Photo: Press (The Maghreban)
Ayman Rostom celebrated the birth of his The Maghreban project in 2014 by putting out five different EPs in that year alone and then following up on them with just as many in the next one. Having been previously active under the Dr. Zygote moniker as a hip-hop producer, it felt like the producer was overflowing with ideas in regards to dance music. Despite slowing down somewhat in the following years, the Zoot owner remained innovative. His new, feature-heavy album Connection does indeed seem to bring together his background as a producer aiming to provide MCs with something to work with on the one hand and his work as a musician aiming to make people dance on the other. Ahead of its release, he delivers a rare mix full of psychedelic grooves and sounds for our Groove podcast. Much like his back catalogue as well as his new record, it’s chock-full of ideas that were thought of outside the box.
Your new album is called Connection, and you explained that the title comes from you “seeking and becoming more comfortable with connection,” which also is why “some of the tracks have an air of sadness.” What kind of connection are you talking about—with whom or what?
On a personal level, in the last ten years, I have opened up a lot. I used to keep myself quite safe and perhaps isolated. I have moved more towards being connected with other people in different areas. I’ve been in a long-term relationship, we got married and had a baby. I am a member of some support groups and I make a lot of connection there, too. I had already picked the album title and finished the album, but then the pandemic hit, and it made the title more poignant, because I felt the lack of interaction with others more.
Many of the tracks feature other artists such as rapper Nah Eeto and the Carl Gari-affiliated Abdullah Miniawy, among others. Why was it so important to you to work with guests for the record?
There’s something that a vocalist can bring to a track that I can’t on my own. I also come from a hip-hop tradition where I make beats and give them to people to write vocals over, so it feels natural for me to do that here. I’ve made records in the past where it was all me, so with this one it’s been nice to work with others to make it more rounded. Idris Rahman really helped me with that.
You had previously worked with Rahman, also featured on three tracks, for a rendition of Steve Reid’s “Lion of Judah”—a rather surprising choice. How did you approach reworking this particular piece?
That bassline has been there in my head since I first heard it in the mid 2000s. I just always loved it. When I was working on my last LP, I had a steppers dub tune going, and was messing about with basslines. I ended up playing that one, forgetting that it wasn’t me who wrote it. I eventually worked out where it was from and changed the bassline. But I always thought it would make a great steppers track. After I started working with Idris, I asked him if he was willing to do the version with me, so we got it together. It was a lot of fun.
You’ve released a video for the track “Got Your Number” featuring Nah Eeto on vocals that was created by the AI and 3D artist Fake Smile. How did you end up working together and what is the concept behind this particular video?
He’s become a friend of mine since we started working on a video for the Strange U project a while ago. We were chatting and he was willing to collaborate again on something for my album. I’ll let him explain more: “I loved how Ayman was creating contemporary music on vintage equipment and was interested in mirroring this approach for his video. We used an old Hi-8 camera to film the performance. I used very modern techniques that were in complete contrast to analogue video, but paradoxically very sympathetic. I’ve recently been experimenting with A.I. (text-to-image Python scripts), Cinema4D and Unreal Engine 5 and was excited to use these to create uncanny sci-fi content. I wanted to hint at mythical deities being lionised in statue form by traumatised enslaved society members as a metaphor for the current reappraisal of statues in our society.”
You seem to not have played any gigs ever since the pandemic has started. What role did DJing play in your life during those past two and a half years?
I love DJing, and I want to do more of it. I get terrified and excited about it in equal measure, and it makes me feel alive. Production is mostly a solitary pursuit, and I need the immediacy and the connection I get from DJing to balance that. They both feed each other. I was doing a lot of childcare during the pandemic, and also writing a lot of non-dance music. The crowd felt pretty far away at times. I wasn’t hearing much dance music that inspired me. Then, in the last six months or so, there’s been some great music coming out that has got me excited about playing out again.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I just started off with some tracks I wanted to highlight and that came together quite naturally, and I just went along with where it took me. It wasn’t planned really, and I found myself going a little dub in the middle there. Then I switched it up and sped it up and took it a bit heavier in the second half. I’m responding more to higher BPMs these days. A lot of the things I am making are around 140 BPM, so it was nice to play around up there.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Connection is coming out in July. I have a bunch of singles ready to go later in the year. I am going to drop a few tracks digital only, straightforward music for dancing rather than listening. I’m also working on some music where I am using my own voice. Not dance music really. That has been new for me, and more expressive in many ways – writing lyrics.
Stream: The Maghreban – Groove Podcast 341
01. Encens – Morphic Resonance
02. Morenas – Hazme Sonar (Cutmaster G Techno Trip Mix)
03. Geo Rip – Underwater Bodycam
04. TV Victor – Room to Move
05. Element – Xpander Pt. 2
06. Joe Ariwa – King Moses (33RPM Version)
07. Air Liquide – Time Code #2
08. MMM – On The Edge
09. Konrad Wehrmeister – Nutty Bit
10. Pugilist – Hemisphere
11. Dan HabarNam – Major Blinks
12. qwqwqwqwa – p+DRM
13. MASC – Eye Feel (Dance System Remix)
14. Sirr TMO – Shoulda Shrug
15. General Ludd – Indrik
16. The Maghreban – Untitled Demo
17. Fixate – Ruminate
18. Bushes – slowroadz rdm
19. Vigliensoni – Clastic
20. Al Wootton – Callers Spring
21. Etapp Kyle – Unseen
22. Julien Bracht – Streets feat. Enyang Ha (DJ Stingray 313 Remix)
23. X-103 – Tephra (Under)