Sabah Fakhri is one of the foremost master vocalists of the Arab world. He was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1933. His talent was recognized early: he was barely ten when he began performing at event concerts with leading professionals of the time.
Fakhri’s teachers at the Damascus Conservatory were well-known composers Shaykh Ali al-Darwish and Shaykh Umar al-Batsh who worked within the musical tradition of the Mevlevi Sufi order in Syria.
In 1950, Sabah Fakhri was invited to sing with the National Syrian Radio Orchestra where he quickly received critical acclaim for his superb vocal technique and unique silver tonal quality.
Fascinated with the history of Arabic music Fakhri researched diligently into the earliest recording of the major Arab artists. As a result, he has amassed a tremendous repertoire of classical songs. His firm grounding in Arabic poetry and literature has enabled him to document traditional Arabic music in a multi-part audiovisual series titled “Nagham al-Ams” (Tunes of the Past) consisting of numerous vocal compositions in traditional genres.
Known for his superb interpretations of the Andalus-based repertoire so popular in Aleppo. Fakhri’s name has been especially linked to the classical muwashshah. He also performs traditional vocal genres such as qasida, dawr, qadd and the improvisational mawwal. He has performed on hundreds of recordings and has toured North and South America, Western Europe, Russia and Australia. He has received numerous honors and medals in recognition of his artistry and achievements.
Mohamed Adlen Fergani was born on the 29th of April 1993 in the city of Constantine, Algeria. He belongs to the Fergani family where Maluf music is a part of the heart and soul of all family members. This family atmosphere has pushed his learning of the use of many musical instruments: percussion at the age of 8, mandolin at 13, then violin and oud (Arabic lute).
Beside his musical career, Adlen is studying Aeronautics at Constantine University. He is part of the 4th Generation of the Fergani family that includes his great grandfather Hamou Fergani, grandfather Hadj Mohamed Taher Fergani, his father Nasserdine Fergani and his uncle Salim Fergani.
Carrying over the mission to preserve the musical patrimonial heritage of Constantine, already developed by the predecessors, he is distinguished by his beautiful voice appreciated by his fans and Maluf followers. His musical products are inspired by the heart, spirit and allows the listeners to travel through the ancient Arab Andalusian world thanks to the selected words and refined music. The success has been proven in many festivals, wedding ceremonies, Ramadan parties or religious events.
The title of his first album is “Ana el mamhoun bel ghoram”, supervised by his grandfather, maestro Mohamed Hadj Fergani and featuring the participation of other artists as well. A second album is in the works.
Adlen Fergani has performed on TV, radio and at numerous festivals throughout Algeria.
His awards and trophies include Trophy & Expression of Gratitude for the conservation of Constantine Patrimonies, 8th Edition of « Cultural National Festival of Andalusian Music and Maluf (2014) and Trophy & Expression of Gratitude for the participation in “Knowledge days University of Constantine 2012.
Ronnie Malley is a multi-instrumentalist musician, theatrical performer, producer, and educator. He collaborates with the music groups Allos Musica, Duzan Ensemble, Lamajamal, and Surabhi, and is a faculty member at the Chicago Academy for the Arts. He performed recently at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in India with George Lawler (percussion), Subrata Bhattacharya (tabla) and Abhisek Lahiri (sarod). See my writeup on the JLF music showcase here.
His recent credits include author and composer of the original play Ziryab, The Songbird of Andalusia (Silk Road Rising World Premiere), author and composer of the story The Oud, Ziryab, and Andalusia: An Enchanting Tale of Music (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Chicago Cultural Center). He has produced the albums Auraad Fathiya, Saazuk Safar, Tsikago, and Gypsy Surf.
Ronnie conducts Arabic language artist residencies for Chicago Public Schools through Intercultural Music Production and is a teaching artist for music and theater with Global Voices Initiative. He joins us in this wide-ranging interview on his musical journey, the role of music in cultural identity, and his message for a better world.
Q: How did the lineup for East Meets Middle East get formed? How did the musicians know each other?
RM: East Meets Middle East (EMME) formed in early 2016 as a collaboration between two Chicago musicians; George Lawler and myself, who had been playing together for over 10 years, and two seasoned classical Indian musicians from Calcutta; Subrata Bhattacharya and Abhisek Lahiri, who were both on tour and visiting Chicago. We were introduced by a mutual musician friend.
