Moroccan singer/composer/producer, MALIKA ZARRA is a multi-cultural shape-shifter, an enchantress who leaps effortlessly between seemingly unconnected languages and traditions, uniting them while utilizing each to further enrich the others. The exotically beautiful artist with the velvety, sinuous mezzo-soprano voice has demonstrated a rare ability to communicate both powerful and subtle ideas and feelings in Berber, Moroccan Arabic, French and English now a much-in-demand headliner at concert halls and festivals the world over.
Malika was born in Southern Morocco, in a little village called Ouled Teima. Her father’s family was originally from Tata, a city on the Sahara plain, while her mother was a Berber from the High Atlas. Malika’s interest in music led her to take up the clarinet in grade school. Meanwhile, she was being exposed to a wide variety of musical styles, she cites fellow Moroccan Hajja Hamdaouia, Rais Mohand, the Lebanese-born, Egyptian-based ud virtuoso/composer Farid el Atrache, Um Kalthoum and Algerian singer Warda (Al-Jazairia) as major influences. She also absorbed albums by Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, Thelonious Monk, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.
During her apprentice phase, during which she became in fixture in France and on the Paris scene, Malika performed at a variety of well-known clubs and events, including Festival L’esprit Jazz de St Germain, Sunside/Sunset and Cite de la Musique. In the beginning, she interpreted classic material strictly in the original languages — then a breakthrough occurred.
An early visit to New York made a strong impression on her. In 2004, Malika decided to relocate to New York City. Having crafted a repertoire that incorporated her native Berber, Gnawa (a percussive form of religious trance music) and Chaabi (Arabic working class blues) heritages, the intellectual elegance of French pop, plus freewheeling jazz rhythms and techniques, her reputation as a solo act began to grow.
With the release of Berber Taxi on April 12th, 2011 by Motéma Music (home to legendary innovators Randy Weston and Geri Allen), Zarra takes her rightful place as an important world-jazz artist on New York’s multicultural music scene. Berber Taxi takes up its journey following Zarra’s self-released 2006 debut, On the Ebony Road, which has sold over 2,000 copies, largely from her gigs and by word of mouth reputation. Whereas that first album was recorded jazz-style, mixed and mastered in two days, Zarra has, in her words, “fought” long and hard to make this one sound exactly the way she wanted it to.
Malika eventually recorded and/or sat in with Makoto Ozone, John Zorn, Tommy Campbell (Dizzy Gillespie), Will Calhoun (Living Color), Lonnie Plaxico (Cassandra Wilson), Michael Cain (Jack Dejohnette), and many others. She has recorded a vocal quartet album for John Zorn’s released on Tzadik records in January 2010.
Among the venues she has graced are the Carnegie Hall (opening for Bobby McFerrin) (NYC), the Opera House Lincoln Center (NYC), the Apollo Theater (NYC), Joe’s Pub (NYC), Sob’s (opening for Sara Tavares) (NYC), Smoke Jazz Club (NYC), Brooklyn Academy of Music (NYC), NYC Winter Jazzfest, Birdland Jazz club, (NYC), Outpost Performance Space (New Mexico), Baruch Performing Arts Center (NYC), Skirball Center Performing Arts (NYC), MET Museum (NYC), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom, (NYC) and many others.
US TOUR DATES
4/24 @ National Sawdust – Brooklyn, NY