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Production  & Coordinator (USA-Canada)

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Moroccan singer,





Malika Zarra, 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. 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. I had to be French at school yet retain my Moroccan cultural heritage at home, she recalls, Like many immigrant children, I learned to switch quickly between the two. It was hard but brought me a lot of good things too.

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. When I decided to learn singing, I started with jazz because I was attracted by the improvisation, which is also important in Arabic music, she says. Although her family was not in favor of her pursuing a musical career, Malika nonetheless 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 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. When I started to sing in Arabic, writing new lyrics for jazz standards, I found that people reacted really strongly. There is always more emotion when you sing in your own language because your feelings are more intense. As a composer, the process was similar; asked why and when she began writing her own songs, she says impishly, After getting tired of forgetting English lyrics!


An early visit to New York made a strong impression on her, I came the first time in 1996. It was an amazing experience. I felt that I could be more myself and learn a lot of things, musically and as a human being. 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), Brad Jones (Ornette Coleman), Jacques Schwarz-Bart  (Roy Hargrove), David Gilmore, Gretchen Parlato and many others. She has recently recorded a vocal quartet album for John Zorn’s released on Tzadik records in January 2010. 


"Let Me Introduce you to Malika Zarra"
"Berber Taxi"
"CNN - AFrican Voices - Part 1", Part 2, Part 3


Zarra’s timing is sharp, her command irrefutable and her instincts, among them the knowledge of when to lie back, the mark of a leader. Malika Zarra is multi-: A multilingual, multi-octave vocalist fronting a multinational cast of musicians and drawing from multicultural influences, Zarra has crafted a sophomore recording that offers multiple Jeff Tamarkin” 

- Jeff Tamarkin, Jazz Times

“Throughout the evening, the cadences of Arabic and Berber dialects sat easily within the sophisticated arrangements, as did the modalities of the melodies. By the end of her set, the audience was thoroughly entranced.“  

- Michal Shapiro, Huffington Post

During my travel in Morocco I always searched for the traditional music of the people . I heard Berber music in the Rif mountains, the High Atlas and the Sahara, I was truly moved by the beauty of the Berber music and how the music describes the life of the people and their spirituality. Through the beauty of her voice and the magic of her compositions Malika Zarra reminds us of the musical diversity of our ancestral homeland, Africa.  Close your eyes and listen.
- Randy Weston

“Malika Zarra is a rare and special voice, a natural born musician who sings as easily as we breathe. Her newest CD Berber Taxi is a masterpiece, every track a gem. Filled with creative arrangements, soaring improvisations, beautiful poetry and of course Malika's gorgeous voice, it is one of the most exciting CDs in recent years. A natural blend of her life experiences, it transcends all borders and creates an enchanting new world filled with honesty, imagination, craft, purity, and passion. Malika speaks to us all in a language of love."
- John Zorn

“Zarra is captivating, with a soft voice and a hushed style of scat-singing that makes it sound like she is casting spells" 
- The Guardian, UK



Cyndi Byram
P: 201-400-4104


Coordinator (USA/Canada)

Ubuntu World Music
Christine Vaindirlis
P: 212-784-6163



Motéma Music


Record Label


Photo by Doug Kim, Le Poisson Rouge

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