Dubai-based singer Laroussi on her new track 'Cinnamon' and being inspired by the UAE

She also spoke about her vision and journey as an independent artist in Dubai.


Enid Grace Parker

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Photos: Studio Vision, Supplied
Photos: Studio Vision, Supplied

Published: Mon 30 May 2022, 12:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 30 May 2022, 2:30 PM

For Dubai-based Dutch-Moroccan singer-songwriter Laroussi, connecting to old and new audiences and listeners through her ever-expanding musical repertoire, is high up on her list of priorities.

“Singing is the most fun, the most beautiful thing that you are able to share with your audience and make people happy and see them dance,” she told City Times in a Zoom conversation.

The dynamic artist, who has worked with Grammy award-winning songwriter/producer Philip Lawrence and competed in singing contests like Idol and Eurovision apart from performing at Expo 2020 Dubai, will surely achieve her vision to reach out to a discerning (and foot-tapping) fanbase, with catchy new track Cinnamon.

In Laroussi’s words, Cinnamon is a “really good mixture of pop and R&B in combination with Arabic lyrics”.

Cinnamon was one of the first songs I wrote with Philip Lawrence in the United States. It’s that song that says a lot about my Moroccan heritage, the way we love to express ourselves through music. The first thing we want to do when we hear music is dance, get on the floor, jump on the tables! It has that lyric; we don’t sit, we jump on the floor! Cinnamon is also the colour of my skin, and it’s the spice that Arabs use a lot to sweeten all their foods!”

A passionate artist like her idol Whitney Houston, Laroussi has familiarized herself with spoken and written Arabic over a period of time (she alternates Arabic and English lyrics for Cinnamon), which will no doubt draw a wider Middle Eastern audience to her work.

Our chat with Laroussi gave us insight into how much effort an independent musical artist has to put into releasing a track, a video or even an album.

Getting ‘Cinnamon’ in motion

Shooting the video (which boasts over a million views so far) for Cinnamon in the mountains of Sawfar (a village in Lebanon) with director Adel Serhan, was challenging yet rewarding, revealed Laroussi.

“It was during a very difficult time because it was Covid. I was there for two crazy weeks; I remember every day struggling to get my team together. Sometimes we had no electricity, we had no gas. I started my mornings with the fitness instructor and choreographer. She would call me every now and then; she would say, hey, I can’t make it to your hotel right now because the roads are blocked! Those kind of situations we were dealing with on a daily basis. Or my Arabic teacher would tell me, I’m running a little late because we didn’t have electricity today. But in the end the director pulled it off. We had 50 people on the set, which was super beautiful, because it’s like an abandoned old hotel and Adel pulled out all his gear and equipment and made the most amazing sets out of that space.”

She spoke of how they would shoot at 4am which was “really tough” but expressed her gratitude to the Lebanese people who she said she loved working with. “They welcomed me, they were so lovely and it was definitely one of the best experiences I had just because of the love that the people have there.”

Laroussi is happy with the response she’s had so far to Cinnamon.

“From what I hear back, people love the mix, and in Morocco actually they were like, why didn’t you speak Moroccan (laughs)? Why didn’t you sing in Moroccan? But when I moved to Dubai, it was a must for me to learn classic Arabic because I wanted to inspire people throughout the whole Middle East, not just Morocco. I wanted to do it in Arabic fusha; it was a very clear decision that I made. Actually, I took the song from LA to Beirut to add the Arabic lyrics. The song had a long journey before it came out. So far, people love the beat, they love the choreography. There are a lot of compliments for the video, which are a credit to the director because he made it look really fantastic.”

Inspired by Dubai

Laroussi, who constantly experiments with musical styles and has pursued her musical ambitions in the Netherlands, LA, and Serbia, among other places, feels the UAE and Dubai are special.

“I belong here in a way. I can be myself. This is a great mixture of cultures and you can be whoever you want to be here. That’s a beautiful freedom to have. When I was in LA, it was a beautiful experience, very tough though. I learned a lot but I didn’t feel a hundred per cent at home. Here I have a lot of Arabs around me, which I love! I love their heart, I love their culture and then there are all the other cultures that you can be one with, you know? You want to go to an English pub, or sit in a shisha place.. you go. You can create your own world here. This is what I love about Dubai.”

However, she added that she was still trying to “find her way” as an independent artist in the Middle East. Covid obviously put a dampener on her plans as well. But she said her new album, Metamorphosis, will “definitely come out this year.”

“I’ve been trying to focus on the songs that I built. I wasn’t ready to release songs just like that - I wanted to build a name first before I did that.”

Performing live is also close to Laroussi’s heart and she hopes to do more of that in the UAE, in alignment with her vision as an artist.

“I’m actually very sad because I haven’t had many performances since I’ve been here. And it’s a struggle, I am not going to lie about it. I did a lot in my country. I did the biggest festivals you can imagine. I have a certain vision, you know? The most important reason why I make music is to come closer to the people, to make people happy. When Covid happened it was like my heart was locked up and I felt I couldn’t do what I am supposed to be doing! I’m new in this region so it takes time to make it to the right stages.”

Concluding our chat, the charismatic Laroussi talked about her inspirations, naming two of music’s greatest female superstars, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. “Their voices, the reach, the depth, the way they presented themselves - I am talking about the good old days of Whitney and Mariah. It was really pure and classic and the songs were well written. It was the whole package, I guess. That taught me a lot as a young kid. And I would say Whitney was definitely the one that inspired me to become a singer. It was out of this world. She had this beautiful charisma when she was singing on stage. It was radiant and full of light and that is something you can’t buy as an artist. Either you have it or you don’t!”

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