Erminia Yardley and Carl Hyde attended this years Love Supreme festival for Jazz In Europe DM. Here is the first of her 1:1 interviews – Ibrahim Maalouf.
EY - I would like to start by asking you to talk about the influence of Arabic music and how you have managed to mix it with the more contemporary sound. How does that happen?
IM – it’s very natural, because when you are born in a culture and this is a big part of you, but you also live in another, it’s very natural. I try to be as sincere and as authentic as possible. What comes out is what you can hear, a mix of it, i am not doing it on purpose, everything that gets out of me is 100% what it is.
EY – You are also a teacher – tell me a bit more of that side of your life, like improvisation.
IM – Both my parents are musicians and teachers, my father taught me everything, he prepared me for the Paris Conservatoire, I studied Classical music for many years. During my studies, I also taught children, and then progressed on to teach older ones, people more advanced, now i teach in the conservatoire but I didn’t want to teach trumpet, so I created something else, more personal, to teach classical musicians how to improvise and most of classical musicians have no idea how to do this. So I went to the ask the Director of the Conservatoire to have a try for a year, and you know we are now in the 5th year! People are enjoying it very much and its’ very new for them.
it’s like teaching people how to be free, the students are aways thinking i should not miss this note, and I played that wrong, always thinking about the mistakes, the teacher is always telling them to stop and repeat or practice, but instead I tell them the opposite, but you see, that’s the only chance to learn, to make a mistake and then have the possibility to invent something new. It stimulates the imagination.
EY – Let’s touch briefly on your various collaborations: Sting, Archie Shepp, but what about Salif Keita.
IM – Ah yes, Archie Shepp = freedom, a great guy. Well, Salif wanted to put a trumpet impro on his album and also strings, so I took Oriental strings to Lebanon and we added the Arabic style strings to it, so it was more than a trumpet playing with a singer, I had a lot more to be involved on the album.
But even with other collaborations, whether known and unknown artists, I am always trying to reach my goal, to try and find common points, which sometimes can be very different, but every time that is my aim.
EY – What about Classical music, you are classically trained, you can play Vivaldi, Bach, but how was the transition from this to…jazz?
IM – Actually I have to say classical music is my life. I started when I was 7, but even before that if you like, I was listening to my parents play piano and trumpet at home. My mother used to play Schumann, Chopin, her culture background is Arabic music and classical music. I was attending lots of International classical music competitions. I studied till 25
All my life I have always been inventing music. At some point I had to find my way, not always playing Haydn, Bach, so tried to figure out how the best shape for the format to play. For me it’s not jazz, although it’s not strictly jazz, it’s many different things.
EY – So, here we are at the Love Supreme Festival, how did you prepare for this or perhaps you didn’t? (Ibrahim and I both smile)
IM – You know I have been touring for almost 10 years non-stop. We put together lots of music. We have a set and so when we knew we were coming here we prepared a specific format that would work for this scene.
EY – You are still so young, you have achieved so much already, so how do you relax?
IM – Well, you know the world is so big! Although I am working a lot in France, Turkey, the Netherlands, there are still a lot of places where people don’t know me, like here in England. it’s a great opportunity to show people our music. There were only 10 or 15 people watching when we started playing on stage and then little by little there was a huge crowd! So you asked me how I relax, well you know, this is how I relax, by realizing we have done our job well, we have got people interested and that they have liked our music.
YouTube Video – Ibrahim Maalouf – Beirut (Official Music Video)
Ibrahim Maalouf’s albums Red & Black Light and Kalthoum are available now on Impulse