Manitoba Music has teamed up with Fresh Radio for a new monthly spotlight on local music, dubbed Manitoba Fresh to introduce audiences to a stellar slate of buzzworthy local artists emerging on the Canadian music scene. Featuring on-air segments and online performances via Fresh Radio, and in-depth band profiles right here on manitobamusic.com, Manitoba Fresh continues this month with teenage singer/songwriter Faouzia. Tune in to 99.1 Fresh Radio and stay tuned for so much more...
By Jillian Groening
Brace yourself. Faouzia might just be the next big thing.
Born in Morocco and raised in the rural town of Carman, Manitoba, the bubbly singer/songwriter has the maturity of a seasoned pro and the pipes to match. Discovered by award-winning manager Tim Jones of local company Pipe & Hat when her YouTube channel cover of Adele’s hit “Hello” rippled through the music industry grapevine (it’s got 5,000 views and counting), Faouzia is now signed to the management company and her self-penned original single “Knock On My Door” is on rotation at Fresh Radio. And she’s not even done high school.
Growing up in a French- and Arabic-speaking household, the 16-year-old artist was enthralled with music from a very young age. Playing radio hits by ear on her piano and composing notebooks upon notebooks of poems in school, Faouzia began developing a unique creative process. While most kids her age are hanging out at 7-11, messing around with Snapchat filters, Faouzia is spending hours after school in the basement of her parents’ house making music. With her microphone connected to her keyboard, Faouzia will hit record and simply start playing. What she is left with is one long track, complete with breaks and pauses, that she goes back and edits.
“It just started to click together, I would write poems and accompany them with music or I would go back into older songs and fix them up,” Faouzia says. “It was a slow, gradual process but I’m just trying to do better every day.”
Having never taken a formal lesson, Faouzia has meshed influences of traditional Arabic music listened to in her parents minivan with the rhythms of contemporary pop to create a mesmerizing sonic experience. When sound checking for her Fresh Radio performance, she drew the entire staff out of their offices and into a fangirl frenzy complete with blushing cheeks and teary eyes. No joke, this girl is a serious force. Watch the live performance on Fresh Radio's Facebook
Post-Fresh Radio performance, Faouzia is concerned over spots where her voice supposedly cracked. She’s fasting for Ramadan at the time, meaning no food or water during daylight hours.
Faouzia is accustomed to performing while on fast, which this year took place from June 6 to July 5. She does most all of her performing when not in school so as not cause concentration conflicts.
“I try to know when I need to say ‘no’ to people,” Faouzia states. “Like, when I have exams, because I have to focus my entire brain on that otherwise it’s just impossible for me. I can tell my limits.”
Cutting her teeth playing small summer festivals, Faouzia quickly started fielding requests for larger events, especially after winning the Grand Prize in Le 100 Non's Le Chicane Électronique in 2015 with her song “Mes Cicatrices”. It was while performing a daytime show at Festival du Voyageur in February 2016 that Jones finally got to see the young artist play live (he reworked a flight to guarantee he didn’t miss the gig) and her dance card started to fill up.
From the last day of classes Faouzia went on to play the Mercredis en musique concerts and took part in the Winnipeg Folk Festival's Young Performers Program, as well as booking shows at The Cube for Winnipeg Fringe Festival and at the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba at the end of July.
Moving fluidly between writing songs in French and English, Faouzia concentrates on what her instinct tells her to create.
“I’m not forcing myself to write in any language,” Faouzia explains of her bilingual talent. “I don’t understand when someone forces themselves to write a certain way, it’s just not like me at all. It has to come from my heart and my brain.”
This also includes testing the waters of other styles. She’s currently working on getting an EP together and is excited about sharing her new material. She even has a rap song up her sleeve.
“I already have all of the songs in my head,” Faouzia says. “I kind of want to experiment with a couple different genres.”
When asked what advice she would give to other young artists starting to create and perform, Faouzia responded with some sage wisdom:
“Just keep writing even if it sounds stupid, you never know what you’ll use in the future. Keep singing and practising your vocals ‘cause the more you practice the better you get. Oh, and don’t ever let someone tell you something is impossible, because it’s not.”