Amina, like so many of the stars of North African music who call Paris home, defies categorization. Born in Tunisia and arriving in Paris at the age of 12, she studied music both at the Paris Conservatory and at home where her mother, a singer, fancied an eclectic mix of Umm Kulthum, French chanson, James Brown and the singer who would later become Amina’s idol, Billie Holiday. Amina has built a reputation with a sensual and tender voice that seems at ease floating between the worlds of drum and bass, jungle, North African rai, Asian and traditional West African beats.
She burst on the European musical scene in 1989 with the album Yalil and an entry into the Eurovision Song Contest (“C’est le Dernier Qui a parlé Qui a Raison”/”It Is the Last One Who Speaks Who Is Right”).
She quickly followed with a second album, Wa Di Ye, which became an instant hit in France, elevating her to the top of the country’s dynamic North African music scene. From there, she took a seven-year break between albums. “I didn’t stop for an instant,” she explains, “I’ve been working on films, researching new sounds and started a family. If I had to chose between my art and my family, I would always choose the latter.”
However, looking at her dossier, it is quite evident that she has managed to achieve the best of both worlds. Over the past decade, she has appeared in films, worked on film scores, and collaborated with a staggering number of the world’s musical giants, who no doubt have fallen in love with Amina’s sensual and dynamic voice.
Her latest release, Annabi, follows her eclectic musical path, bouncing between French and Arabic, dabbling in English, blending hip hop, jungle, gnawa, and reggae into her musical soup, or as she describes it, “A pioneering effort in the fusion of ‘musique d’Orient et d’Occident’ (Eastern and Western music).”
Amina performs with the Viva La World French Embassy Tour Saturday at 4 p.m. on the Embassy Stage, at Chene Park in downtown Detroit (at Atwater and Chene, on the Detroit River). The official concert schedule can be found at www.concertofcolors.org.
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