- Music -
“I like my music to resonate with people’s lives, I love the fact that it awakens emotions, sensations, that it enters lives, that it connects with them, that it gives vibrancy to the most powerful moments.”
How did you discover music and the piano?
This instrument first came to my home in the form of a small plastic toy, on which I played the tunes from the radio. My mother noticed that I had a good ear. At the age of six, she enrolled me at the Conservatoire. Since then I have never been parted from the piano and it has become an extension of myself!
What music did you listen to at home?
That of my parents. They were both literary enthusiasts and liked the poetry of lyrics by Brassens, Brel, Barbara... We also listened to traditional Moroccan music. Later, and especially because my brother, my sister and I were enrolled at the Conservatoire, they bought compilations of very famous classical pieces. Being lulled by these great themes shaped my sensibility. I like music that touches people.
And later on, what was in your headphones?
Things typical of my age, including a lot of rap. At first, I associated classical music with work. However, as I delved into the scores, I discovered mysteries that stimulated my imagination, opening up a whole world for me and I began to love this music deeply.
After the Conservatoire, from which you graduated with a first prize in classical piano, you worked with rappers. Did you want to break away from a very strict practice of music? Or to explore the resonance between different worlds?
Definitely the latter! Since I was very young, I navigated several styles of music and I did not want to choose between them. I was interested in classical art. The world of rap music matched my life. I always wanted to be a pianist, but I felt the need to explore new things and to address an audience that resembled me. Today, people who come to my concerts are often attending the first piano recital of their lives! It is a source of pride for me to lead them to this type of music.
You have very eclectic references, ranging from Chopin to Keith Jarrett to the rapper Scylla. What is it that makes certain music speak to you?
The immediate feelings that take hold of me before I have time to analyze what is happening. Indeed, the most beautiful compliment someone can pay me is to tell me what they feel when listening to my music. I don’t like it when people say it sounds difficult, because that brings me back to the technique, which is of course present, but which must fade into the background to leave space for the journey.
In 2021, you were invited to a legendary musical venue: the Montreux Jazz Festival. How did you feel?
It was incredible: not only was I participating in the festival that I had been dreaming of since childhood, but it was my first solo concert and I was the headline act! There was tremendous pressure and everything went really well. This was the founding experience of my career as a live artist.
What do you feel when you go from the solitude of composing to meeting an audience as huge as the one at the Accor Arena Paris-Bercy?
I need solitude as much as I need this magical sharing. In my album Letter, I wanted to express my gratitude to my audience by writing “your love saved me from loneliness forever”. The piano is indeed an instrument that is so self-sufficient that it can bury us in infinite solitude. Today, I am fortunate enough to commune with the audience through extremely powerful and totally crazy moments.
You’ve been successful since the 2109 release of your first album Planet and today you’re one of the world’s most widely-streamed classical artists. Does that make your head spin?
Of course! Everything happened very quickly and very intensely. To understand what was happening to me, I spent a lot of time with the people who came to see my concerts during my tour. I wanted to know what effect my music was having on them. I learned that it was really part of the story of their lives, that it accompanied important moments, declarations of love, even births! All this makes me very happy and that’s why I am part of this profession.
How do you find inspiration?
Life brings me emotions that I need to communicate in music. I don’t feel good until I have expressed a feeling. As soon as it is expressed in music, I am liberated. That’s why, wherever I go, I need to have a piano at hand because inspiration can strike at any moment. That is what happened in my suite at the Crans Ambassador, where I was so taken by the panorama of the Alps that I extended my stay in order to compose.
Your music is visual, it conjures up images. Will there be any film projects coming soon?
Things are happening in that area. One of my tracks was chosen to accompany a Dior campaign starring the mesmerizing actress Anya Taylor-Joy. So yes, things are moving with the film industry in relation to long-term projects that I’m passionate about because the symbiosis between image and music is exactly what I love.
The theme of this edition is art. What kind of artist are you?
I try to immortalize human feelings. Once the piece exists, I let it escape, it no longer belongs to me and becomes a link that connects people.
Based on an interview by Michèle Wouters
Photos © Raphaël Lugassy