Interview

Gan Gah

You might already be familiar with Moroccan-born, Brussels-based producer Gan Gah, who was on our list of artists to watch last year. Freshly back from a journey in his homeland, the young producer just released his third EP, Habibitronics, on Lowup Records, the label where he unleashed his first two promising efforts. Blending Eastern and African rhythms with electronic beats, he carefully picks his influences from the most traditional sounds. The result is a fresh new fusion between modern and ancient, where the future meets the past. Each one of his sets and live shows are a moment that symbolises the place where two different worlds effortlessly collide and create a unified product.

Interview by Matias Calderon
Photos by Yaqine Hamzaoui, shot in Brussels

 

I’m influenced by what I bring back in my suitcase. It’s full of different sounds that I try to reinvent

You seem to travel a lot. How does that influence your music, sets and live shows?
My sets are influenced by what I bring back in my suitcase. It’s full of different sounds that I try to reinvent. My sound has recently been strongly influenced by traditional sounds that I try my hardest to make electronic-friendly. My biggest challenge is to bring that tradition to Europe and make it a sound that everyone is able to recognise. I try not to focus much on one specific country. I just came back from Morocco, which is influenced a lot by Arabic sounds. I try to mix that energy with sounds coming from other parts of the world, even to the sounds that people here in Europe are used to listening to.

You just released Habibitronics. How does it relate to your previous material?
I can feel a real bridge between the second EP, Chaâbitronics, and this one. I kept the same raï and reggada energy but pushed the limit to a crazier place, more festive. For this specific EP, I also managed to incorporate a huge debke rhythm from Palestine and Lebanon. I’ve been working on these sounds for quite some time and it felt like the right moment to finish it as I discovered a style called Maalaya dance, which is played by pearl diving fishermen during ceremonies. This particular Arab Afro rhythm can be very sensual, with a touch of funk, pushing it to a cathartic place.

How has your sound evolved since the first EP?
Now, for instance, I really try harder to create a story, where each song stands on its own. I can feel that each track has its own energy, its own story, but merges perfectly with what came before, and what comes next. I was looking for a perfect balance between something that can be played in the clubs and something more traditional.

There’s a lot of varied influences in your sounds. How do you find new inspirations?
Personally, there’s nothing better than vinyl. There are a lot of vinyls that catalogue the musical history of a country quite well. I have more vinyls than I can count, from Tunis to Iraq, from Egypt to Morocco. I spend a lot of time listening and trying to understand the sounds and rhythms that a culture can produce. I concentrate essentially on the beats to get an understanding of how their music works. After that point, I’m able to fuse them with what I know and believe can create a perfect marriage.

I spend a lot of time listening and trying to understand the sounds and rhythms that a culture can produce

Many people think that Gan Gah is a white Belgian guy and are always surprised to discover that I’m a Moroccan immigrant

Where do you fit in the Belgian electronic scene?
Many people think that Gan Gah is a white Belgian guy playing music, and they’re always surprised to discover that I’m a Moroccan immigrant. I grew up with a rich palette of different sounds and influences and sometimes I was missing that energy in the clubs. Belgium is the center of the best techno music! There are so many people making amazing techno music that, since the beginning, I tried to not only do something different, but to also bring it that energy that I was missing. I try to deliver something less linear that will speak to people from the Middle East and the African continent, but also open the ears of the European audience. But to be honest, it was first a selfish move: I’m doing it because there are sounds that I don’t hear anywhere else, and I want to shine a light on them.

 

Gan Gah will be performing on 20 April at
Listen! X Rebel Up at VK, Brussels
Free for members. Join us.