Amina Alaoui

While researching for other music I stumbled upon Moroccan born Amina Alaoui and her album Arco Iris, the artist’s latest album with ECM.  Intrigued by what I heard, I went ahead and purchased the album. It was a rainy afternoon in Anchorage, Alaska, and her voice and outstanding ensemble took me on a journey I would not have wanted to miss for the world.

There is “no need to discuss the origins of fado, flamenco or Al Andalusi” for the music itself explores the melting pot of styles, and Amina’s delivery makes the interconnections impossible to miss.

Gharnati (Arabic for Granada) is one of the major Andalusian musical styles, migrated from Granada, Spain, to Morocco in the 15th century. Its roots lie in the diverse music schools of medieval Andalusia, where the Arab-Andalusian musical style originally developed some 800 years earlier. Gharnati was preserved by the Tlemceni families and other communities that fled Spain to settle in several places, Morocco, especially in Fez.

Born in Fez (Morocco) in 1964, Amina Alaoui pursued an eclectic musical path that lead her to work with musicians from medieval, Persian, and flamenco musical backgrounds. She is also a scholar of philology (study of language in written historical sources), linguistics, and dance, and a prominent exponent of the ancient music style gharnati (Arabic for Granada).

On Arco Iris she is accompanied by her outstanding ensemble in which violin often echoes the voice, and oud, flamenco guitar and sparkling mandolin surround it. Guitarist José Luis Montón from Barcelona has a strong following amongst flamenco adherents worldwide. Mandolinist Eduardo Miranda was born in Brazil, has lived the last two decades in Portugal, and links choro and fado styles through a vocabulary influenced by jazz. Violinist Saïfallah Ben Abderrazak and oud player Sofiane Negra are from Tunisia. Idriss Agnel, Amina’s son, plays percussion and adds a shimmer of electric guitar.