Ourida’s avant-garde songwriting, which combines urban songs with folk rock, art pop melodies, world beats, and jazz groove, bridges the gap between Algerian roots, American modernism, and French chanson. She is a singer, songwriter, pianist, ukulele player, and Brooklyn resident who is French-Algerian. She has moved around a lot and has a distinctive sound.
She lived in Marseille before being asked to perform in Canada and Brazil after winning the Zebrock Award and an Arcadi residency grant in Paris. She spent years performing in Parisian clubs (such as Baiser Salé and Divan du Monde), venues (such as La Boule Noire and Les Trois Baudets), and festivals (such as Villes des Musiques du Monde with Akli D). Before relocating to New York City, she performed songs from her debut album, “Monkeys,” in a solo French tour called “le megaphone tour.”
She frequently performed in the most experimentally creative and artistically diverse clubs, including Barbès, Lunatico, Nublu, Drom, Rockwood Music Hall, Soapbox Gallery, Bowery Electric, and ShapeShifter Lab, in a trio with bassist Jonathan Levy and drummer Joe Hertenstein. She also worked with the top performers in the scene, including Yayo Serka, Panagiotis Andreou, and Or Bareket. She is currently collaborating with Jeff Miles on guitar and Ben Zwerin on bass to produce a more electric and distinctive sound that transcends musical eras. The song “Amanti,” written by Raed el Khazen and Ben Zwerin, has been chosen as a semi-finalist for Unsigned Only 2021.
Spring 2022 will see the release of the album “Wings.” Check out the album and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
OURIDA: I’m born in Paris but lived in Marseille for a few years and started with writing a lot of texts – playing with words, theater, poetry, novels, movies… It was all about telling stories. I was playing piano as well and when I started playing trumpet, it made me really attuned to the physical side of song’s melodic lines. Singing came after that, like the link of it all, along with songwriting.
2. Who were your first and strongest musical influences?
OURIDA: I loved when my mom listened to Ella Fitzgerald but it was also because of all this crowds of men whistling when she was singing live! I also loved algerian songwriters my dad was listening to, like Slimane Azem or Djurdjura, and some classical tunes but a tv channel Mtv style all about pop songs was a revelation to me – Bob Marley, Prince…
3. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
OURIDA: We talk about harmonies when three voices sing three different melodic lines that work together, creating chords as a result, and although it is not as accurate than when we talk about voices, there is something between the bass line, the drums groove and the voice melody that is like a triangular anchor on the songs of the album ‘Wings’, with chords only added as a result of that initial combination. Hard to describe a sound! Cinematic-world-artpop-songs-jazz-groove?
5. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and confront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
Nina Simone was asking the question: “how can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” and I agree big time but not everybody is able doing it as directly and in the incredible way that she did. I don’t think my songs are having a direct political or social message, not that I just did not like how it sounded when I did write this way. If you’re not Stevie Wonder, I think it’s very challenging to do it in a convincing way. The spiritual function of music is inevitable though, as it feels music is spiritual in itself. One of the biggest compliment I’ve ever had is someone saying it was soul music. If there is soul in your music, no matter what style of music, people feel it, and that means a lot.
However, I’m not sure about the dichotomy between a deep music that is shaking everything on a political, cultural, social, spiritual level and an entertaining music that is only about technical artistry and personal narrative. It all has its value, depending on the song and the way it’s interpreted. Billie Holiday sung ‘Strange fruit’ and also ‘My man’. Chico Buarque de Hollanda was disguised a political song in an apparent light samba love song to avoid the dictatorial censorship and also wrote simple and beautiful ballads. The way Tom Waits sings may be about personal artistry but it sounds like a powerful political statement to me!
6. Could you describe your creative processes? How do you usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
It’s delicate to describe the creative process as if it’s not a one-fits-all recipe but really depends on the song’s character and also, there is so much mystery in this for me. It can start with something very small, sometimes a drums beat, or a part of a melody, or a bass line but sometimes several aspects of the song’s base are here already as an embryo. It’s important to clearly distinguish what’s decoration from what’s a real part of the song’s embryo (not always as obvious as we may think) otherwise if we miss the point at an early stage, delete something essential or elaborate on a detail, it’s like trying to build a house on quicksands and the song can sink or become empty.
7. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
OURIDA: Human misunderstandings. I worked with different people, on stage and off stage, and usually it’s pretty organic but when a band I was working with stopped being creative or simply disintegrated, when a business partner turned to another style of music, when a venue closed its door, it could all be painful, and feel like some kind of break up.
8. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
OURIDA: I’m extremely proud of the album ‘Wings’ because it’s very alive and it’s a good album. I wish success for it but regardless of any outcome, it has a life of its own, it can be heard everywhere by everyone, it flies: twelve beautiful living songs. I’m also happy I’m still performing, more grateful than ever after all we’ve been through, and hope to see you all at Barbès Brooklyn on September 22th to celebrate the release of ‘Wings’!
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