Moroccan Born ILYAH is Turning Heads

There is a contingent of naysayers who, mired in the past, crow and claim young performers emerging today are doing little to nothing to advance music beyond what their predecessors accomplished. Certainly there is a grain of truth to this – only if you confine your listening to the latest flavors of the moment and delve no deeper. Dig around a little, however, and you’ll soon discover there are unheralded voices in the modern music world writing, recording, and performing music with recognizable reference points and that are clearly building on the past rather than recycling it. Moroccan Ilyass Hasnaoui, his stage name ILYAH and working out of the Boston area, is among those sterling new talents and deserves his increasing notice by the music listening community. His latest single “Habibi” provides a plethora of evidence for why this is so. 


It has a particularly punchy chorus that, nevertheless, refrains from overdoing it. The chorus, however, helps embed the song in listener’s minds and encourages you to return it rather than give it a single listen and forget about it. The electronic backing powering the song’s music is spartan, comprising synthesizers and computerized percussion, but it is nonetheless ideal for accompanying ILYAH thanks to its low key identity. His solo material benefits far more from zeroing in on his vocal gifts rather than burdening the tracks with unnecessary musical muscle. He keeps the song brief, as well, though I struggle believing there’s even one open-minded listener who will finish this song thinking ILYAH cheated them in anyway. 

If music videos are passé, ILYAH never got the memo. Each of his singles has a music video accompanying it and these promo clips are, typically, full of disconnected imagery seemingly intent on saying something about the performer in a visual way rather than serving up any sort of complimentary narrative. He has excellent instincts for utilizing color in his music videos and they are, without exception, every bit as stylish as their musical counterparts are. 

The video for “Miscommunication” is a notable exception regarding narrative. This is, arguably, the finest video he has produced thanks to his willingness to marry storytelling strengths with his already strong visual sense. ILYAH, likewise, recruited the right people for the video’s supporting cast and they discharge their roles with talent and professional polish. The track differs from his standard fare in other ways as well. The inclusion of electric guitar is definitely a step away the customary electronic support his arrangements typically provide and there’s some actually traditional percussion peppering much of the song. 

“Girls Like You” is an appealing track, albeit perhaps less successful than the two tracks already discussed thanks to the lack of any well-defined hook. The video is another pleasing video package, however, that reveals ILYAH’s considerable charisma, like the other clips. “The Only One”, however, picks up the mantle of “Miscommunication” and “Habibi” with its memorable hook that ILYAH milks for all that it’s worth. The contagious groove of the song will definitely make an impression on fans of this musical style and he, once again, makes his considerable talents as a soul singer clear to anyone who cares to listen. His body of work is growing exponentially but it feels like these fine singles are merely scratching the surface of his talents. We’ll undoubtedly hear more like this and even better over the years because I believe ILYAH is here to stay.  

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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