Track By Track: The Maghreban – Connection
Ayman Rostom has been making music for almost three decades.
Cutting his teeth in the mid 90s producing jungle under his Ayman alias, he then moonlighted under the name Dr Zygote and as part of hip hop group Strange U before making his debut as The Maghreban in 2014.
Since then he’s released over 15 EPs under this name – which is a reference to the region in North Africa – on labels like Gilb’R’s Versatile Records, Black Acre and his own label Zoot Records.
His second album, Connection, is the most recent addition to his ever-growing catalogue of music. Shared via his own Zoot label, the process of writing the record actually predates his debut LP 01deas which was released four years ago.
Featuring a stellar list of collaborators, including Abdullah Miniawy, Omar, Nah Eeto and Idris Rahman, the music traces a deep, emotive path through Middle Eastern, jazz and techno influences.
In his own words, Ayman describes how he was trying to make music that was driven more by emotion. “It’s called ‘Connection’ because I was seeking and becoming more comfortable with connection whilst making it, rather than keeping myself to myself, like I have done in the past. But the flip side of that was a deeper awareness of grief and sorrow, which is why some of the tracks have an air of sadness.”
The LP was released in full last month so to celebrate it blessing the ears the world over, Ayman takes us through how each track came to be, from the influences and the collaborators to the process and the emotions that fuelled the music.
Seemed like an opener as it developed so I ended up putting it at the front of the LP. A lot of these started as ideas on my SSD that I thought I could deepen a bit. I came up with the opening synth horn line and then sent it to Idris to flesh out and elaborate on. I’m not sure how it ended up switching into the sort of rave influenced second half, I guess I was just pissing around. That’s my MO really, piss around and see what isn’t rubbish.
Got Your Number
I hit up Nah Eeto because I really liked what I had been hearing. I was happy she picked this beat because it was quite bugged out and I thought it fit nicely. This was another beat that was sitting there that I ended up developing. I warped the vocals a lot with some hardware, tried to bug it out more. It’s a bit marching band, with early 80s chorus bass guitar. She’s talking in Swahili about being a commander, a boss. Not your mama.
This was in the stash for my first album, in a slightly different form, but never made the cut. I knew I wanted it on here too though and it fit with some of the other jazzy bits on this LP. I love Photek and I guess it’s a little inspired by some of his darker jazzier stuff. I have Chet Baker talking in the intro, and because he was a legendary smack head I named the track after an alternative rehab in California that a few jazz musicians frequented in the 60s. There’s a film of the same name, its an interesting story. I think it turned into some weird cult where they would do encounter groups.
The drums on this are inspired by records I heard in Cape Town. Then I started messing around with the drone ish sounds. After hearing Abdullah Miniawy’s record with Carl Gari on TTT, I knew I wanted to work with him so I hit him up and sent him the bare bones, just the drums and the drone really and he sent me back his vocal. I was transported, there’s something there that stirs something from my youth. Egyptian vocalists I was brought up on I guess. Then I fleshed it out around that, and dubbed his vocal a bit.
A lot of the jazz I love is in 6/8, and when I have ideas for jazz riffs they are often in 6/8. There’s a head bopness to that time signature at this kind of tempo. I played the jazz cymbals and hi hat, and played the bass line on this massive Yamaha YC-45D organ that I used to have. I worked out all the piano parts, half a bar at a time, since I can’t play the piano. I liked the moods, so I sent it to Idris Rahman and he recorded sax around it. Then I thought I never heard any dubby jazz tunes, or ones where they really warped shit afterwards, so I went in with hardware and tried to make it as spacey as possible.
I always wanted to do some vocal house, and a mate was working with Omar so I hit him up. I wanted to do something as if he’d recorded some house music in the late 80s. We went back and forth for a bit. I totally changed the bass line half way through because the old one wasn’t nasty enough. It was a bit too jovial. Then I woke up with the top line one morning and hummed it into my phone and sent it to him. I still worry that it’s from someone else’s tune and that I haven’t figured out who yet. Let’s see. Omar wrote around that and we came up with this. I’m really pleased with it.
I was listening to quite a bad library record from the Standard Music Library and I heard a track which inspired this. This sounds nothing like that track, which is often the way. I might hear something and get inspired but the thing I make just sounds like something I made anyway so it’s ok. I’d not really done much stuff without drums, so it was nice to mess about here and to add different textures. And flip the mood from major to minor to major, not that I could tell you much about that sort of thing. And to let the track build and go somewhere else.
The riff in this track, I came up with in 2011 by running a piano sample through an audio to midi function in Logic and it completely getting it wrong. That was a good technique, I used to whistle into the same thing sometimes. It sounded real melancholy and I made something with it, but it wasn’t 4/4 and sounded a bit Philip Glass, so I chopped it around to make this. Halfway through it occurred to me that what I’d built around it was a bit steppers reggae, so I just went all out that way at the end.
Black Seed Oil
I came up with the main riff on this playing high notes on my bass guitar and layering them, and introducing variation with panning each voice differently and varying delay times to try and keep it sounding alive. I found I could listen to it for ages, and I did. I used a Kawai Rompler double bass sample, again in a nod to my aforementioned favourite producer. I gave this one to Idris too. This one is about delayed gratification. I always think I need to have lots going on in a tune, for fear that people will tire of it. Maybe I was trying to hold back a little here.
Again, as this one went on, it sounded like an outro. I was listening to a lot of techno whilst making the LP, and I think that shows here. In the strings at least. The main riff is another thing I had in the stash, that I thought could go somewhere else. The rest is all experiments on an Eventide H3000. I played some guitar later on in the track. I can’t really play the guitar but I found some notes that sounded nice. At the end it slows and slows, to finish the LP on a melancholy note.
Connection is out now on Zoot.