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ASHA: “I didn’t know until I arrived in Spain what Eurovision really means”

« Look at it like this, like this / Try it one more time / I know it’s not easy / Until you can’t / Throw it away. » With this optimistic chorus and a rhythm of urban pop and ethnic overtones, the young woman (she is the smallest participant) Soleá Fernández will be performing this Sunday afternoon on behalf of TVE and Spain at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (La 1, 5:00 pm). The song, in which it will be the second consecutive TVE participation after a break that lasted 12 years, is among the favorites of the competition (a year ago Melani obtained third place). Win or not win, it is a great achievement for the trio of creators made up of Bruno Valverde, César G. Ross and Hajar Sbihi (Salé, Morocco, 23 years old), known by the stage name ASHA. The composer, who has worked with C. Tangana, Becky G and Lola Indigo, made the leap to the stage this year with songs like Bésame and, more recently, Opina. She confesses, in an interview for EL PAÍS, that there is nothing in the world that makes her happier than singing her own songs.

“From a very young age I loved and was passionate about music,” says ASHA. The artist remembers that, while growing up in Salé, near Rabat, she used to write songs in a notebook without knowing that it could become a profession. However, his melomania has been a constant in his life. “At the age of nine, my mother enrolled me in the Moroccan classical singing choir. I started going every Wednesday, I sang with the children and since I was little I felt this passion that maybe other children had it as a hobby ”, she recalls.

The composition of songs was not something that the future creator of Palante had in mind while growing up: “For me, before there was only the profession of the singer, the artist. It is what the public sees with the eye ”. His entry into the music industry happened thanks to a misunderstanding. ASHA was studying at IE University, where she became president of the music club, when her roommate gave her the number of a producer she met at a party. I thought he needed singers, when in fact he was looking for composers who would sing in English. « I tell him ‘that of being a composer, I don’t know what it is, I’ve never done it’ and he replies ‘look, singers usually have a gift for composition, try it’, and I started to try it in a professional way. » Six months later, there were already Spanish artists recording songs made by her.

The Junior Eurovision song was born for ASHA with César G. Ross, whom he had met years before at songwriting camps. Ross called her one day and told her that she had a song with potential, but she only had the idea and wanted her and producer Bruno Valverde to take over. “I heard the message from Palante. The ‘strip forward, forward’ was not a chorus. It was pre-chorus and I said: ‘this is the idea that works.’ We will remove everything. We’re going to do a new thing, ”ASHA recalls.

The first thing that comes to the young Moroccan when composing is usually the music before the lyrics. She compares her process to rap: she hears a musical track and it is with its inspiration that she begins to “throw words” until she forms a melodic structure that says “this is a hit, a stick, this is addictive”.

The young woman knew the Eurovision Song Contest since she was little, when her aunt put CDs in the car of songs that became world famous for the contest. “In Morocco I knew about Eurovision because there are many songs that have become global through Eurovision. But when I arrived in Spain and started composing for artists, I knew what Eurovision really was « , says the composer, adding that » when I called my parents and told them about Eurovision, come on, it’s as if I had won a Grammy  » .

Palante, ASHA comments, is peculiar because it was done remotely over the summer with each of the three in a different corner of Spain, but without limiting Ross, Valverde and her contributing something unique and their own to the music: one of the things he has, which is incredible, is the fusion between all of us. I am Moroccan, Bruno who is Spanish, but he was born in Belgium, he is more Belgian than Spanish and he also lived in Latin America. César, who is Andalusian. All this stuff has made the song, well, have something special. « 

A little flamenco, a little reggaeton, a little pop

The fusion of styles that ASHA points out in Palante is also latent in his two singles: Bésame, with which he launched his singing career in June, and Opina, which came out in October. « The track is made by a German friend, who is incredible, » says the artist about Opina. “Give this European touch, different from pop. But when Bruno came to do post-production, he brought him the flamenco things, the clapping, the guitars, the reggaeton drums, which is more of the street because Bruno lived in Latin America for many years. I finished writing the lyrics with a Mexican, so in the end we are all the nationalities in this song ”.

It has not been easy for her to make the leap to the stage when the entertainment industry has been one of the sectors most affected by the coronavirus, but the young Moroccan has not let that stop her: “I have started my musical career just with the pandemic . When there was confinement, I became very sad and said that this year I will not release songs. Then I said: well, when is the coronavirus going to end? So never or in two years I’m not going to do anything? I have to pitch, I have to do things ”.