The Traveling Musician from Belgium

Tell me about yourself.

So, my name is Anouar, and I am a Belgian Moroccan. I currently live in Brussels but have also lived in Morocco, Spain and other places. I have moved around a little bit and have traveled and watched how people live. This has really inspired me to write songs. Before doing music, I studied economy and information tech.

Tell me a little bit about what you do or where you are working?

So, my full time job is to play music and write songs. I would say that it is like a double full-time job every week because I need to work 24 hours. In the night and during the morning, my brain is always working. It’s true, it’s a really tough job! I really have no time to do anything else because I need to focus on the music and there is always something to do. Every day you wake up in the morning and need to answer emails, go over everything you need to do that day, and go to rehearsals.

I don’t write songs every day. Once every six months, I usually have one month where I write 4 songs and then five months of nothing. It’s not something I can decide because it is something that comes and leaves when it wants. I also organize jam sessions and concerts in Brussels. I live every day in the music field and the music world.

 

 

 

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Can you tell me how you decided to become a musician? At what point of your life did you decide that this was going to be what you wanted to do?

In my life, I have always had a point, a moment, I would even say 3-4 seconds that made me change everything in my life. Sometimes, I could be walking somewhere, when I see something and I say “Okay, this is what I want to do” or “This is what I need to do”. Sometimes I completely change my mind about different things.

One day I went to see a rap concert in Morocco and while I was at this concert, I could see the energy between the people and the guys on the stage. This energy was so strong and powerful, that I said “You know, I love this energy.” Before, I never played guitar. I never played any other instrument and I wasn’t even singing. In fact, I was 19 and had nothing to do with the music field. I didn’t even know if I could sing (laugh).

When I saw this energy, I just loved it and said “Wow, this is so strong, this is something I want to experiment with”. The power that people give you when you are on stage, and the power that you give back to these people is just crazy. That was the day I changed my life and decided that I wanted to be a musician and an artist.

An artist, I think, is a state of mind. You either have it or you don’t. Being an artist is someone who wants to give, someone who wants to share, someone who has a different view and is always exploring the different views and different ways to think, say and express themselves. It is something that you might not even know you have. It could be something that you can discover later in life, or much earlier. To be short, I really discovered the music field in a second. One day I said, “This is what I want to do” and I followed through with every step that I needed to in order to arrive to where I am now.

What do you love most about music?

What I love most about music is how it is like another universe. When you are playing your guitar, alone in your room or wherever, you are experimenting every single time. It’s like a language, it’s beautiful. You are talking to the guitar and she is talking to you or he is talking to you. Take it as you will (laugh). This is really great.

Music is also a way for me to express myself. Sometimes people can’t find a way or a platform to say the things they want to say. I think I am a pretty passionate man, I really have this passion where if I love something, I really love it. Deeply. When I had discovered music and performance, I just really started to enjoy writing songs and singing. I think I found something in the music that helped me towards saying what I want to say, to express and share.

 

 

Is there a moment in your musical journey that you can share with me?

Although I see everything differently now, there is an event that happened to me when at that time, I thought it was a spectacular moment. It was when I saw my name written on the Olympia Hall. The Olympia Hall is a really famous hall in Paris, all of the big artists of the world have played and still play there. It’s like the Madison Garden of Paris. When I saw my name written on this place, I realized that everything is possible. The week before, I couldn’t even have imagined that I would be playing there.

I think that every single moment in the music is special because every single step in the music is just crazy. When you start your life without even thinking about doing music and then you start doing music and being on stage, its crazy. You start playing with your first band, its crazy. You’ve been signed by Columbia Records, it’s crazy. You release your first album, its crazy. You hear your song on the radio for the first time, its crazy. You see people buying your album in the stores, it all seems crazy.

In the end, everything is possible with music although it usually seems impossible. There are so many musicians, artists and people playing music and everyone was telling me that it was impossible. “Go get yourself a job, do this, do that”, everyone is always telling you that your dream is impossible. In the end, you will realize that you need to follow you dream. You are living your dream every day and everything that happens is a special moment.

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Can you tell me what projects you are currently working on?

I am currently working on my second album. This album is much harder that the first one because the first album was everything I had written so far in life.  From the first time I had started writing, till the release of the first album. I put most of my ‘nice’ and ‘good’ songs on the first album. It was about 5 or 6 years of writing.

After an artist releases their first album and is starting to write for the second, they have to do it in one year or 18 months. Two years max. During these two years (that you need to be writing new music), you also need to be touring to promote your first album. You need to focus on the business of music as well as the music itself in this industry. You don’t have a lot of time to really write songs. Your mind is always somewhere else because you are busy with something. That is why this second album is taking more time than I expected, I still don’t have all the songs. Only about half. (laugh)

This is my project now, focusing on my second album. Arriving from nowhere (I was playing in little bars here and there) and then signing with Columbia Records, playing on bigger stages and being interviewed by different media platforms, everything changed for me in 3 months (although it felt like a second). During these three months, I didn’t really realize that afterwards,  it would be so difficult to come back with something better. Especially since people will be expecting you to come up with something ‘better’. After mainly playing in bars, I had no experience with these kind of expectations. I arrived with my album and just threw it out there without knowing what the future will bring me. With this first album, a listener can say “Coming from something to nothing, this music is okay”. When I return with a second album, people will not be so easy on me because they will be expecting much more out of me and my music. They will be expecting me to have understood and have learned from my experiences. They will expect me to know what I want and where I want to go (unlike when I released my first album).

