This year, North American world music fans will get to enjoy a rare treat: a tour from Alabina. The band returns to the United States and Canada to celebrate more than two decades of travelling the world and performing. “We were discovering things about ourselves, the world, and our success,” reflects singer and frontwoman Ishtar. “Today we know what that success means, and we know ourselves.”
Alabina formed in France in the 90s, when Israel-born Ishtar recorded an Arabic song with Los Niños de Sara, self-described Gypsy cousins who performed music influenced by Flamenco and Caribbean styles. They and Ishtar instantly clicked. “I had never wanted to sing in Arabic before, even though it was the language of my Egyptian and Moroccan family. I discovered myself in Alabina,” