Chaabi (Popular) Music is one of the most popular music genres in Morocco. It is as deeply rooted in the Moroccan
culture as rock ‘n Roll is in its American counterpart. It is very easy to appreciate what Chaabi
music is to Moroccans once one realizes that they used it as a weapon in
fighting French colonization of Morocco in the early half of the 20th
century. For instances, when Mohammed V,
King of Morocco at the time, was exiled to Madagascar and then Corsica, Chaabi
songs demanding his return became national anthems.
pioneers of this music genre include Haja AlHadawiya, AbdelAziz Stati, and
Zahra AlFassiya, a Moroccan Jewish artist.
Chaabi transcended both religion and gender.
recent visit to the states on a tour, I had the pleasure of catching up with
AbdelAziz Stati, one of the most prolific singer-song writers of the genre of
all time. Stati is a nickname he earned
due to his hexadactylism. Here is our conversation:
Mr. Stati for taking the time to entertain these questions and welcome to
Jamal for having me and I appreciate this opportunity. This is not my first time in the states. I
had been here back in 1996 when I toured many cities. It was great experience and I was happy to
interact with my fans who I salute.
the purpose of this visit?
I am here on
a tour. I had been meaning to make this
trip for a while now in order to see my fans in the US, and spend some time
career spans about three decades.
Compare and contrast Chaabi music then and now:
evolved no doubt. I think I managed to
stick around because I am able to adjust and keep up with these
evolutions. Back then we had Al3ayta
Almarssawiya that we used to learn and hone our craft. Today, things are different including the
audience. I try to adjust to new fans. That is partly why much research goes
into my work from crafting meaningful lyrics to addressing relevant topics; I
think this is what has allowed me to stay afloat as an artist.
did you learn to play the violin?
I have been
playing the violin since I was 14 and overtime, I learned to play other
instruments as well. As for singing, I
have been doing so for as long as I remember including in Tamazight which I am
very proud of. I understand that there
are no limits in the arts
Speaking of songs, how do you choose lyrics
and topics you are going to sing about?
always looked for meaningful topics and lyrics.
My songs deal with various topics from immigration to betrayal to
respect of parents. Relevance is
important to me in my work. I am lucky I can compose music, write song lyrics,
and sing as well but to I cannot do all these things if I want to keep up. I am lucky I work with many great lyricists
and all I have to do is propose a topic and they come up with text. I am comfortable with that since I know the
greatest of the artists do the same.
That being said, I have the final say on what goes where and how.
releasing an album, are you able to reliably predict what track would be more
successful than the others?
I spent lots
of time and effort in all my tracks and I expect them all to do well. That being said, when I release an album, the
public has the final say naturally.
You have performed in countless concerts and
in many countries. Is there an event
that occurred during a performance that stands out? May be a funny incident or
a memorable moment of some sort:
countless situations of various shades and colors. I am grateful that my fans have always
supported. I and I will just leave at that.
When you are at home relaxing, what music do
you like to listen to?
I listen to
all kinds of styles from all over the world.
I like the genre that takes me into a psychedelic trance. I am happiest when I lose myself in listening
to music, playing my violin, or engaging my audience in a concert.
Speaking of a psychedelic trances, when
playing the violin, you have the reputation of tilting your head down towards
it. Why do you do that?
Well, when I
first started out, many have told me but I denied it initially. But when I looked at a video tape of a
performance, I was surprised how deep in it I get. During those moments, I don’t like for anyone
to even touch me. Doing so at that
moment is tantamount to waking me up violently from sleep and the likes. I am in a zone at that time. It is so intense that I would not recall much
of the events the following day.
your projects for 2011?
I am working
on album to be released very soon. I know I have not had anything new for the
past six years or so but that is due to the piracy problem that plagues the
Moroccan music market. We, as artists,
spend lots of time and effort and even our own money only to come up
empty. It is a huge problem that needs
to be dealt with because it discourages many especially those with limited
financial means. If piracy is addressed,
I promise my fans that I will have a new album every six months.
What comes to mind when you hear:
Kaltoum: a phenom. She is highly
respected by the who’s who in the Arabic music and beyond, rightly so.
Khaled: ya salam; I am one of his fans. He is a big star with incredible vocals. I have never heard anyone do Rai music like
he does. There are other great ones of course like the late Cheb Hasni, may he
rest in peace, and Cheb Mami but I cannot compare them to khaled. He is unique.
Stati: a modest man who strives to learn as an artist as if he is just starting
I want to
thank you very much for this opportunity and for giving me a platform to engage
my fans in the . I want to also thank
Mr. Hichan El Anmari for hosting this interview among other things. Hicham is a great artist in his own
right. I want to address one more thing; While in
Orlando, I found out that there was a March in support of the Moroccan Sahara
in Washington DC. I wish I had known
that before. I would have made sure I
was there, in the front row with my Moroccan flag. It is an issue dear to all of us
Moroccans. I have a song called “Maghrini
wa Fhal” (Moroccan to the Bone) which I performed in all my events during this
many thanks Jamal.
Stati in Concert: