A new approach to storytelling
Tamqrant is a project that blends history, heritage and nightlife. Being part of the Different Class festival’s lineup this year, we met with Ikram to learn about the roots of her work and what inspired her in its conception, to better understand how the artist transforms it all into an important and exciting narrative.
Is Tamqrant your stage name?
Yes, Tamqrant is the feminine word for ‘big’ in the Tamazight language. I chose this name because this project is about significant women in history. I didn't call myself that, but it happened naturally – since that’s the name of what the project reflects, people started to book me as DJ Tamqrant. The funniest part of it all is that I’m a small person. People speaking Tamazight were making jokes about me being small but being called ‘big’. They would sometimes call me DJ Tamzyant instead! Which means ‘small’ in Tamazight. [laughs]
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Ikram, I am 24 years old and I am Belgian with Riffian origins. My artistic practice usually involves archival research: I have collections of historical pamphlets, posters, tapes, and vinyl. Now I’m searching for methodologies that will allow me to reshape and revive stories of resistance – as I like to call it. It’s a way of learning and sharing history and its elements that are not usually known by most people. I’m also very fascinated by the different Tamazight languages, of which Tarifit is my mother tongue.
Can you explain the TAMQRANT project to us?
I collect music from different areas in North Africa where Tamazight is spoken. Even though I don’t understand every dialect in detail, I always try to understand the context of certain lyrics, reshape them, and produce something out of the stories coming from them. I take the stories behind those sounds and music and narrate them. Certain songs are about women and migration, for example. In this case, Tamqrant tells another perspective of the existing migration narrative that is mostly male. This is an example of what I aim to do with the project.
Since when does Tamqrant exist and how was it born?
Tamqrant is almost 3 years old now. The project was born out of a mixture between my interest in North African music and my Amazigh background. I was listening to a lot of Amazigh music back in high school; I remember feeling so frivolous when I first listened to Malika Domrane, but then I found comfort in my melodious discoveries. I remember that the first mix I uploaded, Timgharin Timqranin (‘great women’), got a lot of attention. In the beginning, Tamqrant was a bit different. I used to mix Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and Tamazight music. The project evolved and after some time I realized I wanted to do something closer to my heritage. I focused my research on the Tamazight language and the oral transmissions coming from my background and culture. I feel very connected to it. As the project was developing, it became even more specific and focused on Amazigh music, mainly from women.
I have some mixes that are purely for leisure and party but I try to combine some storytelling to it
Would you say that Tamqrant is a way of archiving these women's stories to ensure that they survive through time?
Exactly. But also reshape it so it can be interpreted in a new way, to contextualize them in time. The survival aspect of it was one of my priorities when I started this project. I believe that the main part of Tamqrant is history. Tamazight was, and still is, a marginalized language and was even banned in universities. To bring this part of history through music and poetry is my goal. I want to be able to contribute to the survival and understanding of Amazigh music and its artistic productions.
To bring this part of history through music and poetry is my goal
Knowing that you have a background in visual arts, why did you move to music and sound for this current project?
Because I like talking! [laughs] Other than that, I started to get to know more about Amazigh music in high school and I realized that many music genres were part of it: pop music, soft and psychedelic rock, or even punk! When I started to discover all of that music coming from North Africa, I got excited and wanted people to listen to it.
I find it interesting how you combine history and heritage with nightlife and leisure. Was that somehow Tamqrant’s plan from the beginning?
Totally not. It all happened randomly. People started to book me as a DJ and I realized that the project was evolving and I had to reflect upon it. I would also love to make more radio shows in which I can invite people to participate in the sets and conversations.
Since you are part of the Different Class festival lineup this year, can we have a sneak peek of what to expect from your performance?
All I can say is that I'm taking my vinyl records with me and that I’m playing something very glittery. Perfect for a beautiful sunny summer day.