Ibrahim Maalouf - Questions & Answers
Maalouf was born into a Lebanese family of intellectuals and artists; he is the son of trumpeter Nassim Maalouf and pianist Nada Maalouf, nephew of the writer Amin Maalouf and grandson of journalist, poet and musicologist Rushdi Maalouf. He is noted for playing Arabic music with quarter tones on the trumpet, which is a rare skill, pioneered by his father and Don Ellis in the 1960s.
Maalouf has also earned prizes in the major classical trumpet competitions in the world. In July 2010, he was awarded the Instrumental Revelation of the Year at the French Jazz Music Awards (Victoires du Jazz), and more recently was awarded Best World Music Artist at the French Music Awards in 2014.
Ibrahim has also composed several movie soundtracks, (Yves Saint Laurent (Jalil Lespert) 2014; Smart Ass (Kim Chapiron) 2013), and several pieces for choirs and symphonic orchestras.
After winning international classical music competitions, Ibrahim was well known for playing and recording with renown artists from different styles of music: Sting, Salif Keita, Amadou & Mariam, Lhasa de Sela, Marcel Khalifa, Vanessa Paradis, Juliette Greco, Archie Shepp,...
He released 5 albums on his own label. 2007: Diasporas / 2009: Diachronism / 2011: Diagnostic / 2012 "WIND" featuring Saxophonist Mark Turner, Bass Player Larry Grenadier and Drummer Clarence Penn. And his last album "Illusions" released in 2013 has reached the 1st place of the top jazz Charts in France for more than 4 months.
Ibrahim teaches improvisation at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris. (Paris Regional Superieur Conservatory).
His family fled Lebanon in the midst of a Lebanese Civil War and Maalouf grew up in the Paris suburbs with both parents and his sister Layla, who is two years older than he is. He studied there until the age of 17 and earned a baccalauréat in General Science and Specialised Mathematics from the Lycée Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire in Étampes (Essonne).
He began to study the trumpet at the age of 7 with his father Nassim Maalouf, a former student of Maurice André at the Paris Higher National Conservatory of Music and Dance. His father taught him classical technique, baroque, classical, modern and contemporary repertoires, as well as classical Arabic music and the Arab art of improvisation and style. In fact, his father was the inventor of the micro-tonal trumpet, called “quarter tone trumpet”, which makes it possible to play Arab maqams on the trumpet. Another characteristic of these early years was that Maalouf began playing the piccolo trumpet very young. From the age of 9, he accompanied his father in a duo throughout Europe and the Middle East, playing a baroque repertoire by Antonio Vivaldi, Henry Purcell, Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni, etc... This was how he learned to play in front of an audience, and how audiences gradually began to become acquainted with him. When he was 15, Maalouf came to the attention of professional musicians when during a concert with a chamber orchestra, he interpreted the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach, considered by many trumpeters as the most difficult piece in the classical trumpet repertoire. Several years later, Maalouf met Maurice André, who encouraged him to go professional. This prompted Maalouf to abandon his scientific studies and dedicate himself entirely to his musical career.
Maalouf then successfully passed an open competition at the CNR de Paris (regional Conservatory) and joined the class of Gérard Boulanger for a two-year training course. After that, he passed another open competition and joined the CNSM de Paris (Higher National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris) in the class of Antoine Curé for a three-year training course. He obtained degrees from both of these schools, considered to be the top establishments in the field of classical music, but also during his five years of study, he entered national, European and international trumpet competitions in order to discover the full range of the trumpet repertoire and to develop his technical skill.
Between 1999 and 2003, Maalouf earned awards in 15 competitions throughout the world. His most prestigious prizes were 1st prize in the Hungarian International Trumpet Competition in Pilisvörösvár in May 2002, 1st prize in the National Trumpet Competition (Washington DC) in 2001 and 2nd prize (ex aequo) in the Maurice André International Competition in Paris in 2003, regarded as one of the two most prestigious international competitions. The Cziffra Foundation and the Pro-Europa Foundation, patroned by the Prince of Denmark also contributed significantly to the launch of his international classical career.
From 2006 to 2013, Maalouf has been trumpet instructor at the CNR of Aubervilliers, La Courneuve in France, where he followed in the footsteps of the celebrated instructor André Presles. Maalouf is regularly invited to give master classes and recitals in France and abroad.
Maalouf also composes for different classical orchestras. He wrote more than 15 pieces for different ensembles from small to symphonic orchestras and choirs that were commissioned since 2005.
Ibrahim now teaches improvisation to classical musicians, (all instruments) at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris.
