Rabii Harnoune and V.B.Kühl‘s “Koyo Koyo” blends Moroccan Gnawa music with electronic elements to create a completely unique listening experience.
The recent collaboration between Moroccan Gnawa-master Rabii Harnoune and Frankfurt electronic producer V.B.Kühl exemplifies what the future of music could be, if we’re lucky. Mixing Gnawa music (the Moroccan art form that combines songs, rhythms, music, and dancing) with modern club embellishments, the duo has consistently churned out releases that showcase the international connectivity that good art can create. Their eclectic instrumentation and multi-culturally influenced music pays tribute to the past while thrusting bravely into the future. It is everything at once: Eastern, Western, old, new, traditional, and cutting edge.
Recent release “Koyo Koyo,” the infectiously upbeat single from the duo’s sophomore album Gnawa Electric Laune II, features Harnoune and V.B.Kühl at their best. The track begins with dynamic, shut-up-let’s-dance beats that are soon joined by energetic, upbeat chanting. The single contains all of the hip-swaying brightness of an irresistible club track, while also allowing for moments of more depth. The bridge slows everything down, as Harnoune‘s chanting becomes more serious until it eventually blooms into ethereal, throaty singing. However, eventually, the drums kick back in and the fun continues. Though the lyrics are in a language that listeners may not fully understand, the overall affect of the music is undeniable—”Koyo Koyo” is five minutes of pure euphoria.
“Koyo Koyo” is further elevated by the kaleidoscopic, spirited visuals in the accompanying music video for “Koyo Koyo.” Premiering today on HighClouds, the video is an explosion of light and color with bright images racing across the screen. We flit from glittering pom-poms, to vigorous skateboarding, to beautiful mosaic orbs, and back again. The joyous yet mystical visuals further cement the idea that something special is happening between Harnoune and V.B.Kühl. Like the track itself, the trippy, lively video for “Koyo Koyo” is a unique, unmatched piece of art.
Even more interesting is the meaning behind the name of the track. “Koyo Koyo” is a term for the right-hand man of the Gnawa master. This individual traditionally learns to play the Qarqaba, a percussive instrument responsible for the rhythmic component of Gnawa music. Rabii elaborated on the relationships between the Koyo and the song itself, “The piece speaks about the moral, spiritual and social aspect of the Koyo, the human being, the humble artist, the dignified social, the beloved, disciplined, as a consideration and recognition of what the Koyo offers to the Gnawa way; where the light is often shed on the Master.”
Similar to the Gnawa master and the Koyo, Rabii Harnoune and V.B.Kühl have a seamless working relationship which allows them to make such cohesive tracks despite their versatile backgrounds and influences. V.B.Kühl expanded on the ease of their collaboration, “After showing Rabii the original beat I made, he was interested and played Koyo Koyo alongside it. I started to add synthesiser, bass, guitar and e-piano and the tune became bigger and bigger. The challenge was to shape parts, like it is in most Gnawa songs, because they´re not necessarily there in the original. Rabii was on fire and worked on the vocal arrangement. We made the final recordings and ultimately, I added some more backing vocals to complete the wide sound.”
The video for “Koyo Koyo” often returns to a visual of a man submerged in water while wearing a full suit. He floats peacefully, basking in the sun and the sea. This is how Rabii and V.B.Kühl‘s music is best received: One must completely submerge themselves in the beautiful, energetic music in order to fully appreciate the creativity and musicality occurring. Dive in below.