EMME’s concept arose from a conversation between Subrata and myself about a hate crime on a Sikh temple in Milwaukee, which we thought displayed the ignorance that exists about different faiths and cultures from the Middle East and India, not only in America, but elsewhere. We thought about making a project that would emphasize the uniqueness of these rich, yet distinct, cultures and serve as a contrast to many ‘East Meets West’ albums that often lump South Asian and Middle Eastern music into one broad category.
Q: How was your overall experience touring through India this month?
RM: Touring India this month was an exhilarating experience! I’d say one major highlight was being able to see three distinct cities: Kolkata, Jaipur and Delhi. In Kolkata, George and I were able to get a closer look at one of India’s cultural capitals and learn more about its folk music (e.g., Jhoomur and Tusu) as well as one of my favorite literary icons Rabindranath Tagore.
In Jaipur, the world just came together through music and literature. I especially enjoyed reconnecting with friends such as Nathu Lal Solanki (nagarra player from Rajasthan) and Homayun Sakhi (Afghan rubab player in Aga Khan All Stars). Delhi was also amazing because George and I got to perform with friends Raghu and Sudha Raghuraman, masters of Carnatic music, and also meet folks from Amarrass Records, Desmania Design, and One World College of Music.
Q: How is your album ‘East Meets Middle East’ being received by the audiences and media?
RM: Folks at the JLF were very supportive. We’re a little new as a group and still building our audience and media coverage, but social media and streaming site comments have also shown appreciation for what we’re trying to do. Some have expressed that it’s refreshing to get a more in-depth look at these cultures through music. Others enjoy the instruments and how they complement each other.
The sarod and tabla are Indian counterparts to the Middle Eastern oud and darbuka (also called a tabla in the Mid East). Though, I’d say most comments have been about the improvisation. We have a structure for the compositions, but we also leave room to improvise – making each live performance a unique experience for us and the audience.
Q: The tracks Misty Trail and Distant Star really jump out! Can you describe how they were created?
RM: All of the tracks on the album are original compositions. Misty Trail is a composition by Subrata Bhattacharya and Distant Star is an original composition of mine. Initially, Subrata went to a studio in India with Abhisek Lahiri and recorded the composition as a guide track for us to learn, and eventually re-record in Chicago.
Distant Star came about as an improvisation while rehearsing with George in Chicago, which I later arranged. Ultimately, once we had a structure for the pieces, improvisation became the focus. Indeed the whole album was conceived like that. Basically, once Subrata and Abhisek arrived in Chicago, they came to George’s and my studio for rehearsals, which we ended up recording, and that became the album. It’s a live album of original compositions and improvisations, but really it’s a musical dialogue of our encounter.
Q: What other lineups and genres have you experimented with?
RM: I grew up playing everything from rock and blues guitar to Middle Eastern and North African folk and classical music. George and I also have had the group Lamajamal for about ten years, which explores music from the Balkans, Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa. With that group, we include clarinet, bass, guitar, and various Turkish instruments. George also has a group called Byzantine Time Machine, which explores Balkan and Greek music through an electronic medium.
I also have another fusion group called Surabhi, which is a group that celebrates the connections of Indian, African, and Middle Eastern music to Spanish flamenco. The lineup for Surabhi consists of veena, oud, tabla, guitar, cajon, bass, and African percussion. Our groups are based in Chicago.
Both Abhisek and Subrata also have their own fusion projects in Calcutta as well as Europe and the US. Abhisek’s group is Ionah and Subrata’s projects are many, including Flat Earth Ensemble and Naad, to name a few. They’ve also collaborated with countless artists.
I think EMME is unique for all of us. The group explores the relationship between raga and maqam musical styles, but also delves into the improvisational components of those styles, as well as drawing on all of our collective influences in everything from Pink Floyd to Ali Akhbar Khan.
Q: How would you describe your musical journey so far, in terms of phases, genres, collaborations, inner discovery?
RM: For myself, music has been all I’ve ever really known. I went from performing in the family Mid-Eastern band at weddings as a child to playing rock and in punk marching bands to performing classical Turkish and Persian repertoire with the University of Chicago Middle East Music Ensemble to collaborating with world artists and creating groups like EMME.
I know Abhisek also began performing with his father, Pt. Alok Lahiri, at a young age. George, like myself, honed a lot of his background in world musics from Chicago’s diverse communities. It’s all really a continuous journey that unfolds new chapters with every project, encounter, or collaboration. It’s about trying to build experiences where music is a medium for social interactions and dialogue – not just for musicians, but also those with whom we interact.
