Rabat – I first met Moroccan musicians Lina Benali (Layeena) and Fatima Zahra Farihi (Fatima Louna) at a gig they carried out in Kunming, China in 2016. I bear in mind the night time clearly, as I didn’t intend to finish up at their live performance. I went out to have a good time a colleague’s birthday and located myself mesmerized by their Moroccan-inspired beats and concord. 5 years later, I reconnected with the singers in Rabat and so they advised me about their musical journey from Agadir to Asia, and again to Morocco.
Layeena and Fatima Louna started sharing their ardour for music after they met 13 years in the past of their hometown of Agadir, Morocco.
“It began throughout our first 12 months of college at Universiapolis in Agadir in 2009. We met at a faculty music membership and began assembly plenty of musicians and artists from the college. There have been simply 4 of us women and plenty of guys. Layeena, me, Sarah Mou, and Gita Kettani began a band and known as ourselves Thundersouls,” mentioned Layeena.
After spending three years enjoying gigs on the college, the woman band entered a nationwide competitors known as Era Mawazine, the place they made it to the quarter-finals. The group carried out their first authentic tune titled “Tawarguit,” which means goals within the Tamazight (Berber) language. Of the 400 bands performing within the competitors, they had been the one ladies to take the stage.
Thundersouls, the primary female-only band to carry out on the Era Mawazine competitors in Morocco, in 2011. The group made it to the quarter-finals, competing towards 400 different musical teams.
Though they didn’t win the competitors, it was not lengthy earlier than the large goals that the younger musicians shared got here true.
From Agadir to Wuhan, Thundersouls shared Moroccan music throughout China whereas finishing their grasp’s levels.
In 2012, Fatima Louna moved to Wuhan, China to check Mandarin and pursue a grasp’s diploma in worldwide commerce. On the age of 21, she hoped that studying Mandarin and acquainting herself with the Chinese language economic system would enhance her future job prospects.
Layeena and Sara Mou adopted go well with, enrolling in educational applications at Wuhan College of Know-how, and joined their musical associate in China in 2013.
“I’ve all the time been very interested in Chinese language tradition. As a younger woman I’d gown up in conventional Chinese language outfits and adorn my room with footage of Mulan.” Though she was excited concerning the transfer, Layeena added that the choice was, in some ways, a leap of religion. “I used to be like, what the hell am I doing?”
“We went to China to do our masters levels however really our lives there took one other flip and our foremost focus turned music. That’s after I personally misplaced curiosity in having a profession in worldwide commerce,” recalled Fatima Louna.
The three singers traveled collectively and carried out all through China. Every gig led to a different and so they discovered themselves performing anyplace from rural farms in Yunnan province to China’s main metropolises resembling Beijing or Shanghai.
“We had been invited to play music in every single place. We got a style of China by enjoying music and it was actually particular,” mentioned Layeena.
In China, individuals had been interested by their music. Moroccan tribal rhythms and in style percussion are distinctive from China’s favored string devices and sometimes high-pitched vocals. Many kinds of Chinese language music are carried out as meditation and public performances provoke a culturally applicable response.
“In small villages, we had completely different reactions. In some locations, individuals don’t all the time have a tradition of cheering or clapping, so it was a bit awkward for us at first. Individuals had been recording with their telephones and simply watching with curiosity. It took us some time to get used to,” defined Fatima Louna.
At different instances, the band was greatly surprised by the methods locals related with their music. Their upbeat songs impressed crowds to bounce and even take part. “I bear in mind on this live performance in Wuhan, we had been enjoying and everybody was singing the verse with us in Tamazight. It was superb.”
Thundersouls usually invited different artists to hitch of their performances and jam periods, typically inspiring a fusion of Chinese language and Moroccan devices.
Thundersouls collaborating with different musicians at a charity occasion close to Wuhan, China.
After 4 years of residing within the metropolis of Wuhan, the trio break up and Sarah moved on to Shanghai, whereas Layeena and Fatima Louna pursued their passions all through Yunnan province as a duo. Their final efficiency as a band was on the Shanghai Ladyfest in 2017, a global live performance and celebration of ladies’s empowerment.
Layeena and Fatima Louna performing collectively in Kunming, China. 2016.
Yunnan, in China’s southwest, is well-known for its ethnic range and picturesque pure landscapes. Layeena and Fatima Louna fell in love with the province, which they described as “stunning with music discovered in every single place.”
Residing in China opened many doorways for Layeena and Fatima Louna’s musical careers, but in addition impressed new concepts and values.
“To be trustworthy, plenty of the alternatives we had there, I don’t suppose we might have had right here in Morocco. I consider Morocco nonetheless wants plenty of work completed within the inventive discipline — extra festivals, extra areas for individuals to fulfill and find out about music and find out about artwork.”
Past China, the 2 Moroccans carried out collectively in India, the Philippines, and Indonesia. All through Asia they recognized nature as a supply of inspiration and steerage in the direction of the processes of their inventive and private improvement.
Initially of their musical careers in Agadir, Thundersouls’ authentic songs had been primarily about love and heartbreaks. Layeena and Fatima Louna laughed as they recalled their youthful musical craftings.
Now, the duo hopes to share messages of empowerment, and to encourage their listeners to attach with themselves and nature. They describe their present music as “excessive vibe” and impressed by Moroccan artist Hindi Zahra.
Layeena and Fatima Louna performing in Bali, Indonesia. 2019.
“I’d stroll within the jungle in Indonesia and begin singing out loud. This sense of being completely free helped me and impressed me to write down this sort of music. I actually consider if all of us be at liberty someplace and related with our true nature, we are able to reside in concord,” Layeena mentioned, sitting beside her Chinese language tea set.
Their paths diverged, however they continued assembly no less than yearly to squeeze in a efficiency.
In 2016, Layeena moved to Bali the place she started conducting singing circles and focusing her vitality on private well being and the outside. Fatima Louna made her means again to Morocco in an try and put her grasp’s diploma to skilled use. Though her new job ultimately led her again to China a 12 months later, the work solely confirmed her dedication to the humanities.
Each singers have since returned to Morocco, reminiscing fondly on their shared recollections within the Center Kingdom. Though each say that China holds a particular place of their hearts and they’ll return for visits usually, the 2 agree that China is now not the place they as soon as knew. China’s altering technological panorama has impressed a shift in the direction of overarching government-controlled censorship and surveillance measures and a scarcity of privateness, taking away the artists’ desired freedoms, the 2 mentioned.
Layeena is working as a vocal coach whereas heading up musical occasions and retreats. She is engaged on her particular person album and towards mastering a better understanding of what it means to reside within the second.
Fatima Louna has since endeavored to start out a brand new undertaking along with her husband. Their enterprise, known as Shenti Life (“shenti” which means well being and physique in Mandarin), is a platform to share cultural, religious, and musical movies, and features a store promoting ecologically pleasant merchandise.
Whereas each quickly settled again in Rabat, the 2 buddies and songwriters are planning their subsequent musical collaborations and hope to do some recordings.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Fatima Louna mentioned, “We’re speaking about how one can rethink our tomorrow. That’s what my new tune is about. Looking for the fitting phrases with which individuals will resonate and see that one thing is unsuitable with our world – we want change proper now. That is the vibe I’m on this month. I’m attempting to focus my vitality in writing songs about this.”