The Age Of Decay
Hailing from Casablanca in Morocco, the socio-cultural and political climate of your country is your main backdrop. However, since “Those Who Fight In God’s Way” released on Khemia, there has been an important awareness in your approach and ethos of music.
“The Age Of Decay – عصر الاضمحلال” follows in the wake of this personal growth: this strongly felt decline is not only about a cathartic urge to express but also a way of perceiving art as a vector of collective consciousness. A critical perspective that reflects the moral idleness and suffocation of youth in a society caught between tradition and modernity.
What prompts you to assert increasingly this subversive view? What do you think is the importance of an artist to be both a witness and actor of his time?
Society as a whole, not only youth is torn apart between tradition and modernity, fatalism is the norm, everyone is doomed, “Khoya ra ghir lmghrib hada, lblad ma3tatnach, k7al rass, blad dzab” are just a few of the many many expressions that exists to express this unexplainable feeling, dreaming is not allowed, mediocrity is a must, complaining but never doing is how you achieve nothingness.
Yes, I’m definitely allowing more of my real self to flow into my artistic work as opposed to having two distinct “personalities” initially.
What prompts me to assert my views ? I don’t know, it’s more of an urge … I’m torn apart by all the lingering issues in Morocco, something needs to be done, being powerless, the least we can do as artists is to shed some light. I think an artist should be a decent human being first and foremost, so yes, a witness and an actor, be what you preach. Fuck the hypocrisy.
A sea change took place in the stylistic attributes of your project with a shift in focus from an ancestral, tribal and bewitching techno to something more hybrid at the crossroads of industrial music, post-punk, noise, percussive ethnic rhythms and melodies referring to Arabic scales. Has this desire to denounce and rebel against society forced you to make more violent and cutting aesthetic choices?
I wouldn’t say there has been a shift, and the music I’m working on right now seems to indicate it’s more of an endless cycle, my style or styles change depending on my mood, and on the influences I’m submerging myself in at a particular time frame of my life. I’m also trying really hard to merge all my musical influences in my productions, I spent several years diving deep in each of those influences to better understand them producing during this process hundreds and hundreds of pieces, a small percentage of them got released, most of them got is lost to time or to soundcloud private links haha.
The violent aesthetics that initially started with “Blood, Fear & Injustice” and continued throughout some single tracks releases to peak in in the age of decay happened to be the result of a huge amount of frustration building up during my life in the recent years that kept reaching new heights, if it doesn’t get out, you become insane…
The artwork is a real artifact of this transgressive approach and militant attitude. The dramatization of the pictures through the processing method poignantly reveals the terror of the established order. How did you end up working with Misfit? Can you tell us in depth about the meaning of this artwork? What does it show, reveal or even hide?
Misfit is a very talented visual artist and 3d creator whose work has been rightfully appreciated in the Moroccan underground scene and beyond. We came to know each other through our mutual interest in our respective works, it is very important for me to have Moroccan people or people from the Arab world in general be involved in my projects in a way, and Misfit was the perfect fit for this Artwork. He managed to capture the feelings of rebellion and outrage that were conveyed through the music and put them in the visual realm by using images from various social movements from Morocco as well as images of authority. In his own words :
The artwork consists of a minimalist color palette yet a distorted and noisy imagery feeding into the sharp contrast between the black and white. with an experimental logotype in Arabic translated to “The Age Of Decay”.The theme contains three main images in the foreground with a high significance in moroccan history, referencing colonial wars, the ruling authority that was a result of it but also suppressed resistance.The background element represents modern buildings and all the injustice their walls witnessed throughout time.All those elements stitched together in one piece tell the story of nonlinear impacts of the past and their influence on the present making what is considered as forgotten and dead, revived once again through its remaining fragments.
You have built up intentionally a provocative and libertarian identity that spreads a specific image of anarchy. As a first step with your stage name “Prophän” then through some tracks following this framework, for instance: “Stop Worshiping”
on your own label Rhadâb – غظب, “Land Of The Unfree” or “A Death Shall Not Be In Vain” on Khemia or more recently “Give Me What’s Mine – عطيني ديالي ” + “Even The Worthless Rose – حتى الحقير حقد ”, “The Dreams I’m Not Allowed To Have – الأحلام الممنوعة ”, “The Blood From My Guts – دم جوفي ” and “My Homeland Abandoned Me – بلادي فيا سمحات ” on OSM Tapes.
In an oppressive state where one shall be held guilty for “disturbing the public order” and “acts that may shake the faith of Muslims” have you ever experienced censorship? Have you ever performed a live set there?
Yes I did play a few live sets as Prophän in Morocco and never experienced any major/direct censorship, I mean I did some borderline things in the past that I would think twice before doing again, kind of close to the famous uncrossable red line that everyone in Morocco knows about and which is not religious.
