Home Culture Interview with Moroccan-Swiss Singer Elam Jay

Interview with Moroccan-Swiss Singer Elam Jay

Ouassima Boujrad

Fez – Moroccan-Swiss singer Elam Jay released one of his brilliant works October 15, 2014, a wonderful single titled “Sunshine” that has broken the records on Facebook with one million views and moved up to first place in Hit Radio Top 30, a Moroccan Youth Radio channel.

He is a worldly and diverse singer who aims to spread his love for music as a free art with no identity or nationality. He joyfully accepted a phone interview with MWN.

MWN: Elam Jay, you are a Moroccan-Swiss singer born in Casablanca and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. Which identity and lifestyle are you performing more in your everyday life?

Elam Jay: I have been traveling all around the world. I have visited many places and met different cultures, but I still keep my Moroccan mentality and lifestyle; I am 100% Moroccan. It is my fault for what people think of me, because for the last seven years I disappeared and never talked about what I was doing, what I am doing, how I live and who I am. So of course, people are always guessing and guessing and guessing, but it is not a big problem. The future will show exactly what I have in my head and what I have in my heart.

MWN: At the age of seventeen, I guess it is at that particular age when you started your artistic career, because you created your own dance academy with over 180 students. Was it personal, independent work or sponsored and financed by somebody you know?

Elam Jay: Not exactly. My career is “self-taught”: I have always been working on what I see as any youth in the world. At first I started with no help. I just felt that I loved music and dancing and that I have a talent, then I decided to develop myself. For a number of years I started teaching dance at a center in Geneva, giving courses to young kids of around six years old teaching them all kinds of modern jazz, the Moonwalk and hip-hop. After a year and a half I felt I had developed something: students from age four to eighteen were all active. This is how things played out until little by little, I realized that I had to open my own academy, and that is what I did. I did not know what was going to happen.

MWN: Michael Jackson in terms of POP influenced you!

Elam Jay: Of course, let me tell you who influenced me. From when I was six years old, Abd Elhalim Hafid, Oum Kaltoum and Sabah Fakhri were the first people who influenced me because I grew up in family where Eastern and Classical music were often listened to. However, when I was eight or nine years old, I started enjoying Michael Jackson’s music like all the kids at the time because I loved his choreography, dancing, music videos. I loved Jenny Jackson, Madonna. I mean everybody: I loved all the biggest pop stars of the time.

My influences are especially on the way I do music business: It is more like Michael Jackson or foreigners in general who perform in soul, blues and R&B. I am talking about how I deal with music business or the music show.  My way of dealing with music is different; it is more like an American or an European.

MWN: So you were influenced by many parts of the world in order to create diverse look.

Elam Jay: Of course, trust me! I have been working all around the world: Romania, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Dubai, US, and France. I loved every moment I was into, with different people from different cultures, different kinds of music. I worked even on classical music, Arab music, the big Oriental music, and I have had plenty of fun doing all that. I love music, I love music and music has no limits, has no identity: music is music, it is magic.

MWN: If we had a flashback to your childhood, how was Elam Jay’s childhood?

Elam Jay: Oh, my god it was great! An amazing childhood. I used to live in Casablanca. I remember when I was a kid, I was not a free child who could go wherever he wants, but from time to time, I used to go for a two hours to play soccer with my friends on Saturday or Sunday, especially during Ramadan. I keep some amazing memories. I love Morocco.

MWN: Have you ever tried singing a complete Moroccan Arabic song? Have you planned on doing it so far?

Elam Jay: I tried; I have been using a couple words in “Gnaoui tone” with some words like “koulchi bayen.” Nevertheless, when doing work, it is better to do it right as much as you can. I have been living most of my life outside Morocco. I have been speaking French and most of the time English, so I do not use Arabic that much even with family and friends. Therefore, I do not have the words for Moroccan music right now. Let us be honest, I do not have enough knowledge of the Moroccan dialect, and I am not that good at it. However, some other artists know how to do it, and they do it well. I worked with those artists and I like to do featuring and to collaborate with them. I feel like I have a soul voice or a rock voice, so when I sing in the Moroccan dialect I do not think it sounds wonderful, nice and great.

MWN: You quote Ghandi a lot, and I guess he is an important personality to you. There is a quote that you use often: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” And actually, you are the change!

Moroccan-Swiss singer Elam JayElam Jay: Thank you! Every one of us comes from a part of the world where we have many things to prove and many possessions to explain to the people all around the world. We come from an African, Arabic, Muslim country where we have our own culture, yet many people do not know anything about it. As a result, there are many judgments against us. I think the only thing we must do is to be the change we want to see in the world because we have to prove who we really are. People are not going to go and define you as a good person automatically. NO! You have to prove it yourself, prove that you can reach the top, and prove that you are better than the others are.

When I went to Switzerland to study, I believed that I had to be better than the others by studying harder. Especially coming with a different mentality, from another country and a different mother language, which is Arabic. I felt I needed to worker harder. I studied in a school where everything was structured in French, English and Italian, so it was very complicated for me at the time. I was just twelve years old. As I say, the person must help himself grow up and get stronger always.

