With Ha-bb5, Ikram Bouloum released a deeply personal, multilingual, theatrical and sometimes intriguing piece of music. Through this interview, we meet the artist behind the blur.

We are europe banner We are europe banner

Interviewers : Cecile Moroux & David Bola

Photo Credit : Ana Larruy

First of all, how are you? From where are you answering right now?

Hi We Are Europe! I’m just at home in Barcelona! Feeling happy and pleased!

Your first EP “HA-BB5” was released on May 28th. Congratulations! We loved it. How does it feel?

I am so happy to finally release Ha-bb5 after one year and a half of hard work. I feel so fulfilled, especially because It has had a good welcome! It has been a long and personal process, a very intense one where I conceptualized and shaped all the narrative. Sharing this EP was one of the steps of this process.

Ikram Bouloum @ We Are Europe
Ikram © Ana Larruy

Can you describe the way you worked on this record? MANS O (part of the Faces of We are Europe!) produced it, how and when this artistic collaboration started?

Ha-bb5 has a theatrical structure, it started as a lyrical story and ended as musical materialization. I wanted to talk about my personal and inherited experience of cultural shock. It was at this point of my process that I felt the power of using my voice in my mother tongue and working in my music in a deeper way.

I have a really close relationship with MANS O, he is my life partner, so we spend a lot of time together. Roman has prescienced a lot of my DJsets. After two years of deejaying, he has understood what I want sonically. When I started to write and conceptualize the narrative of Ha-bb5, he understood perfectly how I wanted to sound and what I was searching for, so we just started working together organically. That’s it!

How would you present ‘HA-BB5’ yourself? What are you most proud of in this latest release?

It is a prayer to my cultural existence and the social dynamics that I think we have to take a close look at. At the same time it has been a push for my artistic expression, a statement that takes what I wanted to say and didn’t know how to and transforms it into something loud, visceral and unapologetic.

INEIA @ We Are Europe
Cover of single “INEIA” © Courtesy of Ikram Bouloum

We’d rather not try to classify your music in a genre, as you have many and strong influences. What has impacted your music the most over the years?

I think the most that has impacted me has been the rhythm of different diaspora sonic narratives.

We saw on your IG feed that you were reading A Cyborg Manifesto, a book pushing gender boundaries beyond traditional feminism… How do you implement philosophical and political notions or beliefs into your creative process? How does this impact your music?

I have a background in Humanities and I specialized in modern and contemporary aesthetics. This side of mine helps a lot to come up with the “escenario” that I want to show. My project has a clear statement, it’s political because talking about cultural shock in identity is political itself, there is no other way.

What could you tell us about Barcelona-based entities “Drakis Discs” and “Club Marabú”? How are you linked to them?

Club Marabú was a Drakis Discs`s monthly party and it is so important to me because for three and a half years I was the photographer of the party. At that time I was carrying on an anthropological and sound investigation. There I started to understand the new club and its political side.

In my opinion, Drakis‘ work has been so important for Barcelona, because they helped change the club paradigm in the city and it evolved to a more deconstructed one.

Glitter who’s coming from Rabat, and living in Paris for several years and is part of the Faces of We are Europe as well, invited you on Rinse Radio France last week. How much are you still connected with the scene in Morocco? What can you say about it ? How has it evolved in the last few years?

There is a lot of emerging artists in the Morocco scene that are doing brutal work. I started to connect with the Morrocan scene in the past years because for me it started to be something that I needed. As a Spanish born child with Morrocan parents, I grew up without referents, so I had to build my own and personal imaginary. With all the collectives that were born in the last year with a diasporic narrative, I felt that finally I found myself reflected. That opened me a door and a real need to connect with people that live with the same identity conditions as mine. Releasing Ha-bb5 is a blessing because I’m able to connect with the national and international community, and that is priceless. For these reasons I’m so blessed to have been invited by the amazing ‎ڭليثرGlitter٥٥.

As an artist of Moroccan descent living in Spain for 10 years, what is your view on Europe and European? In terms of culture, institutions, politics?

I am a Spanish-born girl with Morrocan migrant parents. I grew up in a little town in the center of Catalunya and ten years ago I came to study Humanities in Barcelona. I think that the cultural, institutional and political space still has a lot to do and work to understand and represent the paradigmal change that we are living in nowadays. With that, I mean we need to understand and represent other realities and experiences that are not white.

According to you, how and why European artists (and from beyond) could be more active in supporting mobilities and migrations?

In my opinion, empathy and consciousness are an important key in this matter.  It’s not an option to be active, it is a real necessity. We have to change the dynamics and how we used to work to other newer manners that include more realities, and by these, I mean we have to listen first, and for that we have to generate a lot of spaces to open a dialogue and debate.

Ikram Bouloum @ We are Europe
Ikram Bouloum © Ana Larruy

In the future, what are you hoping for? Regarding for example the relationships between the two continents, but also for the upcoming generations of young artists and women?

More spaces, more connections, more Morrocan/African/diasporic referents in the local and global scene. Less political borders, and normalizing accessibility to this kind of artists, music and experiences!


Listen to Ikram Bouloum’s Ha-bb5 here. For more conversations, head to Nigerian artist OBI’s in-residency interview.

Share this content
All posts in Arts