I recently came across the music of the French rapper Abd Al Malik, a Congolese-French convert to Islam and his story is quite fascinating. Here we find a young black Frenchman from Strasbourg who spent some of his youth in Brazzaville returning back to France and headed for a potential future of crime and life in the ghettos. At age 15 he converted to Islam and for a period flirted with more ‘fundamentalist’ forms of Islam before becoming a Sufi after meeting Moroccan sheikh Sidi Hamza al Qâdiri Boutchichi. He went on to receive a double diploma in the classics and philosophy as well as forming the group the New African Poets. He continues writing and his book “Qu’Allah bénisse la France” covers the moderate, tolerant forms of Islam and has won the Prix Laurence-Trân in Belgium. The song that caught my attention was the piece Gibraltar (here with English subtitles)
And here is a live version:
The piece is sub-titled “September 12, 2001”. This album is the one that earned Al Malik the “deconstructionist” title through his effort to deconstruct rap after being exposed to slam poetry. Jazz, Islam, Rap, Chanson all brought into relationship with one another. The live version perhaps gives a better feel for the elements he brings together. His latest album “Dante” released in late 2008 received critical acclaim. Another interesting face of Islam and an example of the ethos of transpositions that I’ve alluded to in earlier posts. His autobiography is available here.