10th Annual World Traditional Album Nominee
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Record Label: n/a
Home Base: Boston, MA & New York, NY
Genre: ZilZALA is a world music ensemble that is steeped in Arabic and Balkan traditions but that seeks to include and blend with different musical cultures, both traditional and contemporary.
Categories Entered: World Traditional Album/Song, Design
Work Submitted: Songs of the People, “Gypsy Desert”,
Influences: Um Kulthum, Bobby McFerrin, Hüsnü Senlenderici, Chopin, Jobim, Miles Davis, Simon Shaheen, Stevie Wonder, Richard Smallwood…
What’s the meaning of your band name? The name means‘female earthquake’ (ZilZAL in Arabic means earthquake)- a band member came up with it in our early days, referring to the exuberant energy of the ensemble.
Describe your nominated work: Songs of the People is a tribute to folk music traditions from the Near East and the Balkans. I am Lebanese with Armenian roots, and I grew up with different languages and musical cultures. I feel this record is a collection of songs and sounds that connect and intertwine in unexpected ways, thus creating bridges and new possibilities. Many pieces are traditional, some have a more contemporary twist to it and some are original.
Why did you choose to submit this work to The 10th IMA’s? A lot of passion, time and talent went into the making of this record. I deeply believe it has a unifying message, that connects different cultures but also past and present.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording? My goal was to include as many of the ZilZALA musicians as possible, who had played with us up to that point, on the record. I also wanted to create a rich and diverse soundscape. Instrumentation include violins, cello, qanun, oud, buzuki, saz, ney, duduk, trombone, clarinet, flute, saxophone, trumpet, percussion (pandeiro, djembe, cajon, shakers, dumbek, dholla, frame drums, riqq, and more), drums, vocals, bass, bass vocals and vocal percussion.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned? Many things didn’t go as planned… which is why there was so much magic created!
Did fans help you fund this project? No, it was entirely funded by me, however all the musicians were very generous with their time and talent.
Who is sitting in your audience? A wide spectrum of people, from Arab-Americans, to World music fans, to Jazz fans and musicians who love the grooves and harmonic/modal complexities of the music. We also appeal to regular people who enjoy the diversity and simplicity of the folk melodies.
What makes your fans unique? They are very loyal!
Are there any songs you wish you wrote? Too many to recount!!
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans? At any given time, I’ll probably be listening to Brazilian music. I also listen to Bobby McFerrin, Hüsnü Senlendirici, Um Kulthum and Miles Davis. I also love Stevie Wonder and Gospel music, I spend a lot of time listening to that genre as well..
What is your dream show lineup: A Middle Eastern/Balkan big band!! But I also love working with small configurations, just quartets or quintets.
What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Enjoying all the attention!!
Do you have any rituals before you go on stage? All the musicians stand in a circle and then go out on stage with the intention to have fun and to enjoy each other and the audience.
Finish this sentence: The music industry is… whatever we make of it.