However we suffered from censorship with my collective “Mindless” and one of our parties got canceled by police because they really didn’t like one of the names that was on the party flyer.
Fun fact, most of the restrictive laws such as the interdiction of sex outside of marriage, interdiction of alcohol, etc were actually created by the French protectorate.
The structure of the EP is quite relevant, both sides are the extension of one another. They highlight an emotional duality which finds its balance in two states: on the one hand the thirst to overcome despite all and on the other the acceptance of the helplessness against fate.
“My Homeland Abandoned Me – بلادي فيا سمحات ” seems to be a farewell to Morocco and leads to a new flourish. Did you know when you composed it that you would voluntarily go into exile in France? What does no longer being tied to Morocco mean? Can you tell us about the story behind “My Homeland Abandoned Me”?
Yes, I knew I was leaving when I wrote that track, it is a mourning and a painful farewell, expressing the intense hate/love relationship I (and many moroccans apparently) have with our country.
I would not say I’m no longer tied to Morocco, I will always be, it’s a very important part of my identity, a source of infinite inspiration and it has shaped everything about me, I just had to leave it in order to “build myself” and move forward with my artistic goals, I sincerely hope that eventually I will get to return there with something to offer.
The story of the track is like a sum of all those feelings, It is filled with sadness and bitterness, the realization that we have been abandoned by our government and authorities who remind us of their presence only through punishment and taxation, left to fend for ourselves, treated as workforce and not citizen, a lot of people leave for better horizons where they get better conditions of life, most of those people wish they could stay there and reach their full potential.
There is some evidence of a commercial boom and a trend related to the exoticism of North African tones in industrial music. What do you think of the way Westerners look at your country? Where is the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation of culture?
Do you think the issue stems from a lack of recognition from North Africans themselves allowing Westerners to put value on a culture that is not theirs? Also there are quite a lot of North African artists in this industry but can we talk about a scene or a movement?
True, there certainly seems to be growing interest from westerners towards north African (and not only) tones. Unfortunately, it seems some(or a lot) of them are only seeking exotic new sounds to enrich their sound libraries and impress their crowds. For me it is plain cultural appropriation, in my opinion all they do is steal centuries old musical traditions they don’t even bother to understand without giving any credit and taking full rewards for it. And also disfiguring it in the process. I know this kind of talk makes some people upset but I don’t really care. We’re tired of rich westerners coming here and recording street musicians playing guembri and layering a 4/4 kick on top of it and relabeling it “Gnawa meets UK Bass” or doing field recording in crowded markets and then pressing it to tapes humbly titled “Street sounds of Marrakech Vol.1”, of course usually accompanied by a horrible reducing cliché artwork. For me it’s disrespectful and I despise such practices.
But it’s all in our hands, there is an issue with north Africans who do not value their own heritage and always look up to the west (The trauma of colonialism), thankfully more and more are now waking up and realize how rich NA folklore is, it is our duty to perpetrate it and do it correctly instead of waiting for westerners to do it. Unfortunately there are still many people who still copy what’s being done in the west in the most lazy way, but I like to believe it is only a matter of time before they wake up too.
I don’t know if we can talk about a scene already, we still lack many of the prerequisites for that, but I can assure you that there is a very strong movement that will blow up if given the adequate resources and means.
You launched your label Rhadâb – غضب back in 2018. Can you tell us about the genesis? What vision would you like to convey through it? What objectives would you like to achieve and how do you organize your work in order to ensure they are complied with?
The label initially started as an outlet for my own work In order to have more control over my releases, visuals are extremely important to me and I usually have a very specific aesthetic in mind for my projects, one of the aims of the label was and still is to display an alternative interpretation of what Moroccan and by extension Arabic/Amazigh modern electronic music could be, far away from the easy and overused clichés. A statement of how deep and diverse it can be.
All I can say regarding the plans is that there is some outstanding and unique music in the works by artists and friends from Morocco and beyond, being carefully and slowly refined since the release of Al-Ibtihal. Some of it will be announced soon and I really can’t wait to unveil it.
There are still plenty of voices to be heard and particularly women’s voices. Could you highlight the work of female artists from North Africa that are worthy of consideration and deserving our greatest support?
Indeed, there are many female artists from north Africa whose work is very impressive, below is a list of some of my favorite with the discipline, there is of course more to be discovered:
Sukitoa O Namau : Live performance
Glitter : Music curation / Radio host
Gaouta : Live music / Visual art
Ojoogyal : DJ/ Radio Host
Khtek : Rap Music
Ines Bouallou : Poetry / Photography
Hind Moumou : Photography / Filmmaking
Nouhaimina : Painting/ Video Art
Amina Azreg : Painting/ Fashion Design
Jalila Moustakbal : Photography
Bgunn : Glitch Art / 3D Modelling
Zineb Boujema : Contemporary dance / Acting
and many more !