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Malika Zarra: RWA [The Essence]



Malika Zarra
Award-winning singer, composer, producer, Malika Zarra

This is a truly stunning disc by the Moroccan singer Malika Zarra. While it does not always focus on the complex liturgy – the lila or derdeba – of the Gnawa, Miss Zarra certainly draws on the spirituality born on the heady and rarefied air of the High Atlas Mountains of her home in Morocco. Well, truth be told, there is plenty of that suggested in the hypnotic rhythms of the heavy accents of the krakeb [performed by the Moroccan percussionist Adhil Mirghani] that suggest ecstatic dancing is de rigueur on Feen, while Miss Zarra puts on her moqadma [priestess] persona in the climactic music of Zirgh – with thunderous krakeb [together with other remarkably performed Moroccan and other African percussion instruments] all of which highlights why the power of the Gnawiyya is so pre-eminent the musicianship of Miss Zarra.

This album, RWA [The Essence] takes you down that spiritual path. The music is somewhat heavily orchestrated at times, but then Miss Zarra is very much a worldly-wise Moroccan adept at this point in her illustrious career – having travelled the Francophonie world and now all but conquered the United States of America as well. But make no mistake, no matter how worldly-wise her music has become it is still very much steeped in the vernacular and the sacred messages from the mother country. As a result, Miss Zarra draws on the power of her Moroccan roots in Gnawa culture throughout and some of this call to spiritual refreshment and ecstasy rises like fragrant incense on the wispy vocalastics of Mamalia as well.

Malika Zarra: RWA [The Essence]
Malika Zarra: RWA [The Essence]

In addition to being a very mystical performer, Miss Zarra is also endowed with a prodigious gift for storytelling. This comes, perhaps, with being a natural griotte as well as a Gnawiyya adept. But her ability to combine her vocal gifts and mystical power with an ability to create mystery, pathos and dramatic pathos speaks to something of her volcanic talent. True to her Gnawiyya nature her music swirls around you creating a kind of swirling vortex of beckoning melodic and harmonic authority that is driven by the hypnotic rhythms of a kind of Gnawa derdeba [ritual]. To be able to draw musicians and audiences in a wake of this kind suggests that she is a true maâlema – or, if not already one, then well on the way to being one.

There are several notable musicians on this album. Among them is, of course, bassist Alune Wade, the inimitable Amino Belyamani, whose propulsive pianism is felt whenever he strikes the keys. Adhil Mirghani provides a majestic sense of pulse and pacing with his soulful performance – highlighted by colourful detail and texture – on traditional Moroccan percussion instruments. His presence is felt everywhere. The Malian vocalist Mamani Keita is truly beckoning on Yallah Tnam Rima. The great Cameroonian drummer Felix Sabal-Lecco powers his way through the music of Ouhelt. The Cuban trumpeter Carlos Sarduy also acquits himself with distinction as does the inimitable keyboardist Leo Genovese. Of course, it is Miss Zarra who draws every performer into her wake conjuring one of the most mesmerizing albums of music that you will have heard lately.  Prepare to be seduced… and sanctified.

Deo gratis…

YouTube Playlist – Malika Zarra: RWA

Music – 1: Feen; 2: La I; 3: Yallah Tnam Rima; 4: Ouhelt; 5: Mamalia; 6: Dreamer; 7: Comete; 8: Loukt; 9: Zrigh.

Musicians – Malika Zarra: lead and background vocals, and percussion; Alune Wade: electric bass, keyboard, guitar, udu and background vocals; Amino Belyamani: piano and Fender Rhodes [1, 5 – 8]; Leo Genovese: Fender Rhodes and Farfisa organ [2, 3]; Cedric Ducheman: piano and keyboards [2, 4]; Cheikh Diallo: kora [5, 9]; Carlos Sarduy: trumpet [4]; Miron Rafajlovic: trumpet [6]; Philippe Hulot: trumpet [1, 4]; Dan Blake: soprano and tenor saxophones [3, 7, 8]; Hugue Maillot: tenor saxophone and bass clarinet [1, 2, 4]; Mamani Keita: vocals [3]; Khadija Aakirane: vocals [5]; Bam Rodriguez: contrabass [1, 3, 4, 7, 8]; Adhil Mirghani: percussion; John Grandcamp: drums [2]; Felix Sabal-Lecco: drums  [4].

Released – 2023
Label – DZL [27072014]
Runtime – 43:40

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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