Q: What are the challenges you face as a musician and composer?
RM: As a musician and composer, the great challenge is striking a balance between performing and writing in one’s career. As a performer, sufficient practice to hone one’s craft and deliver a great performance is essential, even when the repertoire is not new. One has to discover something new in what might appear mundane. As a composer, it is important to shift practice routines for performances and allow more time to think creatively for thoughts and inspiration to translate into more writing.
Q: Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career?
RM: The family band with my father and brother is probably my first leading influence in my musical career as we were able to perform as the house band in Chicago for many visiting artists from the Middle East.
Next, I would say the musicians with whom I performed like Tony Hanna from Lebanon, Magdi El Husseini from Egypt, and Najib Bahri and Mohammed Saleh from Tunisia. A lot of credit is also due to some of Chicago’s own older established musicians who migrated to the US, like Issa Boulos and James Stoynoff.
Q: How do you blend different musical influences and genres, i.e. how do you create fusion without confusion?
RM: It is about mutual respect. For example, it is one thing to say, “Oh, I love Indian or Middle Eastern food,” and another thing to have dinner with an Indian or Middle Eastern family. In the first case, it’s like choosing something as a matter of taste simply because it’s appealing and can offer some spice to your proverbial melody. Perhaps, it’s a start to gauge interest, but confusion on what’s authentic or appropriate can arise.
In the second case, a relationship is formed. One learns the customs, language, and perspective of a culture developing a bond with the people and their tradition. The latter approach is what I appreciate about creating cross-cultural collaborations in music.
Q: What kinds of social and political messages have been conveyed in your recent albums? What is your vision of what music can do in this age of political/economical turmoil?
RM: With EMME, we’re trying to raise awareness that there are similarities and distinctions in the traditions we represent. Both Mid-Eastern and South Asian cultures have robust pluralistic societies consisting of many religions and philosophies that tend to be homogenized in the West, but also misunderstood in the East amongst the people themselves.
Our hope is that music can serve its part in an effort to bring humanity closer in dialogue and make us all more productive. While it is important to celebrate our differences, we should also get over them and realize we face similar issues that affect and should unite us all.
Q: What new album or video are you working on now?
RM: All the members of EMME have their own projects they tend to, but we are looking to begin recording a second album in Chicago around Spring and Summer of 2017.
Q: How is the creative scenario for traditional and fusion music today? Are audiences/venues/labels/artistes very open to such collaboration?
RM: It’s important not to ascribe the label ‘fusion’ to all cross-cultural collaborations. Indeed many traditional styles, such as Spanish flamenco, Indian raga, Mid Eastern maqam, and music from the Americas are organic blends of multiple styles that date back hundreds of years.
Overall, I think there’s an audience for anything one wants to focus on – and in turn, probably a record label or streaming service that’s tailored for or by that audience. There’s room for a lot styles from academic projects like Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road, to cross-genre projects like Junoon, or straight up hip-hop sung in Arabic or Punjabi by emerging artists where these languages are spoken. My hope is that people in general can transcend the labeling of a genre and rather open more to exploring and appreciating sound, whether it’s classical or contemporary, analog or digital.
Q: Where do you see yourself 10 or 15 years from today? What are some ‘˜dream projects’ or visions you are working towards?
RM: 10 to 15 years from today I plan on continuing to work in music production and performance as well as teaching and writing about it. The greater vision is to create more interdisciplinary art projects that allow others to perceive practice of art as a way of life and perceiving the world, not just as a commodity for consumption.
Q: Do you compose on the road also, while traveling?
RM: I always have a recorder and blank sheet music handy. Inspiration strikes when you least expect it sometimes. It could come from seeing something or someone in the street, while waiting for a train, or in a cab driving through the street of Calcutta or Chicago.
Q: What are some unusual reactions you have got during your live performances?
RM: It really depends on the audience and where we’ve played. In my group Lamajamal, we had people come up to us crying saying how a piece of music brought back memories of their father or mother, or of being back in their country. That was the case once with an Armenian woman who was attending a performance at a cultural center.
We’ve also been asked to conduct workshops and lectures about the music and cultures we present. This was the case when Lamajamal presented a workshop on commonalities between Jewish, Turkish, and Middle Eastern Music at Georgetown University. My other group Surabhi has given similar performances and presentations about the commonalities of Indian, Arab, and Spanish music. These presentations are often meant with informative questions and new learning.
