two guitars and a harmonica. Which was very original. We sang songs taken from the repertories of Ousman, Ammouri M bark, Idir and so on. But it must be remembered that we were only just starting out. We were both searching for our own identity. It was because of this that our collaboration did not last because we were different in lots of ways. I consequently decided to wing it alone by playing either solo or with my first group. Even though we split up, Asid and I are still friends. I could say that we are still very close, almost like brothers.

And what about the influence of the Amazigh Cultural Movement (MCA)?

I joined this movement when I was very small. I was even for a while a very active member of the Tamaynut branch. It is obvious therefore that I felt the influence of its ideas and its values. I can safely say that, without the MCA, there would have been no Yuba as the public now knows him. It should be remembered that we were a very committed, close-knit group of militants, each working in his favourite area. I devoted myself to music, but there were others who were writers like Amazigh B. Lasri, painters like Idus Zaki and so on.

Who writes the lyrics for your songs?

The lyrics for Tawargit and Itran azal are mine, unless indicated otherwise. In my last album, the seventh track, Tazrart, is a text taken from our poetical heritage of the Anti-Atlas.

What can you tell us about the role played by your closest collaborators, Jamal Boumadkar and Abdellak Chafik?

Let me be clear once and for all, I have never denied the contributions made by Jamal and Abdellah. Their help is infinitely precious and I would like to thank them for it. My relationship with these two brothers was, is and always will be, excellent. Abdellah Chafik, for example, was the one who brought the finishing touches to the track Imal on the Tawargit album, with his playing of the taggenza, his guitar-playing on Tazrart, his backing voice on Urt igi and Anzar d udrar on the album Itran azal. And Jamal Boumadkar – he is so wise, the one-man band and the organiser without equal. His collaboration is so important to me that I can t give you every detail of it. But I can tell you that his playing of the double bass and his voice are present on practically all of my tracks. In any case, all of this can be found on the sleeves of my albums. And I think it s the least I can do.

In what kind of conditions did you record your last album?

Everything was done either in Germany or in Morocco. I admit that it wasn t the easiest thing to do, especially as I don t have many means at my disposal. Things had to be managed very well, in the slightest detail. In fact, right at the beginning, I wanted my friends, those who had stayed in Morocco, to be around me. This is why I was constantly commuting between Agadir and Hamburg. Otherwise I could have quite easily chosen to do everything in Germany. It is there that one has access to the best equipment. The result was that more than ten musicians of different nationalities collaborated together and participated in the recording of this album. An example of this was Aneta, who sang with me in Amazigh.

Who is she? And how can she sing in a language that she doesn t know?

Aneta is a German singer. She was the one who sang, in her beautiful voice, the track Tfelt iyyi. For that I can tell you that there is nothing easier. You just need a free spirit, no complexes of any kind, and to be open to other people and their cultures. Nothing is impossible if you have all that.

And what are you doing now?

I am working very hard on new songs. I am trying at the same time to contact new musicians with other styles and other musical cultures, so that we can exchange ideas, whilst making sure that my music becomes known. I also give concerts with my group in Germany, where I have decided to live. Otherwise, I am sometimes invited as a guest singer by other groups I know.

And your last word…

I would like to pay tribute, through this interview, to all those who have never ceased listening to me and who have encouraged me to keep on. Even though the list is long, I would like to thank B. Azwaw Rami, Agoram Itri, Karim Aguenaou, Amazigh B. Lasri, all the musicians who support me and those who enjoy and appreciate my work.


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