‘Are you okay?’ This is, to cut fervently to the chase, the question that rising artist Walid Anees - artistically known as Ouella - asks in his debut album ‘Yak Labas’. With a title that translates into the unanswerable question in Moroccan, ‘Yak Labas’ is an album that, like any good question, only pops open more ponderings - ones Ouella tackles in six Moroccan-inspired electronic tracks.
“Essentially, this EP celebrates my origin and the longing I have for Morocco,” says the budding artist. “A longing that has been brewing within me for as long as I can remember.”
Born and raised in Egypt under the loving care of a Moroccan mother, Ouella grew up constantly chasing after the lost half of his heritage, constantly feeling like an outsider in either culture. His bittersweet longing can be touched in his previous EP, ‘Gharib Fina’.
‘Yak Labas’, the artist’s masterpiece, touches on his mixed cultural heritage-turned-struggle, shedding more light on Ouella’s fluctuating emotions and, subsequently, their manifestation as music.
“The vocals in ‘KI DAER’ and ‘7 RICHTER’ reflect my love for music particularly,” Ouella says. “Making music has given me a more profound purpose, through which I’ve been granted a flowing well of passion.”
Yak Labas features a collection of both upbeat instrumentals and touching vocals, utilising it as a source for low-lit club party anthems as well as holistic heartfelt listening experiences.
“‘T’INQUIÈTE PAS’, which gives a sense of assurance, samples the iconic hit ‘Sidi Mansour’ by Saber Rebai and features a fast-paced beat to assert itself as a club anthem,” Ouella explains.
‘7 Richter’, the artist’s personal favourite, combines the two elements seamlessly; the song is fast-paced and loaded with the fruit of Ouella’s pondering, placing it on the fine line walked by songs that move both heart and foot.
“The song is a little more personal than the rest of the album; it gave me the opportunity to discuss my origin, and the hardships it brought with it. I also got to talk about my dreams, essentially how I envision my life in a few year’s time;
‘Ma’ el helwa fe Monaco around el afternoon
Aal billboards wel radio we kaman el Nilesat
Men club lel tany we yadoubak alha’ el gig-at’.”
His most inquisitive track, Ki Daer, poses the central question of “Yak Labas?” through the incessant repetition reminiscent of the artist’s experienced loss of appetite and purpose prior to indulging his musical senses.
With the use of musical drones, traditional percussions such as krakeb and darbuka, as well everyday Marrakech noises, Ouella’s album is experiential listening at its best.
“What I always intend for my projects is for them to be moulded as experiences, like movies or novels,” Ouella says. “It only feels right to devise these storylines with ambiguous inceptions moving towards familiarity and building up energy and anticipation, eventually ending in lingering resolutions.”
Immersing listeners in an enveloping textural listening experience through dreamy soundscapes that mould space and time, Ouella’s ‘Yak Labas’ is at heart a journey, traversing despair, loss, reassurance and more. The result of his own journey through overwhelming changes of pace, the album serves as both a hand to hold and a prying insight into one’s very soul.