A different experience occurred when I was touring last year with a project called Caravanserai. The sponsors of the tour were showcasing arts and artists from the Muslim world to cities in America, where most people had never even met a Muslim, and were informed only by what they saw on TV. Zeshan Bagewadi, an Indian-American musician, and myself headlined the tour. Though we both had Muslim backgrounds, the music we presented was funk and rock n’ roll with elements of Sufi poetry and style.
In our first performance to some community members from the town, someone within earshot said, ‘So this is what terrorist music sounds like!’ That was definitely not a reaction I was expecting on the first day being in this town. After a week-long residency of workshops and community engagement there, we felt that our music and outreach was able to soften their hearts from the first reaction and open their minds by the time of the final performance at the end of the week.
Q: As a Palestinian, how important is culture to the people’s identity, and how do you see yourself contributing to this preservation?
RM: Culture is the image and representation of any people’s identity. Yet, I also think it’s important to make sure we identify with who we are – musician, artist, poet, athlete – more than where we come from. In other words, I’d rather be considered an artist who happens to be Palestinian, than always being viewed as a Palestinian artist.
My background is in Global Music Studies and I find that by knowing and passing along music from my culture or other cultures with which I engage (e.g., Indian, Turkish, Balkan, American) I can represent them better from an artistic perspective than a nationalist one. There are many Mid Eastern and South Asian artists who know their traditional cultures very well, but who also have experience in music from outside, yet existing within, their own cultures in genres like rock n’ roll, hip hop, jazz, and classical music. In that sense, they still represent who they are and also where they come from.
Artists like Junoon, Zubin Mehta, M.I.A, and the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM are all examples of artists from specific cultures who are also global representatives. In short, if I were to represent my ethnic heritage, I would say demonstrating how I am a global citizen would be one way.
Q: Do you also teach workshops for students and musicians?
RM: All of the members of EMME are also teachers of their respective craft. George and I both work at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and also work as teaching artists conducting workshops and lectures in schools and universities. Abhisek and Subrata also have many private students and have given residency workshops at schools around the world including the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.
Q: How has the music industry changed over the years, and how has it impacted you?
RM: I think acts have come to rely greatly on the do-it-yourself model with emphasis on income from live performance, self-publishing, and potential placement for licensing than record sales, which in today’s digital economy can be negligible for artists. The ability to reach a whole new audience has never been easier through the advent of social media and recording technology. As for other aspects, we learn to embrace and utilize tools responsibly, whether they be social media or instruments like electronic loops and mixers.
Q: What is your message to the aspiring musicians out there?
RM: The only way you’ll get to where you’re going is if you remain in the game. All measures of success are relative. One does not have to be a superstar to have a career in music, even though that, too, is a legitimate aspiration. I’ve found it to be more rewarding to contemplate what we can contribute to the world as artists and how the relationships we build along the way truly determine our success.
Q: What is your message to your audiences?
RM: Support live music and art. Practice an art, whatever it may be, if just for the sake of appreciating expression and what art means to humanity. In a world, caught up in technology, nothing will ever replace the need for face to face time whether one is a practitioner, student, or observer.
Souad Massi is a Paris-based Algerian singer-songwriter. With a beautiful voice and a large palette of influences to draw from, Souad Massi is one of the most interesting new singers to come from Algeria. Influenced equally by shaabi music, French chanson, flamenco, 1960s American folk and a variety of African traditional music, this Algerian guitarist and singer makes music that is at once exotic and familiar.
Souad Massi was born August 23, 1972 in Bab en Oued, Algeria, a poor, multi-ethnic neighborhood in the hills above Algiers. Her family had come from Kabylia, the mountainous home of the Berber people, a culturally estranged population in modern Algeria. It is tempting to link Souad’s career to those of socially conscious Kabyl singer/songwriters like Matoub Lounes and Ait Mengeullet. But despite great affection for her Berber roots, Souad has always felt at peace with her blended identity, part Berber, part Arab, part Turkish and Persian-in short, Algerian. Her struggle for identity has centered on her vocation as a musician, not her ethnicity.
Souad’s father was a chartered accountant, who enjoyed chaabi music-urban street pop. Her mother preferred Arabic classical music, but also bent her ear to James Brown and Aretha Franklin. For Souad, films inspired an early passion for music. A self-described “tom boy,” she loved Westerns, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at the top of the list. These films led to her to discover country and folk music, Kenny Rogers and Emmy Lou Harris, Loudon Wainwright III, and later Tracy Chapman. Her uncle played flamenco guitar, and Souad also developed a passion for that style, finding its rough, evocative vocal style an intriguing departure from the more genteel Arabic vocal music she grew up with.
