Arco Iris

Amina Alaoui

Following her outstanding performance in collaborative work with Jon Balke and Jon Hassell on the “Siwan” recording of 2007/8, Moroccan-born singer Amina Alaoui presents her own border-transcending project. When Alaoui sings there is “no need to discuss the origins of fado, flamenco or Al Andalusi” for the music itself explores the common crucible of the styles, and Amina’s delivery makes the interconnections impossible to miss. She is superbly 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.

Featured Artists Recorded

April 2010, Auditorio RSI - Radio Svizzera, Lugano

Original Release Date

10.06.2011

  • 1Hado
    (Traditional)
    01:50
  • 2Búscate en Mí
    (Santa Teresa de Ávila, Amina Alaoui)
    06:31
  • 3Fado Al-Mu'tamid
    (Al-Mu'tamid Ibn Abbad, Amina Alaoui)
    05:30
  • 4Flor de nieve
    (Al-Mu'tamid Ibn Abbad, Amina Alaoui)
    04:07
  • 5Oh Andaluces
    (Ibrahim Ibn Khafaja, Amina Alaoui)
    06:55
  • 6Ya laylo layl
    (Amina Alaoui, Ibn Zaydún)
    09:18
  • 7Fado menor
    (António de Sousa Freitas, Traditional)
    05:26
  • 8Búscate en Mí, var.
    (Santa Teresa de Ávila, Amina Alaoui)
    05:32
  • 9Moradía
    (Eduardo Miranda, José Luis Montón, Sofiane Negra)
    03:59
  • 10Las Morillas de Jaén
    (Anonymous, Amina Alaoui)
    07:05
  • 11Que faré
    (Amina Alaoui)
    04:26
  • 12Arco Iris
    (Amina Alaoui, Teofilo Chantre)
    06:34
On her album “Arco Iris”, which is Spanish for “rainbow”, the Moroccan singer and songwriter Amina Alaoui, who now lives in Spain, imagines her own Iberian Peninsula: a latter-day Andalusia where the Middle East and Europe meet with espressive arabesques and tragic, romantic, mystical poetry. It’s a fusion without a glimmer of modern impatience, slocely contemplatng every phrase.
Jon Pareles, New York Times
 
Eine fantastische, gänsehautschöne Reise.
Freizeit Kurier
 
A pan-Iberian music, with full Arabic and Persian roots in evidence. Her music is like the drama of an eternal present.
Jeff Simon, Buffalo News
 
Auf Jon Balkes Album “Siwan” verzauberte sie schon mit ihrem Gesang. Die Marokkanerin Amina Alaoui legt nun mit „Arco Iris“ ein eigenes Album vor, das unter die Haut geht. Als Araberin schaut sie auf die Musikkulturen Andalusiens, beleuchtet Flamenco und Fado und interpretiert diese Genres doch ganz eigen. Das musikalische Erbe einer Region wird ver- und aufgearbeitet in ergreifende Stücke Musik.
Christoph Giese, Jazzthetik
 
Car c’est bien d’une femme amoureuse de toutes les musiques, et de toutes les inspirations, dont il s’agit ici, à la recherché de toutes les harmonies, et de tous les appariements de musiques. [...] Arco Iris réalise donc cette rencontre multiple, sensuelle et sensible, au cœur d’une Espagne ouverte à toutes les influences, et repoussant ses emotions aux confines de la Méditerranée. L’album décrypte également l’invention d’un nouvel art de vivre ensemble, par-delà les différences ethniques, et les musiques communes wui peuvent en découler. Nombreuses comme les couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel.
Christian Larrède, Music-Story.com
 
Wie eine Art Konzentrat aus musikalischen Aromen und geschichtlichen Facetten des Mittelmeerraums ist das erste ECM-Album der Sängerin und Komponistin Amina Alaoui angelegt.
Christian Stolberg, Sono Magazin
 
Amina Alaoui’s ECM solo debut, Arco Iris, is a stunningly beautiful album, filled with musical elements that really do seem to span the globe. It all stems from the depth of musical knowledge Amina has spent her life amassing. Born in Fez, she was originally schooled in the Moroccan Gharnati tradition. She has also studied European classical music, medieval chant, and Persian song forms. One of the many brilliant aspects of Arco Iris is her ability to blend these influences into a style all her own. […] Her talent, and desire to find common ground between all form of music is a quality that is extremly captivating. She is very definitely an artist to watch.
Greg Barbrick, Seattlepi / Blogcritics
 
The sheer beauty of Alaoui’s voice transcends language barriers. Pitch, tone, intonation and the way she plays “cath and release” with each note all combine for an intimate and highly personal experience.
Brent Black, Digital Jazznews
 
La suavité de cette voix aux mille émotions voyage entre Andalousie, Portugal, Maghreb et Orient, au gré d’improvisations libres autour de thèmes traditionnels. [...] L’équilibre entre toutes ces origines s’approche de la perfection par ce savant mélange entre les effluves sonores improvisés d’une guitare flamenca et le lyrisme d’un violon sauvage du désert.
Tristan Loriaut, Les Dernières Nouvelles de Jazz
 
