ASHA is the new musical revelation that is conquering the Peruvian public with its song “Passport”, a catchy hit in which the city of Lima is mentioned and has a fun TikTok challenge, which has been joined by Peruvian influencers such as Flavia Laos.
Hajar Sbihi is the original name of the Moroccan singer who wrote the song, who decided to call herself ASHA artistically while she was in Trujillo thanks to a student exchange in her first year of university.
From Spain, the country where she currently resides, the interpreter and composer tells us some curiosities about her song, shares memories of her stay in Peru, and reveals how it was the challenge of launching as a singer in the context of the pandemic.
You premiered your song “Pasaporte”, tell us a bit
Yes, “Passport” was made in December, during Christmas. I wanted to make a song to start the year very well with Dahiu, the girl with whom I always compose, and Bruno Valverde.
Well, we have made this song of “Passport”; the title is very motivating and talks about travel, which during this difficult time is like giving positive energy to people. It is a song that lets people travel, without being able to travel, thanks to the animated video clip, thanks to the lyrics; it’s like you transport yourself to all these places.
What were you inspired by to create the lyrics?
At first, it was a love song, it had nothing to do with this. Dahiu said a phrase that was: “What country was your passport from?”, And there I said “Why don’t we take the concept of a passport and make another song that talks about travel instead of another love song?”
In the lyrics there is a part that refers to Lima …
Well, the truth is that, since I was talking about many cities, I have never been to Lima, I have been to Trujillo and other cities in Peru, and you see that during the song there are puns, such as: “Monterrey – wey”, well London and Lima, since they both start with “L” although they are two so different cities, we thought it was very fun and very interesting to use both. I also wanted to talk about Peru, although it is a very generic song, it also has a very personal part of me, and Trujillo did not work in the song, but Lima did. It sounds super good to the ear and that’s why it was made.
How has the public’s response been to this launch?
Super good, people have loved the animated video clip, which I was doubting. It’s that sometimes you either love him or you don’t like him at all. I really liked the criticism, the opinions of the people, especially in Peru, where people have been super happy with the mention of Lima. I didn’t think people would like it that much. The truth is that I was very surprised and very happy with the opinion.
There’s even a Tik tok challenge …
Yes, then, there is a very interesting challenge, because, apart from the usual dance, it is very human, since people leave their names written, they leave written where they are from, what city they come from and that makes people know each other more .
In addition, a friendship with Flavia Laos was born, how did it come about?
Yes, with Flavia it has been something very natural. One day, seeing the challenges of the previous song, Flavia’s thing appeared to me. Many people in his challenge, from the video with Patricio, who wrote to me, tagged his video for me to see and say: “Wow, what a good video, what a beautiful girl and the boyfriend too” and I didn’t know her. The video was super good, so I went to Instagram, I wrote (to Flavia), I didn’t know if I was going to read it, and I said: “I love the video you’ve made, thank you very much for doing the challenge.”
She, weeks later, saw it and said: “Give me your phone number, you have to come to Peru, I have to introduce you to my friends from Peru, you are going to love it (…)”. And that’s where it all started. I was going to go to Peru a month ago with the release of the song, because I said: “Look Flavia, the song talks about Lima, it would be interesting to do a challenge”, and at that moment, there was total confinement. You had to spend two weeks in another country, other than Peru, I think it was Mexico, and then go to Peru, spend a few weeks in confinement … no, I prefer to go when things are normal.
For a student exchange you were in Trujillo for a while, tell us about that experience
Yes, when I was 19 I went to Peru. It was, the truth, a super nice experience because I didn’t know anything about Peru, I had only seen it in the movies, it seemed like something super distant, super nice, but I didn’t have as a reference, and I went with girls from the university, with the NGO too.
We have done Madrid – Lima, Lima – Trujillo (I have only seen the Lima airport) and we have been there for a month. I, at that time, did not speak Spanish very well, and people speak very clearly, very slowly, there I understood Peruvians much more than Spaniards, who speak super fast.
