Originally from Casablanca, Oum El Ghaït Ben Essahraoui seemed destined to become an architect but then decided to embrace a career in music. She quickly drew the attention of the media, who identified her with the Nayda, a movement of young Moroccans attracted by more urban sounds. The albums Lik’Oum (2009) and Sweerty (2012), which were only released in Morocco, made her a star in her own country. Then she had a crucial brainwave. She began to write in darija, the everyday dialect of Moroccan Arabic. This offered her the possibility of exploiting a new musicality in her lyrics, as well as new combinations of meaning – an entire poetry of assonances. In 2013, she surrounded herself with musical luminaries to release her first international album, Soul of Morocco. European audiences discovered an artist full of generosity who offered a new kind of fusion combined with great authenticity. Concerts followed each other in quick succession, allowing her well-honed group to achieve even greater cohesion. Two years later, Zarabi, recorded at the gates of the Sahara, deepened the aesthetic direction that Oum has chosen to pursue, whilst offering a discourse on the need to preserve nature and traditional micro-societies.
With Daba, her third album, released in 2019, Oum reached a new milestone. Entrusting the artistic direction to the Palestinian poetess, singer and oud player Kamilya Jubran, she went to Berlin with her musicians to make a record that was both atmospheric and danceable. For Oum, this dual aim reflects a sort of state of emergency, one that she describes as positive: to be together, share good times, dance and hold each and every one in a warm embrace, all of which seem to her to be necessities all the more urgent now that the means of communication and transport tend to radically reshape one’s experience of the world and of the other. Expressed in a poetry that is economical with its words and devoid of all artifice, the themes on the album are in accord with the general preoccupations of its creator, her humanism, her feminism, her spirituality and the importance she gives to reconnecting with nature’s mysteries.
Daba means ‘Now’ in Moroccan Arabic. Giving this title to her third album is, for Oum, all about linking yesterday’s experience to the one determined by the present moment. In this ‘now’, the singer, having achieved a certain artistic maturity, is able to mix traditional Arab and Sahraoui elements with discreet borrowings from more contemporary aesthetics – soul, jazz and electronic trance. Thus, her music thrives, as does her thought process as a woman anchored in secular spirituality and open to today’s world.
Oum positions herself as a Moroccan, an African and a woman of the world who is convinced that cultural barriers are less weighty than that which brings us together. And with that she touches on the spiritual. After all, isn’t Abad, the ‘eternal’ the opposite of Daba, the ‘moment’? On Daba, Oum pursues her quest for music that is universal, a reflection of a troubled world and, at the same time, a balm intended to soothe that world and impart to it an infallible hope.