[19 May 2011]
Born in Morocco to Moroccan parents—one from the mountains, one from the desert—Malika Zarra grew up in France, studied jazz there, obtained experience as a performer and then moved to the United States. Berber Taxi is the follow-up to her self-released 2006 debut, On the Ebony Road. The marriage of voice-and-keyboard jazz with gnawa, oud and various North African ideas is so deft that the joints never show, even when the individual elements seem as if they’d be incongruous. Setting up a pattern of handclaps and a women’s chorus in “Issawa’s Women”, for example, she makes the perfect leader, wrapping everyone up in her skiddle-dee croon. An enticing and smart release.