It’s a magical musical alchemy if there ever was one. It’s music to levitate and dream to. Musical elixirs like these only come rarely. Highest recommendation.
Tom Schnabel, KCRW blog
 
Amina Alaoui hat das, was der Spanier “duende” nennt. Eine Seele, der sie dank ihres wunderbaren Gesangs Ausdruck verleiht. Begleitet von Violine, Oud, Mandoline und Flamenco-Gitarre entführt uns Alaoui in die maurisch geprägte mediterrane Welt vor der katholischen Inquisition. Ein Fest der Sinne.
Stereo
 
Conjunyeix el fado, el flamenco I qüestiona la lirica mediterrània amb un estil personal. [...] L’artista marroquina, de marcada sensualitat expressiva, posseeix un poder cantable que manifesta obertament amb un fraseig de gran musicalitat. En aquesta selecció destaquen les intimes improvisacions, suaus i plaents, dels diferents intèrprets que espurnegen vitalitat i una gran tècnica instrumental. [...] Tots ells liderats per Amina Alaoui posen la intelligència al servei de la comunicació sonora, amb libertat, amb gosadia i bellesa. Sempre sorprèn, descobrir noves apostes d’elegants sonoritats que impulsen, amb minuciositat i disciplina, nous vocabularis musicals.
Marçal Borotau, Supplement de discos
 
 
This music transcribes an Iberian peninsula carried towards a dialogue with the potential of what might be. It is a poetic geography that entertains the dream of the impossible: human horizons that transcend borders, lyrical Mediterranean idioms that are open to the universe and the intelligence of being, of mutual communication. Song and music explore this possibility in order to open up another path: original expression.”
Amina Alaoui

Following her outstanding ECM debut performance as the lyrical voice of Jon Balke’s “Siwan” recording of 2007/8, Amina Alaoui explores a rainbow of musical possibilities on her own “Arco Iris”. It is an emotionally powerful album that soars through related idioms. This time, says Alaoui in her liner notes, there is “no need to discuss the origins of fado, flamenco or Al Andalusi” for the music itself investigates the common crucible of the styles: Amina’s delivery, and the performances of her superb ensemble, make the interconnections of the genres self-evident. Yet as she also points out, “you must first have assimilated your own roots, in order to absorb the culture of the other...” Historical awareness, study and discernment are essential but more is needed: “I am an artist of the present. I abstain from simply copying the styles of the past.”

Singer, composer, poet and scholar of distinction, Amina Alaoui was born in Fez and originally schooled in the Moroccan Gharnati tradition, which remains a central reference in her work. She also studied European classical music from childhood onwards. While based in Paris in the mid-1980s she explored medieval chant with Henri Agnel and Persian song with Djallal Akhbari, interested, as ever, in the points of contact between the traditions. Alaoui has been the recipient of many awards including the Algerian Prix d’Interprétation du festival de Musique Arabo-andalouse d’Oran, Morocco’s Prix d’Excellence au Festrival Ghanati d’Oijda, and the Cairo Opera’s Prix d’Honneur du Festival de Musique Classique Arabe. She is also a laureate of the Villa Medicis Hors les Murs where her musicological research into the confluence of musical streams led ultimately to the work that has become “Arco Iris”.

On this disc, recorded in April 2010 in the recital room of Lugano’s Audiorium RSI, with Manfred Eicher producing, Amina is flanked by her truly international ensemble: violinist Saïfallah Ben Abderrazak and oud player Sofiane Negra are from Tunisia: Negra has played with Alaoui for many years and has much experience also of cross-cultural collaboration –working, for instance, with flamenco singer Ines Bacan and with many jazz players. Abderrazak’s interesting resumé includes work as a physicist specializing in acoustics and sound principles as well as membership of the Symphonic Orchestra of Tunis. Guitarist José Luis Montón from Barcelona has a following amongst flamenco adherents worldwide (and an ECM solo album of his own is in preparation). 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. The group’s youngest member, Idriss Agnel, son of Amina Alaoui, studied music at Maîtrise Notre Dame de Paris from the age of seven. He is meanwhile renowned as a multi-instrumentalist, contributing here deft percussion and (on one track) electric guitar. The sparkling interchanges between the instrumentalists and the rapport of each of them with Alaoui make for exciting listening throughout “Arco Iris”.

The songs are from many sources, and the texts and some of the melodies span a thousand years. Amina sets mystic poems by St. Teresa of Avila and by 11th century king of Seville Al Mutamid Ibn Abbad, and nature poetry of Ibn Khafaja. (“Nothing is more beautiful, O Andalusians / Than your luxuriant orchards / Gardens, shadow and rivers / And fountains of crystal.”). There is 20th century fado from the pen of Antonio de Sousa Freitas and the well-known 15th century text “Las Morillas de Jaén” which Amina puts to her own music (a very different rendition can be heard on the Garbarek/Hilliard “Officium Novum” set).

The album concludes with the title track, Amina’s song of praise to “Arco Iris”, the rainbow: “Sun and rain in an embrace (…) bridging the firmament”, while “Sounds/ Of light and colour/ Weave in harmony”.