Originally from Casablanca, Oum El Ghaït Ben Essahraoui seemed destined to become an architect but then decided to embrace a career in music. She quickly drew the attention of the media, who identified her with the Nayda, a movement of young Moroccans attracted by more urban sounds. The albums Lik’Oum (2009) and Sweerty (2012), which were only released in Morocco, made her a star in her own country. Then she had a crucial brainwave. She began to write in darija, the everyday dialect of Moroccan Arabic. This offered her the possibility of exploiting a new musicality in her lyrics, as well as new combinations of meaning – an entire poetry of assonances. In 2013, she surrounded herself with musical luminaries to release her first international album, Soul of Morocco. European audiences discovered an artist full of generosity who offered a new kind of fusion combined with great authenticity. Concerts followed each other in quick succession, allowing her well-honed group to achieve even greater cohesion. Two years later, Zarabi, recorded at the gates of the Sahara, deepened the aesthetic direction that Oum has chosen to pursue, whilst offering a discourse on the need to preserve nature and traditional micro-societies.
With Daba, her third album, released in 2019, Oum reached a new milestone. Entrusting the artistic direction to the Palestinian poetess, singer and oud player Kamilya Jubran, she went to Berlin with her musicians to make a record that was both atmospheric and danceable. For Oum, this dual aim reflects a sort of state of emergency, one that she describes as positive: to be together, share good times, dance and hold each and every one in a warm embrace, all of which seem to her to be necessities all the more urgent now that the means of communication and transport tend to radically reshape one’s experience of the world and of the other. Expressed in a poetry that is economical with its words and devoid of all artifice, the themes on the album are in accord with the general preoccupations of its creator, her humanism, her feminism, her spirituality and the importance she gives to reconnecting with nature’s mysteries.
Daba means ‘Now’ in Moroccan Arabic. Giving this title to her third album is, for Oum, all about linking yesterday’s experience to the one determined by the present moment. In this ‘now’, the singer, having achieved a certain artistic maturity, is able to mix traditional Arab and Sahraoui elements with discreet borrowings from more contemporary aesthetics – soul, jazz and electronic trance. Thus, her music thrives, as does her thought process as a woman anchored in secular spirituality and open to today’s world.
Oum positions herself as a Moroccan, an African and a woman of the world who is convinced that cultural barriers are less weighty than that which brings us together. And with that she touches on the spiritual. After all, isn’t Abad, the ‘eternal’ the opposite of Daba, the ‘moment’? On Daba, Oum pursues her quest for music that is universal, a reflection of a troubled world and, at the same time, a balm intended to soothe that world and impart to it an infallible hope.
Perhaps you’ve already seen him performing in the US, England, Australia, Hungary or in Paris. Always elegant in appearance, adorned by his charming presence, embodies a unique and talented style of guitar playing inspired by the Mandingo tradition, Blues, Jazz and Rock. Even before releasing his first album Loundo, Moh! Kouyaté has enjoyed a long career…
His parents and uncles in Guinea first coached him traditionally. All of his relatives were deeply engaged in the musical life of Conakry. Forming part of the griot’s dynasty since the 13th century, the learning of music has forever been sacred to the Kouyaté
family. Moh!’s father encouraged him to play at an early age, and taught him his first chords; Moh!’s grandmother bought him his first traditional guitar in the local market.
Moh! instinctively followed the masters of Guinean music : the Bembeya Jazz leaders, Sékou “Diamond Fingers” Bembeya, the Syli Authentique, Kouyaté Sory Kandia, and also Ousmane Kouyaté, Salif Keita’s principal guitar player. In just a few years Moh! made remarkable progress and garnered himself the reputation of one of the most talented and up and coming Guinean guitar players. An introduction to George Benson’s album Tenderly by the great Amadou Diallo drove Moh! to mine inspiration from other techniques; those of Django Reinhardt, Santana, BB King, Ben Harper, Jimi Hendrix. At night, Moh! lit up the Guinean capital night life scene with his band, Conakry Cocktail. The band’s fresh and original musical styles were clearly inspired by Joe Zawinul.
In 2004, he met the bluesman Corey Harris and the following year, during a three months bus tour of the US Moh! experienced American gigantism. And while the sources of the blues draw on West African soil, Moh! discovers its tributaries: the Mississippi Delta and its brilliant guitarists, so close cousins of America.
In 2007, Moh! settled in France and discovered the Parisian afro-jazz scene musicians. He enlarged his circle of musical, artistic and personal contacts : Daara J Family, Awa Ly, Vincent Segal, Cyril Hateff, Hilaire Penda … amongst others. He also meet back talented friends like Ba Cissoko or Fatoumata Diawara. Moh! began performing in a quartet in cafes and venues all over Paris and beyond, extending throughout Europe.
In 2015 In addition to his many artistic projects, he began composing his first album, Loundo (one day), a rich compilation of all the different artistic experiences with groovy and electric titles like « T’en vas pas, ça va pas ! » composed for a couple of friends in crisis, broadcast in full on national & international radio stations like Radio Nova, RFI and Africa n°1 FM.
In 2017, he composed his second album Fé Toki in which he shared his vision of a new Africa. In Fé Toki, the art of the continent on which his work feeds is connected to the whole planet. He has experience of this through his American and European tours: his music
has the gift of passing messages.
Today he has gone into a new project which is quite a feat : to put in the international public eye the modern music of Guinea. To do it, the guitarist singer has gathered around great figures such as Sekouba Bambino, young homeland talents, singers and players and specially composed a repertoire including some rearranged great classics from the golden age orchestras of Conakry.