Souhail El Bidaoui, welcome
Q: Who is Souhail El Bidaoui?
A: I am a Ayta Artist, born in Sebata in Casablanca. I adore Ayta Art like no one can imagine and I live Ayta artists and culture.
Q: Tell us about yourself and how did you start
A: I was one of the pioneers of Aita and Chaabi (popular music) in my district ‘’Sebata’’. The trend was Nas El Ghiwan, Lamchaheb and other music bands. However, I decided to sing Ayta and I always wanted this art to be given the consideration it deserves.
Q: How did the idea of starting a singer career came to you?
A: Well, I started with Quran recitation and I was brilliant in it early in the primary school. I loved Oum Kalthoum, Farid El Atrach, Mohamed Abdelouahab and Najat Essaghira. However, my love the Ayta especially Ayta Hasbawia and Ayta Marsawia was much bigger. I knew Ayta is what I wanted.
Q: Apart from Ayta and Orietal Music, is there other Moroccan art styles you were influenced by?
A: I am also fan of Moroccan classic songs and I was influenced by artists such as Mohamed El Hayyani, Naima Samih, Abdelouahab Doukali, Souad Mohamed, El Gharbaoui, Lhoucine Slawi, Ibrahim El Alami and many others.
Q: What is behind your love to the Art of Ayta?
A: Aita was part of our daily life at home. I still remember mom, Ayta lover, and her neighbors removing sticks and stones from wheat grains and listening to Ayta great singers such as Bouchaib El Bidaoui, Fatna Bent Lhoucine and other Aita stars via the radio,
Q: How did you move to Holland?
A: I was an employee of RAD (LYDEC currently) and I was invited to a concert in Brussels, Belgium and to another one in Holland where I met my ex-wife and settled till now.
Q: What do you think about the status of Aita today?
A: Although it will never be extinct, Aita is in danger, unless we care more about it and encourage young people and researchers to take care of it and love it. With regards to Ayta artists, I believe they can be categorized into two groups: Artists that sing Ayta like it should be, and others who choose the easiest parts of Ayta songs and that way, real Ayta poems and lyrics get forgotten and lost. For instance, “Laammala” (Ayta song) is “Ataba” (introduction) of another Ayta song, which is “Dami”. Unfortunately, some artists would sing only the easiest part of it.
What do you think of the excessive use of musical instruments by some Aita singers to cover their bad singing voice?
A: I would say instruments are not need when one’s voice can touch the audience heart and vice-versa. Let me tell you that without the incredible voice of Fatna Bent Lhoucine I wouldn’t be Ayta singer today. Her voice inspired me like nothing else. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have as much love for Ayta like I do today.
Q: Tell us about your relationship with Moroccan artists when you started your artist career.
A: I rubbed shoulders with a bunch of famous artists and violinists such as Abdelaziz Stati, Said Oueld Lhowat, Lahcen L’maskini and others. They liked my special “high” voice and I couldn’t satisfy all the offers as my agenda was full. There were not many artists in Sebata and the suburbs except Mohamed Saif and few others. I was lucky to be the first performer of Ayta and Chaabi.
Q: What kind of relationship did you have with Fatna Bent Lhoucine?
A: I loved her too much and I still do and we worked together in “Sawt Nacim” and in Safi and other places. I had my band and she had hers and she used to tease and used to say “Don’t you know anyone but Fatna? …You guys all sing Fatna’s songs”
Q: Do you think “Twachi” and “Brawel” are threatened with extinction in your opinion?
A: Twashi, Brawel, Chyadmi and Zaari will never be extinct. Although Swaken singers are not that many today especially that some good “Swaken” performers are quitting this style. By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to tahnk Weld Lhouwwat who is still singing “Swaken” perfectly.
Q: What do you think about the use of modern instruments in Ayta?
A: I’m not against it as long as it’s beneficial for Ayta. However voice is the most important thing when it comes to singing in general and singing Ayta in particular.
Q: What do you think about censorship of Aita that some people would like to impose?
A: I am always for freedom and responsibility. Ayta was always free and we can’t change facts. Ayta and History both came from the same source.
Q: We know that in addition to Ayta, you also sing Oriental music. I hope that does not mean you will be abandoning Ayta for Oriental music.
A: I love both “Kabbet Lkhyl” and “El hob Kollo”, even the movements I do my hands are the same whether I sing Ayta or Oum Kalthoum.
Q: Would you give up Ayta should the music market or even your audience in europe be requiring so?
A: Never. Ayta is part of me and I do my best to get people love it.
Q: Tell us a bit about you knew project
A: I’m working on a new album and a new recording will be released this summer. Let me tell you an anecdote, I was one of the first artist who sang “Hajti Fi Grini” and I’m just planning to record it now after all these years.
Q: With regards to Ayta, what do you think of some arrivistes?
A: I have no comment and I appreciate people who well.
Q: Finally, what would you like to say to your fans and Ayta lovers?
A: I would like to send my greetings to my fans, to the artist and to all the people who love Aita. I love you all and the love of Aita brings us together.
Mr. Souhail Al-Baidawi, Thank you very much for this interesting dialogue, for sharing all these information with us, and for your beautiful spirit. Bye.
Interviewed by Hassan Abnaou
March 28, 2017