Ibrahim Maalouf is a French-Lebanese virtuoso trumpeter who creates dialogues among cultures and music styles in his compositions, where jazz and Middle Eastern music meet. Let’s take a closer look at the inspirations of a musician for whom improvisation is key.
Raised in two cultures, especially when it comes to music – he was classically trained, and his trumpet-playing father taught him the art of improvisation in the Arab tradition at a young age – Ibrahim Maalouf draws inspiration from a wide range of sources and explores many different genres. These encounters are what gave rise to Maalouf’s prolific compositions, which combine jazz, pop, classical, rock, literary influences and Arab music. The following is a review of some of the inspirations of a musician who is never afraid to try something new.
Ibrahim Maalouf in a few words
Ibrahim Maalouf is a child of Beirut, born in 1980 when bombs were falling in a Lebanon torn apart by civil war, into a family of artists who decided to seek a better life near Paris, France. He first dreamed of being an architect, but ended up becoming a musician, playing the quarter-tone trumpet invented by his father, Nassim Maalouf. This instrument makes it possible to play in Arab musical styles. At a very young age, Ibrahim Maalouf thus learned Arab-style improvisation, at the same time as he learned the classical trumpet. He accompanied his father during live performances throughout Europe and the Middle East, playing Baroque, classical and contemporary concertos onstage with him.
In the early 2000s, he graduated from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris with awards from several international competitions already under his belt.
After the Dia trilogy (three albums between 2007 and 2011), he released Wind (2012), an homage to Miles Davis, one of his major influences. This album earned him the Victoire du Jazz award for Artist of the Year. Two years later, his album Illusions gave him and his musicians a boost when he won a Victoire de la Musique award in the Best World Music Album category, even though it was purely instrumental – this had never happened before. He also made a name for himself with the general public by working with more and more artists from a range of genres (including Amadou and Mariam, Vincent Delerm, Sting, Matthieu Chédid, Salif Keita and Grand Corps Malade) and by producing film music. In 2015, he was nominated for a César award for the original score for Jalil Lespert’s biopic Yves Saint Laurent.
Also in 2015, he released two new projects, both of them odes to women. Kalthoum, a celebration of women who changed the course of music history, focused in particular on Oum Kalthoum, an iconic figure who was a true monument in the history of the Arab people, and Red & Black Light, which celebrates women of the shadows. The aesthetic of the former is a nod to New York jazz, while the latter has pop and electro influences – this is only natural, since Ibrahim Maalouf often transcends genres.