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World Music Matters

My nights with Oum Kalthoum

Audio 11:16
Ibrahim Maalouf plays Paris's Palais-Royal on 21 June 2015 at "Fête de la Musique".
Ibrahim Maalouf plays Paris's Palais-Royal on 21 June 2015 at "Fête de la Musique". AFP/Kenzo Tribouillard

Franco-Lebanese trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf was the first instrumentalist in 29 years to win the top "Victoires de la musique" French world music award in 2014. He's reached star status here in France, but most definitely doesn't blow his own trumpet. In fact he nearly gave up the instrument altogether as a young musician, feeling it was too macho.

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"I see life through music," Maalouf says, "everything is music to me."

The thirty-something maestro is a prolific composer who relishes live performance. But he also writes film scores, produces for others and still finds time to teach improvisation.

He plays a unique four-valve trumpet, developed by his father Nassim Maalouf,  to be able to render the unique tonality of Arabic music. He's equally at home with hip hop, electro and jazz. 

That eclecticism is alive and well on his two latest albums which both pay tribute to women. 

Red & Black Light is an electro-inspired ode to the modern woman and includes his take on Beyonce's Run the world (girls). Kalthoum meanwhile is a NY jazz inspired celebration of the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum, a woman who had a huge impact on her country, and on Maalouf himself. 

The entire album is his instrumental interpretation of one of her biggest successes Alf Leila Wa Leila (1001 Nights). Some children have lullabies before going to sleep, "my father played me Kalthoum," he says. 

Ibrahim Maalouf plays La Philharmonie de Paris on 12 and 14 December.

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