Wallen, grand lady in the French R&B world, returns for an exclusive performance in Amsterdam

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“You know, I’m just a little man, I want to introduce you to my wife,” Frenchman Abd al Malik told the Holland Festival audience. He is right, for his Moroccan wife Wallen was without a doubt one of the queens of the French R&B world from 2001 to 2008. This set the tone because the famous singer shone 18 years after the release of her hit ‘L’Olivier back on the stage of the Music Theater.

Wallen’s tender songs, anagrammed for her real name Nawell Azzouz, are at odds with lyrical poetry. She is in favor of tolerance, love, unity and peace. In 2001, she released her first album, A Force de Vivre, which gave her a nomination for the Victories of Music, the French equivalent of the Grammy Awards. On her second album, Avoir la Vie Devant Soi, are the moving songs Donna one L’Olivier, after which this performance of the artist duo at Holland Festival is named.

musical manifesto

Young R&B and poetry lovers came in droves to the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ, this time to end the day festively on the HF Young evening. Artistic innovation and experimental design were at the center. Al Malik started the concert with two rock rap songs, Soldier De Plomb and Gibraltar, where hip hop and jazz are mixed together. Video images, electrical engineering and lighting installations on stage reinforced his message. He was accompanied by a group of six band members who played drums, synthesizer and electric piano.

The pacifist singer duo Abd Al Malik and Wallen met at the turn of the millennium, when Al Malik founded the rap community New African Poets together with his brother Bilal and his niece Aïssa. Like-minded Pan-African poets use their voices to convey moral messages. Conscious rappers, they call themselves, who are against the gangster rap culture. They spent their childhood on the fringes of society banlieus from Paris and Strasbourg, and the search for justice, brotherhood and identity in their musical manifesto.

Attracted by Sufism

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As a teenager, Al Malik lost his friends to heroin, murder and suicide; rattling and angry, he sought explanations of the meaning of life in About the Shortness of Life of Seneca. When he was 16, he gave up being a professional drug dealer and neglected his guilt. He burned everything he bought with unclean money and joined a Muslim sect. Later, he was attracted to Sufism, the mysterious form of Islam in which the purity of the soul is central. This belief reassured him because it strives for spiritual experience and the acquisition of knowledge.

From crossing the Mediterranean to living in Brazzaville in the Congo and the French banlieus, Al Malik’s lyrics are characterized by the use of a broad vocabulary and a vision of French society. In 2008, he was named a Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters for his achievements in art and literature in the popular media. His musical power and intense vocabulary could already be heard at Holland Festival 2019 with his successful poetic story The young black ape. He refers here to the painting by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, which draws attention to identity in times of 19th century globalization.

My Beloved

As he stares out into the room, I can see that I can feel his pain”Wallen sings in the duet song My BelovedWallen and Al Malik share a story of alienation and redemption through culture and know how to find each other in it. They have been married for 25 years and have four children. Their love is to touch and feel on stage. In the exchange with the public, it is also clear that their philosophy is love and that poetry is their motivation. Beautiful texts and video images explain it Donna growing up too fast in the city, searching for his identity and longing for love.

Other melodramatic songs from Volde is about grief, guilt, empty pockets, wounded hearts and the search for identity and nationality.

The balance between the two artists was a bit skewed. I would have liked to have heard more from deliberately rapper Al Malik, because his words resonated with me more than them red light district and because his change to Sufism fascinated me. In addition, Al Malik is very versatile and introspective, able to convert harsh stories about his criminal behavior into sensitive songs such as. Les Autres, or in M’efacer and to reflect on racist police behavior in the vulnerable area Neuhof in Strasbourg.


L’Olivier is the fruit of the couple’s long-standing collaboration. In this work, both children of immigrants reflect on their common need for peace and justice and for positivity in times of collective insecurity. They call it a ‘personal, emotional roadmap’ and sing and rap about exile and jerking. The two voices fit well together: Wallen’s tenderness and Al Malik’s powerful voice. By acquiring musical influences from different cultures from jazz, Spanish flamenco to Middle Eastern sounds, they created a Mediterranean atmosphere in which music played a connecting role. They are inspired by the Lebanese diva Fairouz, who has the ability to unite people all over the world with her songs about love, loneliness and lust. Texts by poets and founders, including Rumi, Aragon, René Char and Ibn Arabi, as they say they were formed through, accompanied their own repertoire.

It is not surprising that the concert with L’Olivier close. ‘Who knows where I’m going? Who can tell me where my house is? ‘ This lyrics resonates today, especially in the current wartime. The olive tree is a symbol of peace and longevity, and is considered sacred in the Qur’an, the Bible and the Torah. Both artists, from different backgrounds, both grew up with it.

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They walked humbly and took off from the stage. The praise they received for this song 18 years ago has not yet been blown over. The public would like to know. And I became a fan too.

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