By Jamal Laoudi
By Jamal Laoudi
Morocco World News
Washington D.C, November 5, 2012
Moroccan Chaabi (Popular) Music is arguably the most popular music genre in Morocco. It is as deeply rooted in the Moroccan culture as rock ‘n Roll is in its American counterpart. Chaabi songs were used to pass messages between freedom fighters in Morocco during the era of colonization. Legends and pioneers of this music genre include Haja Al Hamdawiya, AbdelAziz Stati, and Zahra Al Fassiya.
Hamid El Mardi is one of the most recent additions to the list of well-established successful Chaabi stars in Morocco. I caught up with him recently during his first U.S. tour.
MWN: What’s your background?
Hamid El Mardi: Hamid El Mardi was born Hamid El Bakraoui in 1977 in Casablanca. I started out performing at weddings and the likes. After much hard work that included training my voice and researching various styles of music, I managed to break through to mainstream and I am now a household name.
MWN: What kind of music were you exposed to growing up and why did you choose Chaabi?
Hamid El Mardi: One of my brothers plays few instruments, another one sings. My uncle from my mother’s side plays the guitar so I grow up around few artists. They sometimes performed for others and I accompanied them whenever possible. I started out as a backup singer and percussionist, and eventually did my first song at age 15.
I performed various Arabic styles of music from Khaleeji to Rai to you name it. Overtime, I concluded that Moroccan Chaabi was it for me
MWN: How did you acquire your stage name El Mardi?
Hamid El Mardi: I have always been unusually at the service of my parents. Overtime, everyone started to call me El Mardi (a Moroccan term used on individuals who are in excellent standings with their parents). Orchestra Hamid was the name I used for my first album in 2004. That was too cliché. We needed something different for the future, we thought of using just my first name, Hamid. Something was still missing. All along, everyone is still calling me El Mardi. Then, we realized that El Mardi was the natural stage name that imposed itself and was quite fitting.
MWN: How did your U.S. tour come about?
Hamid El Mardi: This is my first time in America and this tour in its entirety is organized by my U.S. manager Huda Benani. By the time this tour is over, I would have performed in Orlando, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Washington D.C. and Boston. It has been great so far in my first few shows.
MWN: “Endi Ghir Qlayab Wahed” which translates roughly to “I have but one heart (love)” is your biggest hit by far and very easily one of the top hits of the decade in Morocco. Talk to me about that song:
Hamid El Mardi: I work with various composers and song writers. On that one, I worked with Mohammed El Mahfoudi who composed it and wrote its lyrics, and I did the vocal arrangements. It is a great success and I am very proud of that.
MWN: Other artists like Abdel Aziz Stati have complained about the problem of music piracy in Morocco. What is your take on the issue?
Hamid El Mardi: No one suffers from music piracy more than record companies. From the artists’ standpoint, I think there are two sides to that coin. Well-established artists are losing money as a result no doubt. As for upcoming and struggling artists, it is the contrary. If you have a good product, you have a free marketing tool for your songs or albums. Just put your material out there and watch it take off. Once you make it through, the wheels will turn on you. Let’s not forget that it is a source of income for many families. You would be very surprised at the number of people it employs.
MWN: What kind of music do you listen to on your down time?
Hamid El Mardi: I go for easy listening, Umkaltoum, Mariah Carry, Celine Dion and the likes.
MWN: Last words:
Hamid El Mardi: Thank you and it has been a pleasure. I have very much enjoyed this visit and tour, and I look forward to doing it again soon. I hope everyone had a great time.
Hamid ElMardi Performs his Hit Song “Andi Qlayab Wahed”: