Credits: Atlantic Records / Sunday Edit
In her new musical projects, the Moroccan-born singer, songwriter, and performer is committed to deconstructing the clichés surrounding women in Muslim countries. Portrait.
Multiculturalism as a source of inspiration
She is 26 years old, currently resides in New York, and has just released a new EP with the evocative name of “Inferno”. The young singer-songwriter Abir seems to be succeeding in everything she’s been doing since she entered the artistic, and more particularly the musical, scene.
Of Moroccan origin, Abir was born in Fez, in the north of the country. She moved to the United States with her family at the age of 5. Raised in Arlington, Virginia, she began singing soon after the family relocated and says she was strongly influenced by Etta James, whose CDs she listened to with her father, a limousine driver. But her creative inspirations are far from being limited to just one artist. In addition to James, Abir has drawn much of her inspiration from her home continent and says she has an admiration for the famous Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. As she grew up, she diversified her sources of inspiration and took inspiration from the great divas such as Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Sarah Vaughan, and Beyonce.
His career probably took off after the release of his first EP entitled “Mint”, an obvious key to the traditional Moroccan mint tea and the “tea time” gossip that accompanied it. After the success of this first musical project, the artist wanted to offer something new, songs that are modern and spread a positive message about women in Muslim countries with one aim: to deconstruct the images of Epinal that Western societies have of the living conditions of women citizens in the Middle East and the Arab world more generally.
Fighting prejudices through music: the artist’s leitmotif
After months of introspection following her debut EP, the young Moroccan singer has set herself the task of dismantling common misconceptions about women in her culture as being oppressed or submissive. The artist then drew on the multiculturality of her background and the diversity of her origins to offer the EP “Inferno”, a piece of music which, according to the singer, breaks down several presuppositions. She said: “I am to a large extent what an Arab-Muslim woman is not supposed to be. What she looks like. What she does… The story we’re hearing now is not necessarily the truth.” This song, which mixes Western and Eastern influences, has a good chance of becoming a hit.
The video clip for “Inferno”, shot before the age of forty in Marrakech, is the perfect symbol of the artist’s determination. It is set in a hot, motionless desert that pays tribute to Abir’s Moroccan heritage while offering a critical look at the striking contrasts between the women, standing, some covered from head to toe, as the artist ostensibly shows his style, largely derived from Western culture. A desire for contrast to better affirm that freedom is not a matter of dress but of thought and that freedom is above all a feeling before it is a matter of clothes.
“When people see the hijab in America and all over the world, they think these women are oppressed, but no, she’s very comfortable,” explains the singer. “When someone sees me, an Arab artist, whether he wants to say it or not, he has this preconceived idea in his head about my education. It’s this vision that she wanted to deconstruct through this new EP. “Some [Muslim] women are happy [to dress] conservatively, and others have a different perspective. It is important to share both. Right now, I feel like the world is seeing one version, and there are hundreds of them.”
One thing is certain, after listening to “Inferno”, you will certainly not have the same point of view on the question: what is there to close the door to preconceived ideas about Arab women?