Past Event

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble feat. Malika Zarra

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem with the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance presents JAZZ & Muslims.

An often-overlooked part of the story of jazz is the number of jazz artists who were and are Muslim. From its origins in the American south, through Harlem, to the world, the influence of Islam on jazz continues to evolve and captivate.

For this performance, six-time Grammy Award winner, pianist, composer and educator, Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble collaborate with Moroccan singer, composer, producer and multi-cultural shape-shifter Malilka Zarra to blend the flavors of Afro Latin Jazz and her unique global jazz mix. Malika leaps effortlessly between seemingly unconnected languages and traditions, uniting them and utilizing each to enrich the others. Her velvety, sinuous mezzo-soprano voice demonstrates a rare ability to communicate both powerful and subtle ideas and feelings in Berber, Moroccan Arabic, French and English.

Malika Zarra’s participation has been made possible through the French‐American Jazz Exchange, a program of FACE and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, with generous funding from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Florence Gould Foundation, Foundation Chanel, Institut Français, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication and Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique (“SACEM”).

Arturo O’Farrill, pianist, composer, and educator, was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. He is the leader of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO), which he founded in 2002 in order to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin Jazz to a wider general audience, and to expand the contemporary Latin Jazz Big Band repertoire through commissions.

The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble (ALJE) is an octet comprised of some of the most virtuosic musicians in jazz today. Its repertoire honors pioneers of Latin jazz such as Mario Bauza and Tito Puente, while keeping a strong foothold in progressing that music by performing contemporary compositions of the genre. Recently, the ALJE teamed up with the Cuban organization – Malpaso Dance Company, creating two programs; Despedida and 24 Hours in the Life of a Dog, for which Arturo O’Farrill scored the music and Osnel Delgado, choreographed the works.

The ALJE has performed internationally to critical acclaim, showcased in festivals including the Cubadisco Festival (Havana), the Luminato Festival (Toronto), Aperitivo in Concerto (Milan), and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (Massachusetts).

Malika was born in Southern Morocco, in a little village called Adouz. During her early childhood, there was always music and dancing in the house. After her family emigrated to a suburb of Paris, she found herself straddling two very different societies. 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 and Um Kalthoum as major influences. She began singing jazz because she was attracted by the improvisation, which is also important in Arabic music. Malika attended classes at conservatories and jazz academies at Tours and Marseille and studied privately with Sarah Lazarus and Francoise Galais. 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 festivals and halls such as Festival L’esprit Jazz de St Germain and Cite de la Musique.

In 2004, Malika decided to relocate to New York City. Having crafted a repertoire that incorporated her native Berber, Gnawa and Chaabi heritages, the intellectual elegance of French pop, plus freewheeling jazz rhythms and techniques, her reputation as a solo act began to grow.

Malika has recorded and/or sat in with Makoto Ozone, John Zorn, Tommy Campbell, Will Calhoun, Brad Jones (Ornette Coleman), Jacques Schwarz-Bart Gretchen Parlato and many others. Among the stages she has graced are Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Apollo Theater, the London Jazz Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Festival du Monde Arabe (Canada), the Salzburg Jazz Festival (Austria), the Blue Note Jazz Festival, the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, The Jazz Standard, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Chorus Jazz Club (Switzerland), Klub Cankarjevega doma (Slovenia), Timitar Festival (Morocco), Theatro Manzoni (Italy), Chicago World Music Festival, Birdland Jazz Club, Kennedy Center, San Sebastian Jazz Festival (Spain), The Metropolitan Museum, Doha Film Festival (Qatar), and Adelaide Festival (Australia).