Encounters and musical collaboration
Maalouf has never abandoned the Arabic trumpet. Although competitions take up a large measure of his time, he nevertheless continues to explore music from other angles, in particular improvisation and composition with Arabic music and Jazz. During his studies at the Paris CNSM, he followed jazz classes as assiduously as he did classical trumpet classes. His training in jazz is self-taught, derived from his experience with Big Bands and with different groups he has played with at different times. He often plays in Paris jazz clubs, frequently changing from one band to another in pursuit of the sound he is interested in. In 2000, Maalouf met producer Marc-Antoine Moreau, who introduced him to the cellist Vincent Segal. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful series of encounters. Amadou & Mariam, Matthieu Chedid, Lhasa de Sela, Angel Parra, Jeanne Cherhal, Arthur H, Marcel Khalifé...between 2000 and 2007, Ibrahim performed with many internationally famous singers and musicians, discovering the musical trade while exploring his own sound. His last great partnership was with his friend, the French singer Vincent Delerm, who asked him to accompany him on a promotion tour for his album Les Piqûres d’Araignées, a tour that ended in June 2007. In November 2008, Maalouf played in the opera « Welcome to the Voice » at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris. Composed by Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello’s keyboardist) and directed by Muriel Teodori. On this occasion, Maalouf encountered on stage various artists including Elvis Costello, Sylvia Schwartz and Sting, who played the lead role in this performance. Sting asked him to play on one of the title songs of his October 2009 album. Maalouf then toured again with Vincent Delerm (January 2009) in a smaller formation where he derived a lot of pleasure from playing piano, wurlitzer, vibraphone, synthesizer, drums and trumpet, while finishing his second album, planned for the Fall 2009.
Ibrahim Maalouf during (Festival du Bout du Monde 2014)
Maalouf has composed music since he was very young. He presented his compositions for the first time in 1999. His first group "Farah" had a relatively strong Oriental Jazz flavor because he was accompanied by a saxophone, a ney (Middle-Eastern end-blown flute), a transverse flute, a piano, a double bass, a guitar, a buzuq (a long-necked fretted lute related to the Greek bouzouki) and Arabic percussions. A concert recording by this group was broadcast on several music channels between 2004 and 2005. The group did some studio tests, but never produced an album.
In 2004, his encounter with Lhasa de Sela opened the doors of electro music to him. His collaboration with pop and rock singers made him discover other musical styles apart from jazz, classical music and Arabic music. Gradually, Ibrahim’s compositions began to reflect a more contemporary style. In 2006, after exploring many different musical paths, he met Alejandra Norambuena Skira (from the SACEM’s Action Fund), who introduced him to Jean-Louis Perrier. Jean-Louis helped him to form the band with whom he gave a concert on February 12, 2006 at the Paris New Morning Jazz Club. From that moment on, he became a recognized figure of the Paris Oriental Electro Jazz Scene.
His music and his trumpet playing are strongly inspired by his Arabic culture, but the instruments around him (bass, electric guitar, drums, Arabic percussion and vibraphones) and the musicians with whom he performs give a more contemporary rock, electro and Jazz-funk flavor to his music. His concerts are generally built around stimulating music that makes people want to get up and dance. But there is always a short, more contemplative, mystical interlude during his concerts, which he calls "a collective universal prayer". Maalouf gets a lot of his inspiration from his culture of origin. This subject has been explored in the documentary Souffle! (Blow), directed by Christophe Trahand and produced by Cocottes Minutes between 2005 and 2006. Christophe Trahand followed Ibrahim for several months in pursuit of the key to his inspiration and to explore his relationship with his native country and the distance that separates him from it. This documentary was broadcast by TV5 MONDE and is available on DVD in the collection Docnet Films.
After having featured on the albums of many different artists, Ibrahim issued his first album, Diasporas, in October 2007. Produced, composed and directed by him with the help of François Lalonde (percussionist and co-director of the latest electro album by the two Montrealers Lhasa de Sela and Alex MacMahon), he recorded a lot of the music in Beirut and Montreal and finished the recording and the sound mixing in Paris. The album was mastered in New York City.
Ibrahim considers Diasporas to be a bit like a book. He can't "write a book" in one and a half hours on stage but he can "recite some poems". Live music is in his view totally different from the music recorded on a disc. Ibrahim worked for more than 3 and a half years on this album between Paris, Montreal and Beirut and over 30 musicians took part in its creation.
Launched in October 2007 by Ibrahim's own label "Mi'ster Productions", the album was widely acclaimed by the press. National and international newspapers, weekly magazines and others devoted to jazz, rock and music have recognized the value of this work.
Launched on 26 October 2009, his second album Diachronism is a double album. First album is "Disoriental" and the second "Pradoxidental" The double album features Adnan Jubran, Matthieu Chedid, Jacky Terrasson and Lollibob (a US West Coast rapper invented by Ibrahim and played by him with a certain dose of sarcasm).