Yousra Mansour: Lead vocals, awisha, percussions, guembri on track 10
Brice Bottin: Guembri, guitar, percussions, backing vocals
Hafid Zouaoui: Drums, backing vocals
Jérôme Bartolome: Flute, percussion, back vocals
Aziz Ozouss: Ribab (Waydelel)
Mehdi Nassouli: Vocals (El Watane)
All songs composed by Yousra Mansour and Brice Bottin except ‘Waydelel’ (Dimi Mint Abba and Khalifa Ould Eide, arrangement Yousra Mansour and Brice Bottin)
Album produced by Yousra Mansour and Brice Bottin
Recorded at BackToMonoRecords by Christian Hierro
Mixing: Christian Hierro and Brice Bottin
Mastering: Christian Hierro
A Real World design by Marc Bessant
Background paint and logo by Brice Bottin
Cover photograph of Yousra Mansour by Benjamin Astier
Through an arched gateway into the medina, inside a labyrinth of alleyways lined with shops selling spices and perfumed oils, rare vinyl and handmade instruments, comes the sound of the blues. Ancient and current, funky and rhythmic, buoyed by Arabic lyrics, soaring vocals and bass-heavy grooves, it seems to pulse from the heart of the Maghreb.
Inspired. Soulful. As if it was born at its crossroads.
So mabrouk. Blessings. You’ve happened upon Bab L’ Bluz, a Moroccan-French power quartet that is reclaiming the blues for North Africa. Created in 2018 in tribute to Gnawa culture, the centuries old Moroccan practice rooted in Islamic and sub-Saharan African traditions and music played with the guembri, the three-stringed bass-lute, Bab L’ Bluz has commanded attention, opened doors — ‘bab’ means ‘gate’ in Arabic — from the off.
“More than anything we’re a rock band,” declares frontwoman Yousra, who sings, ululates and fires riffs from her goatskin-covered awicha [small guembri] like some Berber warrior goddess.
“We use the awicha as a guitar and the guembri as a bass, both at different tunings. We channel our huge range of influences into music that crosses borders and travels through time.”
Think old-school Gnawa meets funk. Moroccan chaabi meets trance. The sung poetry of Mauritania meets the deep spiritual cry of the blues. Imagine ninja-style flute, propulsive drums and percussion including spiralling metal qraqeb castanets. Wrap it all up in the turned-on-tuned-in psych rock grooves of such countercultural heroes as Santana, Jefferson Airplane and Nass El Ghiwane, Morocco’s very own Rolling Stones.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be ready for Nayda! — probably the finest debut album you’ll hear this year.