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Multilingual musician shares culture through song

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s world music, and then there’s Malika Zarra’s world music.

Born in Morocco, raised in Paris and now living in New York City, Zarra, a singer and percussionist, has been absorbing the sounds of her surroundings and blending them in her very own musical expressions.

“I find it easy to blend different elements. I do it little bit by little bit,” Zarra said in a phone interview from Chicago.

There are bits of Berber polyrhythms, North African chaabi, nicknamed blues of the casbah, French ballads and jazz improvisations.

Zarra sings in Arabic, in Moroccan dialects of Arabic and in Berber, as well as in French and English. And, she even scats, which is wordless jazz singing.

The latest example of Zarra’s multiple interests can be heard on her 2011 CD “Berber Taxi.”

Malika Zarra
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21
WHERE: Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE
HOW MUCH: $20 general public, $15 students and Outpost members in advance at the Outpost, by calling 268-0044 or at the door

There’s a political cut on the album titled “Amnesia.” Zarra co-wrote it. The lyrics refer to France’s history of colonialism: “When you sowed the seeds of inequality/reigning supreme over a crushed world/To feel proud of yourself when you turn on the TV/To feel proud of yourself when you march in a parade/A little bit of amnesia is all you need…”

Morocco was once a protectorate of France, but Zarra said listeners can apply the references to any former colonial power.

When she first visited New York in 1996, Zarra stayed for three months and met many musicians with whom she now works. She relocated there in 2003.

Why New York?

“You have periods in your life when you need more. You need to be able to grow,” Zarra said.

“I could see clearly and give credit to all the different cultures (that she has experienced) and not be ashamed of this or that one, and embrace them. New York City is an accepting environment for me.”

The CD’s title derives from a traditional Berber song that Zarra’s mother taught her. It speaks of a mythical taxi that brings lovers to young people in their isolated village.

Zarra will be in concert Thursday, March 21, at the Outpost with drummer-percussionist Harvey Wirht, guitarist Francis Jacob and multi-instrumentalist Jean-Christophe Maillard.



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