Residentie Walid Ben Selim

Wow! What an amazing impression Walid Ben Selim made during his residency! The Moroccan singer, poet and freedom advocate was in Utrecht from October 5th to 11th, in the first place to make music with various musicians in Kytopia. The initiative came from Arjen de Vreede, also known as DJ DNA, and from Jeanneke de Boer of Culture Connection. Walid, along with artistic director DNA, gave a concert on October 9th at TivoliVredenburg. And Walid Ben Selim also made a veritable tour through the city of Utrecht, meeting people in Overvecht, Arab musicians in a refugee center and conducting a poetry workshop at TivoliVredenburg.

Concert at TivoliVredenburg
Walid Ben Selim was in Utrecht from October 5th to 11th where he made music in Kytopia with DNA, Frank Wienk (Binkbeats), cellist Guusje Ingen Housz, violinist Tseroeja van den Bos and others. Arjen de Vreede led the musical collaboration. Walid Ben Selim and the Kytopians held a concert on October 9th in a sold-out, jam-packed Cloud Nine at TivoliVredenburg, after just two and a half days of rehearsal. Alongside the musical world of the Kytopians and Walid, that evening Walid Ben Salim’s spoken word could also be heard. Other poetry was featured that evening too. VERS Poetry – a brand new spoken word initiative– provided an opening program with performances by Derek Otte, Christopher Blok and others.

All photos: © Wineke van Muiswinkel.

Concert at TivoliVredenburg
Walid Ben Selim was in Utrecht from October 5th to 11th where he made music in Kytopia with DNA, Frank Wienk (Binkbeats), cellist Guusje Ingen Housz, violinist Tseroeja van den Bos and others. Arjen de Vreede led the musical collaboration. Walid Ben Selim and the Kytopians held a concert on October 9th in a sold-out, jam-packed Cloud Nine at Tivoli/Vredenburg, after just two and a half days of rehearsal. Alongside the musical world of the Kytopians and Walid, that evening Walid Ben Salim’s spoken word could also be heard. Other poetry was featured that evening too. VERS Poetry – a brand new spoken word initiative– provided an opening program with performances by Derek Otte, Christopher Blok and others.

Studio week
The concert at TivoliVredenburg was a long-held dream of DNA. He regularly brings artists from abroad to his studio in Kytopia, first to make music behind closed doors for a few days, followed by a public concert. DNA, his real name is Arjen de Vreede, longed to work with a Moroccan musician for a few days: “Arab culture produces such beautiful sounds. It’s a shame we don’t hear them here,” said De Vreede to the newspaper AD/Utrechts Nieuwsblad.

That’s why he travelled with Culture Connection’s Jeanneke de Boer to scout an artist at the festival Visa for Music in Rabat: “We saw a huge number of bands one day. A lot of traditional Arab music, musicians with an antique kind of violin, that kind of thing. At one point, the hall started filling up with young people. A kind of electricity filled the air, you could feel that something big was about to happen. And then Walid walked onto the huge stage, alone. He stood there, a small man, his arms hanging to his sides, and he began to sing. It was directly a frenzied, Beatle-like scene. The atmosphere was so intense. We knew right away: he’s our first choice.”

Walid ben Selim came to Holland for the first time on October 5th – he’d never been north of Paris – after having dinner with the musicians from Kytopia, they started to make music. Walid and the Utrecht musicians hardly knew each other and the combination of song/spoken word, turn table, percussion, cello and violin was unique, to say the least. Photographer Wineke van Muiswinkel captured the collaboration on film.

All photos: © Wineke van Muiswinkel.

Encounters in the city
During the week that Walid Ben Selim was in Utrecht he did more than just give concerts. He worked with composer Jonas Bisquiert and Arabic-speaking musicians at a Utrecht refugee center. Together with Cultuurhuis Kanaleneiland and VERS Poetry he met with young musicians and spoken word artists in Kanaleneiland. He visited Trajectum College in Overvecht, where he talked to and made poetry with students. Utrecht’s honorary poet in residence, Baban Kirkuki (who is of Iraq-Kurdish origin and studied Arabic and Arabic literature) also visited the IMC Weekendschool in Overvecht as part of this residency and held poetry workshops with students.

Poetry Workshop
Several students from IMC’s Weekendschool went to TivoliVredenburg on October 9th. Baban Kirkuki of the Utrecht Poet’s Guild held a poetry workshop with them that afternoon using translated texts by Walid, a few hours before Walid went onstage with the Kytopia musicians. We are delighted to put four of the poems from the workshop on line (however, unfortunately, only in Dutch):

Poem Nihad: Een Stoel (A Chair)
Poem Yasmine: In mijn Dromen (In My Dreams)
Poem Janneke: Dobbelsteen (A Die)
Poem Kyara: Loop Maar Door (Keep Walking)

Session VPRO Vrije Geluiden (Free Sounds) (Radio 6)
Walid Ben Salim and his musicians Bink, Guusje Ingen Hous and Tseroeja van den Bos did a studio session on Saturday, October 10th in the National Public Broadcaster VPRO Radio 6 studio. Both Walid and co-initiator Jeanneke den Boer spoke with Frank Jochemsen on the program Vrije Geluiden (Free Sounds).

About Walid Ben Selim
Walid Ben Selim is an extraordinary young artist whose music forms a bridge between the Arab world and the West. Walid comes from Casablanca’s hip hop scene, sings and recites his own poems, as well as classic and modern Arabic poetry with a strong message of freedom. He works with texts written by famous poets, like Mahmoud Darwish and Ahmad Matar. These texts call upon people to think for themselves and not to blindly follow ‘leaders’ and the masses, but to make their own choices in life. He creates his own musical universe with song, spoken word, urban beats and oriental melodies. The charismatic singer toured France, Spain and Morocco during the past months, winning the hearts of his audiences with his unique sound and powerful stage presence.