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

I will say that every day is a new achievement. At this moment, I am following my dream. This is an achievement. It is not easy and not everyone has the courage and strength to say “You know what, maybe I will live in a different way. Maybe I will live with lower income for the moment and have to do this or that. Deprive myself from this and that, but I am following what I want”. Many people are not ready to do something ‘crazy’ and leave their stable jobs for a risky future. That is why I think that my achievement, was me throwing all of my securities behind me and taking the risk to follow what I wanted to do and live the way that I wanted to live. I think I have arrived to a certain point in life when I threw away the handcuffs that society puts on each of us. That pressure of being like everyone else and fit into a ‘box’. Society wants each of us to look, dress, talk, work and be in a certain way, which I can do, why not? That’s why I think the bigger achievement is to take off these handcuffs that society puts on you and just live life the way I want. When you throw away these ‘handcuffs’, you live free.

Can you share some of your future goals with me?

First of all, I love the music field and I love my job. When I get on stage, I see people smiling. I see people receiving an energy, I see people getting something and taking it home with them. When I see these people happy with whatever it is they received, I hope to keep on doing this as long as I can. This is my goal.

I don’t really care if people say that I have a great voice or that I can play the guitar well. This doesn’t matter to me. The ego that I could’ve had, I have thrown it away. I just want to give to other people. If my listeners can have a good time and go back home with good energy, that gives them strength to keep on believing and living, then that is enough for me. My goal is to do this and give as much as I can for as long as possible.

What inspires you?

What inspires me are the people I meet. Everyone that I meet, has something to give or a story to share. Every single person that I meet is a whole world. I spend quite some time traveling and I spend this time meeting and listening to people. Like today for example, just listening to you and your life story, I imagine so many things. I try to understand what you do, how you do it, and why you do the things you do. I have been analyzing the whole day but that is just some thing I always do. What inspires me are the stories of every day. It’s not something special but what a person thinks about every day. What people think about love, loneliness, friendship etc. I have songs that talk about more of the the philosophical side of things.

I think my life changed the day that I decided to be positive. The day I decided to do this, to be positive with every single step throughout the day, I realized that positive attitudes started to surround me. Seeing the world in a more positive light also inspires me. For example, I have a song called Life is Beautiful which talks about taking a look around yourself and noticing the beauty. You just have to open your eyes and see it. If you don’t want to see it then you will never notice this beauty. I really like the song by Bobby McFerrin, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, because this is also my philosophy.  Everything that happens to you is an opportunity to change something in your life. Good or bad, it needs to be processed and you have to keep on going.

Going back to being inspired by peoples stories, I have this song called Lost In Babylon. It is about someone whom I saw coming to Europe from Africa. This guy arrived with all this will and energy to become something, to do something with his life. Yet when he arrived to this country, he realized that he did not know the language and the codes of these people. He became lost in Babylon. For me, Babylon is a big city like Paris or Brussels. Its nothing bad or good, but it is a place where so many people are speaking different languages and there are so many rules. This is an example of when I saw a person and their story inspired me to write a song.

Can you share some of your hobbies with me?

One of my hobbies is to play scrabble (laugh). I have become addicted and like to play online with people. I can be on the bus, anywhere, waiting for something and I turn on my phone and finish the game.

I also like to fish! For me it is like meditation. When you sit in front of the sea and you have your fishing rod in your hand, you look out into the immensity of the sea and don’t look and think about what is happening behind you. You are just focused on what kind and how much bait you need in order to get some action. It’s like I forget everything in my life that is currently happening to me. I don’t mean that I am having troubles but all of us need moments where we need to disconnect from reality. Some find this in meditation, yoga, going to church/mosque/synagogue etc others find it in sports or hobbies. Regardless, each person needs a place or hobby where they can disconnect. For me, scrabble and fishing are my appreciated hobbies (laugh).

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Can you tell me of some causes, issues or ideas that you are passionate about?

I have many things that I feel concerned about. For example, on my recent tour throughout the different cities in France. The theme of the tour was about fair trade. This is one of the causes that I think is very important to support. Traveling around the world, I have seen the local people and farmers who are really poor. Yet the prices for what they produce and which is later sold in Europe or USA is ridiculous.  So I wrote a song about this, the song is called Fair Trade and can be found on YouTube. This song explains that the world does not need charity. Developing countries today don’t need anyone to send them boats of rice or whatever. They just need people and companies to come and buy their products for the prices that these products deserve to be priced at.

For example, if you go to Columbia to buy coffee, pay these people the real price of what the coffee is worth instead of taking advantage of them. When you choose to pay the deserving price, you allow these people and their families to live a better life. They can afford to send their children to school. This money can be used in the community, allowing new schools to be built etc. By doing this and changing how we consume, each of us can change the world a little bit. Therefore, fair trade is something I support. If you buy anything with a label of fair trade, you are supporting the families and country from where you are buying the product.

I think that if there was something I wanted to do or spend money on in the future, it would be to invest in the next generation. I think education is important and it is something that everyone needs to support. Maybe someday I will choose a place and perhaps have a school constructed and give it to the community. Education is the base for each of us. By supporting education we are supporting a better world.

Is there any advice or personal life lessons you could share with me?

Be positive and follow your dreams.

If you liked the photo interview and want to keep up with Anouar, follow him on his instagram or facebook! Otherwise, till next time!!

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