When Souad succumbed to depression as a teenager, her musical brother Hassan nurtured her with music, enrolling her in guitar lessons and coaching her at home. She began writing poetry in the tradition of Arabic love poets, and soon put the two together, performing her songs informally for friends.
School took Souad out of Algiers for awhile, first to Taghit, at the edge of the Sahara, where she studied architecture, then to Tizi Ouzou, in Kabylia. Bored without the stimulation of the big city, she returned to Algiers to study at the Institute of Public Works. In the late 90s, she took a job as town planner, and played music at night. She began with a flamenco-oriented group called Trianas d’Alger, but soon left to indulge a newfound passion for hardcore rock music.
She joined a rock band called Atakor and recorded her debut cassette, Souad, with them in 1997. The cassette’s success led to radio and TV appearances. But with fame came danger. Rock groups faced fundamentalist protests and sometimes violence at festivals. At a time when musicians were being targeted for assassination, she was afraid to press her career forward. At the same time, the more she discovered her own voice as a musician, the more the broadcast media became wary of her, and began to censor her simply by neglecting her. Caught between a fearful military government and scornful fundamentalists, Souad felt trapped.
Subsequently, the fateful invitation arrived for Souad Massi to perform a concert in Paris. TV producer Aziz Smati, himself a victim of a fundamentalist shooting, had escaped to France as a paraplegic, and teamed up with radio broadcaster Mohammed Allalou to organize a festival of Algerian women at the Cabaret Sauvage. Once in France, energized in the aftermath of that life-changing debut, Souad recorded her debut CD, Raoui (Island/Wrasse), a set of stylistically adventurous and highly personal songs inspired by a tempestuous, ill-fated love affair. The songs were frankly confessional, and cast an unflinching eye on the darkness she had experienced in her life.
She mostly sang in Arabic, showcasing a voice with stark emotional power and arresting subtlety, but she also sang in French, as on “J’ai Pas du Temps,” a languid rock ballad in which she laments, “It was said to me that life was beautiful/But I find these times cruel/The black smoke took the place of the sky.” Raoui sold over 100,000 copies, and although she was still an unknown in the Middle East and North Africa, Souad Massi quickly became an Arab music pop star in Europe.
Her 2001 WOMEX appearance was a revelation, propelling Raoui (Storyteller) onto plenty of best of lists, and garnering her a nomination in the Radio 3 World Music Awards.
Souad’s unique road to success has left her free to make her own stylistic choices, rather than conform to the established genres for Algerian singers: rai, chaabi, Arab-Andalusian or classical music. On her album Deb (Island/Wrasse), Souad continues her impressive musical evolution embracing flamenco, gypsy rumba, and even Congolese music, while maintaining her identity as a highly personal songwriter. Now based in Paris, Souad Massi has had the time to let her musical sensibility mature, meet other artists and tour extensively.
Naziha Azzouz was born in Algeria and moved to France at the age of 12. She started singing ancient Arab Andalusian music at a very early age and performed in Algeria, France, Morocco, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
In 1998 Naziha first met Palestinian ‘ud player Adel Salameh to study Arabic music, i.e. the music of the Middle East. Since that time, Naziha and Adel have worked together and recorded 2 CDs, Nuzhu & Kanza.
Naziha formed the Trio Al Andalussiyat featuring Naziha Azzouz on vocals, bendir and riq; Imène Sahir on violin; and Sofia Lampropoulou on kanun.
Born in Algeria in 1978, Mona Boutchebak lived in the famous district of Algiers, Bab-El-Oued. When she was 5, she began to learn classical music at the Conservatory of Algiers (piano, violin) and she studied Arab Andalusian music from 1989 to 2003 in three prestigious schools El mossilia, Es Sendousia, and El inchirah. She discovered with enthusiasm the methods of this music.
Mona studied the complex ways of Arab Andalusian music, the nubas, the poems. She quickly became a soloist and musician (she plays kuitra and lute). She was 15 when she took part in cultural events, in France and abroad. She became a soloist for the Tlemcen Orchestra and participated in different national events in Constantine, Sidi Bal Abbas, Blida. She continued her studies and obtained an English degree. She was also featured with Algerian rap groups.