MWN: Now let us go through your last beautiful work, an album titled “True Story,” from which your latest music video “Sunshine” is. As you mentioned in a press release, that album is made for letting the listeners fall into a world of voyage and fascination with nature. Will you talk about it and how you picked its theme?

Elam Jay: Ok, let me explain why I came back with an English album, then why I chosethis direction. I stopped music in 2007 because I felt that I had nothing to give to people. I stopped music, but I did not stop producing, writing and composing. I did not feel that I had something new, so I decided to work until I get to the point I want and then bring something new. With the way industry is going and how the internet is getting bigger expanding opportunities to share music with anyone around the world, I said ok! This is the right time for me, and I want to share my music and my culture with everybody around. But to do that, I had to use a language so that my work would be understood all around the world. English is the most widespread language that and this is the reason I chose English.

The idea for the album is actually an old one because my life has been a voyage around the world and a trip to many places. Back to the first question of whether I feel I am a Moroccan or a Swiss: I feel myself being a son of the world notwithstanding my origin, my religion and where I was born.

Throughout my album, I try to explain that music does not have a nationality; it is just music. That is all. Right now, while I’m promoting the video and the single, everyone is asking: “Is this pop, urban, R&B, or hip-hop?” and I say “This is just music, put it wherever you want.” People always want to have a clear idea about what kind of music you are playing. This is how the industry is going, and I cannot change it.

The concept of taking people on a voyage has been the message I have tried to create since the beginning of my artistic road.

I will be promoting this way, shooting videos and doing concerts all around the world to give to the people a real voyage.

MWN: I think the real start was with the releasing of your recent album “True Story” and your single “Sunshine,” which was launched worldwide on October 15. Now you have been on the VEVO channel, and owned an international audience that expands from North Africa through Europe to the Middle East, which is a great acquisition by the way! You must have done an outstanding effort, and you targeted a nation where music is lively. Do you feel that you accomplished what you wanted?

Elam Jay: No, I have not even started yet. Yes, I have a channel on VEVO and people have loved and liked the music video. We reached over one million views on Facebook, but honestly, I feel I have not started yet. When I check comments and people’s opinions about the work, I just feel glad because people have understood what I am trying to give and present. Especially for “Sunshine,” which is in English, I did not expect people from Morocco to react the way they did because I thought that I would have to sing in Arabic or in the Moroccan dialect so that they wouldn’t think I forgot my roots. We have been shooting in Morocco and working with people from Morocco. I am very proud of the quality product I made with Moroccan. So when I show the quality of the product abroad, they look astonished and say: “Oh my god is that in Morocco? This is great and the image is beautiful.” I just say “Yes, it is, we can do this in Morocco and we are capable of making it good quality.”

An artist is a story and has a story to tell.

MWN: Where do you feel yourself more famous: in the Arabic world or the English one?

Elam Jay: Right now, my latest project was famous in the Middle East and North Africa, where many fans reacted from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Egypt and Qatar. I have an audience here.

As I told you, I was out of the game for seven years. After a year or two, people start forgetting about you, especially in the European countries or in the US, where the market is very difficult. I mean that some of the artists are very famous and when they do not come out with a new album, people just think, “Ok that guy is finished” because there are always new young singers coming on the scene. For me, going worldwide is a very complicated goal to reach, and I know that. Therefore, I am going to have many products, be on the scene all the time, and try to come up with new songs and new videos. There are many investments on the road, and I know that and I am ready for it.

I am just having fun with what I am doing.

Moroccan-Swiss singer Elam Jay

MWN: Your fans are feeling determined over your intention to not present your dancing abilities in your latest single, and you were hiding your awesome dancing performances compared to your former works seven years ago!

Elam Jay: Honestly, it was not the point of the video. It was not about me showing off who I am, how I can dance, or how handsome I can be. Most of the video was more about the beauty of nature and the life we have inside of us. When I talked about sunshine, I talked about the life inside of us and how can we control ourselves to go from sad to happy. This is the goal of “Sunshine,” which goesfrom something sad and melancholy to something very happy that can make you stand up and dance, and this is exactly what I was trying to do in the video. I brought all these people in the video because I wanted to show the coming together of many people from all around the world, so it was not about me. In addition, I am sure upcoming works will be more about the choreography, and then it will be “Hey guys look at me and how I can dance.”

MWN: Finally, would Elam Jay like to help the new generation, the new young beginners?

Elam Jay: Yes! I will definitely be working with some young people and young artists. I am sure there are many talented people out there. I know I do not have much time to work with them all, but I hope to work with people who love their music, talent, and their hope to share these with others. Of course, I will do my best to help them because it is not about my own career solely but rather how I can help be the change and how can improve the music industry in Morocco to a next level.

MWN: Thank you for your precious time for the interview.

Elam Jay: Thank you very much and I hope you all the best.

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