Malika Tirolien Feature Article in German Jazz Magazine – Jazzthetik
The whole world in four elements
Her voice inevitably casts a spell over you. The singer Malika Tirolien releases Higher, her second solo album and dedicates it to the element of air.
My parents always tell me that I have been singing since I was a baby,” Malika Tirolien says with a laugh when asked about her musical beginnings. The fact that music is so natural for the singer, as if she had been born with it, perhaps also explains why she cannot say offhand where her influences lie or what inspires her: “I draw inspiration from everything, especially from emotion, of course.” She names Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Whitney Houston, her musical idols. In Guadeloupe, I grew up listening to all kinds of music, mainly jazz, soul and R’n’B. Hip hop came more in Canada.
She was born with a love of music and language: her grandfather Guy Tirolien was a very important poet in the Caribbean, her grandmother was a pianist, and her father was a sought-after multi-instrumentalist had taught himself to play various instruments. With him and her mother, Malika recorded her first record at the age of 17 – the first step towards a professional musical life. More important for her musical development than her jazz studies was her experience of Montreal’s rich jazz scene and her participation in the Kalmunity Jazz Project: The Impro Nights. I played in Montreal back then was like a second school for me. There I learned to communicate with others on a musical level. I also met the members of my band at these sessions. In that sense, it was the real entry into the professional musician’s life for me.”
One of the important meetings that set the course was Tirolien’s encounter with guitarist and bandleader Michael League of Snarky Puppy. He heard the Caribbean singer and knew he had to work with her. Like ping-pong, the first songs for a new group were written while League was on tour with other bands for a new group to be founded: the world music band Bokanté was born! Tirolien also relies on trusting collaboration with Michael League for her solo projects. In 2014, her solo debut Sur La Voie Ensoleillée, was released, followed by the album Higher, co-produced by League. The new album was again created with an absolute dream team,” Tirolien enthuses. I am so happy that I could produce it again together with Michael. He suggested many of the musicians involved, which makes me very happy.
It’s just great for me to have Charles Haynes, Jason Lindner, Frank LoCrastro and Philippe Lai lier on the album. They made my musical vision come true.”
Her solo albums pay tribute to the four elements. After the first album was dedicated to the element earth, grounded accordingly and dealing with the roots, Higher is dedicated to air. Here it’s more about the cosmic world. The music of the album is designed to take the listener on a journey from a mood of anger to a balanced, calm mood.” Tirolien’s ideas for the two following albums are already so concrete that one could think she already had the songs ready in the drawer. No, no,” she laughs. The ideas for the albums are actually very clear, but I still have a lot to write.
A prime example of how long the songs for her albums take to develop is “Grow,” the song with the longest history; the name says it all because it has grown and grown through constant reworking. After the first solo album was about 80 percent sung in Creole, more songs are now in English and French. The song “Prière,” which is based on a poem by her grandfather, is a memorable affair of the heart for Tirolien: “This poem has a special meaning for the African people of Guadeloupe, so it is an honour for me to carry on these words in my music.” Not only linguistically does the singer bring in her roots on her new album, but musically there is pretty much everything that has influenced her in music: soul, jazz, R’n’B, hip hop, combined with French rap interludes.
Having already recorded the album in 2019, just before the Corona pandemic, Malika Tirolien is very happy that it could finally be released and that she can also present it on tour. With a new album by Bokanté, the next project is already in the starting blocks before the Sangeriri will dedicate herself to the elements of fire and water in the two planned upcoming solo albums. This is certainly not music that will leave you untouched.