For the promotion of the MBS album (Algerian Rap group) in 1998, on an Algerian Radio station, the host, charmed by her voice, proposed that Mona participate in the station in order to present musical shows. This gave her the opportunity to meet Marseilles-based Barrio Chino.
The group was preparing an homage to Algerian Music hall from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. However, they didn’t have a singer so Mona was introduced to them by Farid Toualbi, director of the radio station.
It all came together suddenly and Les Orientales were born. This show charmed everybody (Les Docks des sud in Marseilles, Magador Theatre in Paris) for 3 years. The public and press described this show as fabulous and Mona’s voice as bewitching.
Furthermore, her voice gave her the opportunity to be considered a veritable discovery in France as a talented soloist during UNESCO’s year of Algeria.
With her friends of Barrio Chino, Mona recorded Le diwan de Mona, where she mixed the Arab Andalusian tradition with modernity, using drum set and electric guitar.
Le diwan de Mona
Les Orientales, Hommage au Music-Hall D’algerie (MK2/Night & day)
Cradled in tribal rhythms of her father’s Southern Sahara and the Arab Andalusian music of her mother’s Mediterranean coast, Khalida’s very personal oriental jazz approach brings to her listener to a unique experience beyond regular performance. After her shows, she is has often been told by a members of the audience that her songs are like prayers.
From Algiers to Montreal, where she now lives, she has now renewed with her music in a world where her life is no longer threatened by death threats coming from religious extremist. Her unique voice carries a high level of emotions. She surrounds herself with top jazz musicians that are able to improvised with her in new cross-cultural directions.
Khalida studied for four years Arab Andalusian music and singing with professor and composer Rabah Kadem at the Djamiaa Nagham of which she was a lead singer in Algiers.
Her Arabic adaptation of Leo Ferre “Avec le temps” – “Ma Zamane” and her Arabic-English adaptation of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah have been broadcasted worldwide on Radio-Canada International.
Ilyes is a singer, pianist, composer and arranger from Algeria. He was born in 1972 in Batna’s mountains. He started to appear at the age of 12 as a singer, during parties and weddings where he was singing the Berber and Arab Andalusian repertoires.
At the age of 15, he entered the academy of music in Batna to learn the Western classical instruments (cello, piano and composition). Quickly, Ilyes made himself known as a prolific creator. He quickly became the director of Batna’s philharmonic orchestra, which associated 40 musicians into an original project of harmonization and re-interpretation of Chawi (Chaoui) traditional repertoire. This orchestra would cut across the Arab and Muslim world (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, etc.). At the same time, Ilyes started a collaboration with the French composer and arranger Serge Folie, and they are still working together to make Ilyes’ music more and more universally understood.
In 1998, Ilyes left Algeria and chose to settle in Lyon (France). In a very short time, he created an orchestra with 6 to 19 musicians, choosing to play mainly with French musicians with a purpose of fusion.
Since he arrived to France, Ilyes conquered the audience of many prestigious stages (Auditorium of Lyon, Opera of Lyon, and different French theaters) achieving one of his most beloved dreams, which was to present his own repertoire, inspired by the Chawi (Chaoui) and the Aures: the traditional style of the Eastern mountains, mixed up with the classical music culture and a modern sound approach. Ilyes tackles the contemporary themes of the Algerian situation, a mix of hope and suppressed anger.
For Habib and Hassina Guerroumi, Arab Andalusian music is more than a cultural heritage. Their musical approach to this art is pure and modest. It is the inner feeling, that with a touch of a doctor (Habib’s profession) revives the spiritual link to Ziriab’s legacy.
Habib Guerroumi studied music in Algeria with Ahmed Seri, one of the most important masters of Arab Andalusian music. Ahmed Seri was a member of the Moussilia, a music association of the city of Algiers. The young Guerroumi became Seri’s student for almost 20 years. With time, Habib inherited the whole repertoire of Ahmed Seri, his master.
Hassina Guerroumi was born in a musical family and in a very early age she learned the inner secrets of the Andalusian rhythms. Like her husband Habib, Hassina is willing to keep the tradition alive and both are working together to what seems to develop into their life work.
The harmony and the mutual understanding between the two musicians is one of the ingredients for their high artistic and quality level. Every word, sentence or note has a deep emotional value. The balance between the darbuka and the ud is natural and Habib’s modest singing is meditative. The Nuba, performed by Habib and Hassina, are true emotional, physical and musical experience.