Ibrahim Maalouf at Bercy: What I especially expect is for the magic to work!

A few days before going back, what memories do you have of your last concert at Bercy?

It’s the second time I’ve been alone at Bercy, but I’ve already played there several times with extraordinary artists, such as Matthieu Chedid, Tryo, Quincy Jones and Jon Batiste who has just won 5 Grammy Awards. My concert on December 14, 2016 in Bercy is one of the greatest memories of my life too. It’s 17,000 people, incredible energy and a form of madness. As a trumpeter assimilated to jazz, doing a concert at Bercy seems incredible to me, I’m not a rapper or a pop singer… We’re looking forward to this concert on April 27, because we know we’re going to live a very big moment.

How has your music evolved since 2016?

My feet are very attached to the ground, my family, my friends, the musicians around me, the technicians, are people with whom I have worked for a long time and with whom we are close. My family is extremely critical of everything I do, they always give me very honest feedback on my work. I believe that I am still the same musician and I work with the same state of mind: I am a researcher, I dig, I try things. I don’t settle for certainties, I’m always looking for the next project, the next idea. As long as I stay in this process, I’m still the same artist.

My music, fortunately, is constantly evolving from album to album, from project to project, and even within the same album, which I can work on for several years, where you can find huge differences.

Your concert received the prize for the best concert at the Victoires de la Musique in 2017. For this upcoming concert, what do you hope for?

The Victoires de la Musique was completely crazy; I received 2 Victories, one in 2014 and one in 2017, and it was for the best concert of the year: it had never happened that an instrumentalist received this award, in general it is rather DJs or singers, singers. I’m very proud of it, but you don’t build projects based on awards, I didn’t expect that in 2017, and I’m not thinking about it this time either. What I especially expect is for the magic to work, and I think it will, because we have really prepared a brilliant show: we are going to do things that have never been done at Bercy or even in concert. We are really going to create an event strictly speaking.

In Lebanon, what is your best concert memory?

I have many memories of very beautiful concerts, I played in practically all the festivals: the jazz festivals, Baalbeck, Beiteddine, Byblos, Zouk, the Beirut Chants festival… The one that comes back to me dates from the end of the war , in 1993, when I was about 13, and we did a concert at the Assembly Hall as part of the al-Bustan Festival. I remember the state of Beirut, these images remained etched in my brain, they are not really about the classical music concert itself, but the extraordinary memory of the city. Lebanon inspires me a lot and pushes me to create for myself a kind of imaginary and reassuring cultural homeland.

Would you define your music as nomadic in its permeability of styles and in the variety of associations you offer?

I don’t know if my music is nomadic, but I am completely. My music is a kind of creolization of all the cultures that interest me, from the world of song, Arabic, oriental, Lebanese music, from the world of classical music, jazz, Miles Davis, rap, pop , film music on which I have been working for a long time… But also music from Africa, Asia, South America, Cuba… I have the impression that my inspirations are nomadic and I catalyze everything this in my compositions.

Isn’t each title, like “Maeva in Wonderland”, eminently narrative?

It’s true that there is always a story behind it and a lot of symbolism, personal evocations, which can speak to others around certain universal values. But it’s not always narrative in the chronological sense of the word. In my concerts, I tend to talk a lot, my music having no words, I want the public to leave there having understood what it is about, and I like to tell this dimension.

In some titles, like “Red and Black Light”, your voice is grafted on the melodic lines, how do you manage to balance the vocal and the instrumental?

I worked a lot with the song world, and I still do. The human voice inspires me enormously and I have collaborated with several choirs, and with masters. What I like about the sound of the trumpet is when it imitates a human voice, and since I love to sing and I don’t have a very good voice, I use my instrument to hide my voice, and he replaces it.

It’s very beautiful to work the voice in instrumental compositions, it generates a lot of emotion, I use a lot of everything that is choral. And then I love approaching the public like a choir, I often have them sing in concert to my music.

Do your compositions work around a musical scheme taken up, amplified, modulated, around which you gravitate?

My musical compositions are always made in the same way, they leave in total improvisation, there is absolutely no code, no rules, I go wherever my inspiration guides me. I never forbid myself what I love, what inspires me, what gives me rhythm, what makes me want to live. I see music as a huge motivator in life, a vast emotional machine, and I let my music go wherever it wants.

Improvisation is everywhere in the musical genesis. On stage, I like things to be precisely written and organized, but I always avoid freer ranges.

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For this concert on April 27, can you reveal to us at least one of the “surprises” that you are preparing for your audience?

There will be many, including events never performed on stage in the history of Bercy. On the set, there will be my group, we are about fifteen musicians from all over Europe, but also from Cuba, since at the start, it was the “S3NS” project that I did in Bercy, and it is very inspired by Cuban music. I’m working on the programming, but what’s important is not the number of songs performed, it’s what we’re going to share: the public will be really surprised! “Intensity, surprise and love” sums up well what is going to happen.

Have you felt that your music has evolved since the Covid-19 pandemic?

Yes, especially since, during confinement, I was at home with my 99-year-old maternal grandmother who left us today. I am very moved by evoking her, she was a real pillar in our family and she ended her days with me. We both found each other, we shared a lot of moments together, it was very strong, and I had a very important homecoming. I had lived through difficult events and I needed to recharge my batteries. It was like a rebirth for me.

At that time, I celebrated my 40th birthday with my guitarist friend François Delporte and we made a duo album with 40 melodies. I added three that I composed. In this album, there are plenty of guests, Sting, Marcus Miller, Hüsnü Senlendrici for those who love Turkish music, the Chorus Quartet for those who love classical music… I have worked with extraordinary musicians from all over the world, Richard Bona and many others, and I had an incredible birthday, like going back to basics. I learned a lot during this period which made me evolve personally and musically.

Since the resumption of concerts, how do you feel your audience?

I find them crazy, they are so brilliant: they are not an audience of “fanatics”, with too much fervor, and they are not an indifferent, insensitive audience either. The atmosphere is family, heterogeneous and very diverse. There is everything, people who like jazz or who don’t, some like Arabic music, some don’t, people who discovered me through classical music 20 years ago, d others who discovered me while playing with Matthieu Chedid or whoever rapper recently. I love them all and I’m incredibly lucky to have them. A few days from Bercy, I’m full of energy and can’t wait to be on stage, and I know we’re going to have a crazy time.

Which of your tracks best sums up Lebanon as you dream it, now and in the future?

There are plenty of songs that can go in the direction of what the Lebanon of today evokes for me, the Lebanon of tomorrow, the hopes that I have for my country. I believe that there is music that will be very similar to him, it will be released soon, because it is the first single from my next album scheduled for this fall. We’re going to play it for the first time at Bercy, it’s a mix of everything I like in general about Lebanese culture, in the crossbreeding, in the party, in the joy of living and in the resilience.

A few days before going back, what memories do you have of your last concert at Bercy? It’s the second time I’ve been alone at Bercy, but I’ve already played there several times with extraordinary artists, such as Matthieu Chedid, Tryo, Quincy Jones and Jon Batiste who has just won 5 Grammy Awards. My concert on December 14, 2016 at Bercy is one of the most…

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