Moroccan French world jazz singer/composer/producer, MALIKA ZARRA is 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 French, English and Moroccan Arabic and is now a much-in-demand headliner at nightclubs 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 M'Hamid, an oasis just off the Sahara, while her mother was a Berber from the High Atlas. During her early childhood, there was always music and dancing in the house and Malika sang almost from babyhood. 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 Chiha Hamdaouia, the Lebanese-born, Egyptian-based ud virtuoso/composer Farid el Atrache, and Algerian-French 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 Françoise Galais.