I ate lomo saltado, I have made several friends there in Peru… It has really been a super nice experience. I have surfed for the first time in my life in Huanchaco, I have many memories, the truth is I want to return and always with my cousins I say: “You have to take a trip to Peru.”
What memory did you take from Peru?
There are many, many different ones. First with the children, there are many to whom I took a lot of affection. I taught them English, they made me speak French to laugh.
There are so many very beautiful things, just getting on the bus with so many people … the people were so human, so real and true that I loved them. It reminds me a bit of my country Morocco, where the people are also very cool, they have a lot of human warmth. In Peru, the people are so educated, very educated and I loved that.
You changed your original name to ASHA so that children can pronounce it …
Exactly, the first week I arrived, the children asked me “What’s your name?”, And I say “What a headache I’m going to give them,” and I say: “ASHA”, out of nowhere. When I decided to start my artistic career, I began to choose between all the names by which my loved ones called me. For example, I have some Spanish friends who call me ‘pearls’, because of my eyes, they say they are like pearls. I began to use as names with which I felt identified. For example, it is not the same that one day your name is Cristina and the next day you are called Isabela, but if someone has always called you Cris or Tini, then you take Tini.
And the ASHA thing, always after Peru, I used it with new friends with whom I did not want to explain my name again; when I went to restaurants or had reservations, and it felt very natural. So I started researching on the internet what it meant, because I didn’t want to take a name that had a bad meaning and I saw that it had many positive things, that’s why I left it.
He said it meant hope, dreams, very good things, and it did.
How did you come to compose songs for Danna Paola, Becky G, Lola Indigo?
I came to Spain at 18 and started studying business management, but I wasn’t very happy doing it. Music has always been what I have really wanted to do, but due to circumstances in my country, culture and everything, it has not been possible. Until I started to enter the music clubs within the university and there little by little I met music producers … I wanted so much to get out of class and make some music that I took any opportunity. And so it was, composing for artists, of all possible categories, until reaching the songs that have happened.
Since how many years have you dedicated yourself to music?
I entered the world of music, in an official way, at 19, and now I am 23. But at 12, 13 I had done a project for peace in the Arab world, which had arisen once. I have been composing these years, and as an artist, the project came out in June of last year with “Bésame”.
How did you find out that you liked to compose and sing?
Super girl, 3 or 4 years old, since they made children sing at school, which is typical, I liked it better and I would come home and sing. There I understood that it was something that I really liked, more than a school obligation.
With which artists would you like to collaborate?
With many from different markets. In Latin, I really like Bad Bunny, Maluma, Camilo … different artists, really.
Have you thought about trying any other genre?
Yes, the truth is that the songs that I am releasing are very different from each other. For example, the next one that is going to come out is very, very different, it is a song in Spanglish and it is a different wave. I like to play with genres and styles because I feel freer than if I locked myself in a sound, I couldn’t get out of it anymore. By making a different song, I give myself a lot of freedom as an artist and I really like that.
What has been the challenge of releasing a production in the context of the pandemic?
The truth has been a bit complicated, because the video clip for “Bésame” was recorded in December and was released until June, because it should have been released in March (2020), but because of the pandemic, everyone was lost. I was a new artist, I didn’t know whether to bring out the songs or not, but I think that when you jump into the pool, there is nothing for you by then.
You cannot do concerts but that will come in the future and you have to continue.
How are you doing to position yourself, to maintain contact with the public?
I believe that through social networks, because the public itself, individuals, I have not seen them yet, which is a bit strange, but I think the world is going to this (virtual) more and more .
The next song I had planned to release in April – May, a Spanglish song, is the one that is confirmed to come out. I think I can change my idea at the last minute and get another one, but it is what is usually confirmed. Take out songs every three months very different from each other to show more about my project, about my personality. Teaching that ASHA can not only do a ballad, but that it can do many things, is what I want to demonstrate this year.
What is your dream?
I really want to go as far as possible, I like to remove all these barriers and limits, every time I surprise myself more. On a musical level, I always want to be discovering, going higher because it is what I have always wanted to do since I was little.
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