Malika Zarra has had to negotiate the world of her heritage (Morocco) and the world she has found herself in (Europe, the USA) and has emerged with a strong musical identity that combines the structures of jazz with songs that come from her North African heart.  She brought the music of her latest release “Berber Taxi” on Motema Records to the intimate NY club, the Jazz Standard, and from my perch on a bar stool, above the audience -and the waiters delivering slabs of barbecue- I caught the title track on video.

Zarra has a warm and caressing presence, and she introduced this traditional song that she learned from her mother by telling of how in remote villages, sometimes one hopes that a taxi will come from far away, bringing love.  But the song also operates as a metaphor for Zarra’s own inner journey through Morocco, France and New York City. She grew up listening to traditional music in her home, but was introduced to jazz after the family moved to France, where her formal musical studies began. 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.

Musicians in the top-notch band that night, were Jean-Christophe Maillard on guitar, Etienne Stadwijk on piano, Mamadou Ba on bass, Harvey Wirht on drums, and Brahim Fribgane on oud and percussion.

I also liked the room. The Jazz Standard has a welcoming feel, and I found myself chatting with a very interesting couple who live on a boat, and make it a point to come to the club whenever they are in town. But when the music began, cell phones were off, and ears were turned on, giving complete attention to the music.

For more information about Ms. Zarra’s upcoming performances, visit www.malikazarra.com

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.