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 “Malika Zarra’s music traverses her Moroccan heritage as well as her cosmopolitan life as a musician in Paris and New York. She brings a personal vision that crosses musical borders with talent and charisma.”

— Bill Bragin, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi


Jazz has been called one of America’s greatest contributions to the world’s culture, but it’s important to remember it’s an art form that has grown from countless cultural exchanges with artists and styles outside the U.S. An inspiring new international voice, who is both influenced by jazz and is bringing her own culture and creativity to the melting pot, is MALIKA ZARRA. Born in Morocco, raised in France, lived ten years in New York City and four years in Morocco this gifted composer, producer and singer has invented a new Moroccan urban-world-jazz by tastefully using traditional North African chaâbi, Berber and Gnawa polyrhythms to underpin her distinctly contemporary urban compositions, all the while maintaining a sophisticated improvisational modern jazz approach.
Award-winning 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 Berber, Moroccan Arabic, French and English now a much-in-demand headliner at concert halls and festivals the world over.


Singing in Darija (Moroccan Arabic), Amazigh, French and Malagasy, Zarra joins a multinational cast of players for a project born of lived experience on three continents. Guest appearances by Leo Genovese and Dan Blake (Esperanza Spalding), and Malian vocalist Mamani Keïta (Dee Dee Bridgewater, Manu Dibango, Salif Keita)

Hailed by The New Yorker as “an enchanting pioneer of Maghreb jazz,” and by CNN International for “redefining the term fusion and adding her unique sound to the world,” singer, composer and bandleader Malika Zarra has woven together the complex and varied strands of her musical journey on her third release, RWA (The Essence). Pronounced “Er-WAH,” RWA is a term from the Amazigh (Berber) language meaning “essence.” "It originates in the act of people from a tribe gathering together to help somebody by extracting oil collected from that person’s land,” Zarra explains. “It’s about bringing people together to extract an essence.” Zarra does just that on RWA, teaming with a stellar group of musicians, as she puts it, “to pay tribute not only to where I was born, but also to all the people I met in the places where I lived and grew.”

Pristine, richly layered sound and infectious grooves are abundant throughout RWA. From the start, with “Feen,” there is an urgency but also a playfulness in Zarra’s vocal delivery, as she glides over complex and funky beats laid down by band members whose seasoning and broad experience is unmistakable. Even within relatively concise tracks such as “Ouhelt” and “Dreamer,” there is compositional depth and a sense of narrative development. In the rhythmic charge and precision of “La !” or the deftly executed transitions of “Loukt,” we hear Zarra's exceptional range, imagination and focus.


RWA is the story of Zarra’s vibrant lived experience on three continents, brought into focus by top-tier musicians hailing from 10 countries. The album exemplifies a proverb from sub-Saharan Africa: “The old man who only lived in his village has only one intelligence. But the young man who has traveled through 10 villages is enriched by 10 intelligences.” RWA fully embraces this African wisdom. Its main lyrical message is to question the delusions of our world, in particular the borders erected to curb the movement of humans since the dawn of time.

Rooted in Africa, Europe and America, RWA evokes on one level the triangular trade that bled the African continent for centuries. But from the forced meeting of Africa and Europe in the plantations of the Americas was born a myriad of popular music: blues, jazz, rock’n’roll. This too is Zarra’s musical inheritance, and through her own triangular journey she has arrived at a unique and fully mature musical conception with RWA. “This album,” she says in summary, “is an invitation to celebrate the essence of what we are, what is unique and free inside us, but also to pay tribute to the ties that unite us, beyond any borders or division.”



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  • iTunes
  • Spotify
  • Amazon


  • iTunes
  • Spotify
  • Amazon


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Arturo O'Farrill - "Pouvoir"

features Malika zarra


John Zorn



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Amy Lee Aftermath is the  soundtrack for Mark Jackson's film War Story, "Dark Water" features 

Malika Zarra


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Sofia Rei


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Jay Rodriguez



“Morocco's Jazz Jewel. Singing in Berber, Moroccan Arabic, English and French [Malika Zarra] is redefining the term fusion and adding her unique sound to the world” 

- CNN International “African Voices”

"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." 

- Michael Shapiro, Huffington Post

"Blending the warmth of American soul music with tricky North African rhythms, intricately yet tersely arranged, jazz-inflected melodies and lyrics in Berber, Arabic, French and English, Zarra has carved out a niche for herself which manages to be completely unique yet very accessible." - Ludic Culture

“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

“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."

- Jeff Tamarkin, Jazz Times

"Zarra crosses musical, cultural, and linguistic boundaries with ease, creating a delicious sound centered in but not bounded by her ethnicity."  - Soundroots

"Boldly experimental, bringing in Berber chanting, dark North African harmonies, and a wholly original sensibility."

- Afropop Worldwide


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.

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. She moved back to France in 2019. 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 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 performed with John Zorn, Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Aruan Ortiz, 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),  Gretchen Parlato, Yazz Ahmed and many others.




Ubuntu World Music
Christine Vaindirlis
+1 (617) 407-2312 | +1 (212) 784-6163

World Wide Booking

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