Narbonne – Culture: Those who like Abdel are happy…

Abdel Bouzbiba travels and travels, musically, between the two shores of the Mediterranean, with constant renewed happiness. On February 4, the musician from Narbonne launched a tour of the territory with his creation, produced by the Théâtre Scène Nationale: “Entre-là”, a dialogue between the Maghreb and Occitania. Welcome

Suddenly the image appears, clear: at the end of the “70s”, a little boy of 5, 6 years old, no more, came out of his modest house in Narbonne. Black hair, big smile, Abdel comes to play on rue Corneille: “I am the child of Moroccan immigrants; my parents did not speak French. So when I walked through the door to go home, it was Morocco. When I came out, that’s it France”. Abdel Bouzbiba will find out later, later, when he becomes a professional musician, that “this double culture is not a defect but, on the contrary, an asset”.

But let’s stay a little with little Abdel. He often sings, with his siblings, his parents, at parties. And, above all, he plays percussion, on everything he can get his hands on: the bonnet of an R5 parked on the street, the front door… his desk at school! He has an inordinate love for the resonance of an instrument he sees in the hands of musicians who sometimes come to the house: the bendir, this goatskin stretched over a round wooden frame, “who has such a beautiful voice”. Until stealing one from his mother’s friend. The latter ends up confusing him and persuading Abdel, who is reluctant to part with “his” wealth: “if you return the bendir, I promise, I will buy you the next time we go to Morocco”. The promise was fulfilled: he would have his first instrument the following summer, during one of the family’s annual expeditions to the country, near Fez.

My mother is afraid of this life as an artist

If the mother sensed correctly her youngest son’s budding passion for music, “he didn’t want me to make a career out of it. He feared for the life of this artist where you are on the roads. In any eventfor a long time, it didn’t even cross my mind”. And then, what is the significance of the label…”I am a musician and will always be a musician; It’s in my veins. And on the contrary, it is not because one becomes intermittent in the show that one becomes an actor”he said with his infectious smile.

Yes, he is free, Abdel. And self-taught. Music, he first learned it by playing it at weddings and baptisms, where he was somewhat of a mascot for musicians, from the height of his 7 years. “At first I made everyone laugh: “alright, take the percussion”, they told me. Later, it got serious”. He was still a teenager when he bought his first instrument, a violin, which would remain his favorite instrument. “The Western violin is widespread in the Maghreb”, he says. He, he plays first”the moroccan way”, placed on the knees. Because he often buys strings, he remembers the salesman’s teasing remark: “do you play archer or saw? I didn’t answer but I said to him, inside: you will see… “.

The story does not say whether the seller will have the opportunity to hear Abdel Bouzbiba play in his own formation, at the wedding and baptism. He is 16 years old and has already created a repertoire of Arab-Andalusian music, “with nods to the Auvergne bourrée, because Do not believe, he no’there is not just Saracens, there are blended families”. At school, he took the professional path of carpenter, with the intention of moving towards violin making. But his hand hurts and above all, his parents cannot afford to pay for the training of his dreams.

So Abdel quit school at 18, working in the markets or in the vineyards. “I like the earth side. The vineyard is a peaceful place. Okay, maybe it’s cold, but it’s just us. I see myself cutting the vines at La Clape: I think of the coming party on Saturday, the pieces I will play. I still go and cut the vines, for a fixed price, to clear my head: the source, there”.

Decisive encounters will take him out of the ranks. Denis Rougé, in charge of communication at the National Theater of Narbonne, thus discovered in the early 2000s, this “neighborhood musician, which he was recommended to listen to in order to complete a project mixing dance and music. Through a young job, Abdel Bouzbiba became an element of the Theater, bringing to life for example percussion workshops among young people. “I realized then that we can live from music”. He met artists recognized in the world of traditional music, such as Marc Loopuyt and his son Thomas; in the end he even built a trio that won the “springboard for traditional music of JM France”. “After that, we were allowed to shoot for at least 3 to 4 years in France… while continuing the marriage”he added with a smile.

“Highlight the similarities between bled music, Occitan music, flamenco…”

Another decisive meeting: Marion Thiba, who is in charge of culture in the Narbonnaise Regional Natural Park, thinks that Abdel’s universe can marry Laurent Cavalié, then needs a musician for one of the main cultural groups of Occitan, the Du Barthas. “The peasant world he speaks of speaks to me”. He will play for 8 years in this flagship group of Occitan music, participating in three albums. “Whether with Du Barthas, or with Gérard Zuchetto, who accompanied me in his troubadour music, I was able to bring my self-taught musical culture, consisting of trips to Morocco and the many weddings where I played. What amuses me is highlighting the similarities between bled music, Occitan music, flamenco…“.

An underlying message of tolerance, reflected in another project, “Araboc”, which he has led for 6 years in the association 11 Bouge: mixing Arab and Occitan music by coming together on stage, once in a year and in everything a concert, children from a calandrette and a school in the district of Viguier, in Carcassonne. “There is a saying that: to know where you are going, you have to know where you came from”. Happy to have, like Abdel, had a great journey… and invite us to share his musical landscapes.

“Entre-là”: his creation on the tour of Narbonnais

Since 2018, Abdel Bouzbiba has founded his company, La Nouba, to produce his shows. His next creation, “Entre-là”, was a co-production of the Théâtre Scène Nationale, which also benefited from an artist residency in Narbonne. Abdel is on vocals and violin in this quartet that offers a journey through Arab-Andalusian music and a link to Occitania.

The first tour is scheduled by the Theater in five Narbonnais villages: Saturday February 4 in Roquefort-des-Corbières (8 pm-foyer), Sunday February 5 in Argeliers (5 pm-Le Lido), Thursday February 9 in Armissan ( 8 pm-Domaine de l’Angel), Friday February 10 in Villedaigne (8 pm), Saturday February 11 in Bages (8 pm-Espace Daudé)

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