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World Artist Spotlight #1: Ash
by Farah Elattar

Born and raised in Egypt, Ash (full name Ashraf Moawad) is one of the forerunners of Middle Eastern-infused deep house. His style has slowly gained popularity in European countries such as Greece and Turkey, where he, along with other artists such as filous, manage to dominate the music scene. His single, Mosaique, made it to number two on the Spotify Viral 50 in Turkey.

Q: Can you talk to me about your upbringing?

A: I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, went to the French Lycée and then moved to Montreal in 2014 for my studies. I've been playing the piano since I was 7 years old and I grew up listening to house music so it really inspired me to start focusing on electronic music. I downloaded a virtual DJ app on my computer when I was 11 and started playing around with it. I was really bad at first though... I felt like DJing wasn't enough because I could use my musical ear but couldn't use creativity. I wanted to create my own melodies, produce my own tracks. At the age of 13 my brother got me a midi keyboard so I started producing my own tracks.

Q: How did that affect your musical style?

A: Living in Cairo affected my musical style in many ways. I was always surrounded Egyptian music, you can hear it everywhere. One day, I discovered Moseqar on Soundcloud, an Egyptian producer who takes famous songs like Adele’s Someone Like You and reworks them with Middle Eastern sounds. At the same time, I was starting to discover Deep House. So, I thought, why not mix these two genres into one? That's when I came up with “Lost”, a deep house track with a main Middle Eastern melody.

Q: Who are your musical influences, both Arab and non-Arab?

A: My Arab musical influence is Amr Diab.

(For those unfamiliar with Arab music, Amr Diab is one of the most influential artists in the Arab music world. With a career spanning over fifty years, his musical growth has brought hints of Latin, European, and House music to the Arab mainstream.)

Non-Arab: Jack LNDN, Claptone, Chet Faker, Nicolas Jaar, The Avener and ZHU.

Q: How do you go about creating your unique sound? Do you use any "real" (physical) instruments?

I mainly play the guitar in my tracks. I like making harmonies with the guitar. I start by recording a guitar melody, then I record another guitar melody on top of it, and then another and finally add a solo or something. I also use the piano. Both these instruments are in most of my tracks. Also, I love adding an Oud like in Mosaïque. I think the guitar playing a Middle Eastern melody is my signature sound.

Q: When did you start gaining popularity?

A: I started gaining popularity with “Lost”. Before “Lost” I used to produce big room house and sometimes trance... but when I went deeper with Lost” and started getting attention, I knew that's where I had to focus.

In 2015, Ash collaborated with vocalist Naila on a number of original songs and remixes. Together, they have created original version of hits such as “Hello by Adele. They have also collaborated on a number of original tracks, including their hit single “Sing It Back”.

Q: How was working with Naila?

A: Working with Naila is exceptional, she's extremely talented. My friend came to me once and was like "my cousin, Naila, has a nice voice you should try working on something together!” So she came to my place, we started jamming then we came up with “Coward”. I loved working with her. A few months later we decided to work on another track, so she came back. That day, we started working on a lot of projects, but didn't come up with anything special. When she was about to leave, at midnight or something, I said, "You know what? Stay longer and let's delete everything and start something new, different – something crazy.”  She stayed and I literally deleted the project we had been working on for the past 4-5 hours and decided to start a new one. That's when we did “Sing It Back”!

“Sing It Back” charted 12 on Greece’s most shazamed songs, and garnered attention from around the world, with a total of more than four million streams. Its lustful lyrics and attractive melody make the track perfect for a late-night drive, as well as for a crowd of dancers in a club.

Click to listen to "Sing It Back" by Ash

Q: Are you planning on releasing an album?

A: Yes, I am currently working on an album that I will probably release in 2018.

There is much to look forward to with Ash, with his diverse musical style that allows him to attract crowds from places such as San Francisco, Paris, or Cairo, where he has performed live using his guitar and synthesizers.

You can find Ash’s latest music on Soundcloud, as well as on Spotify and Apple Music.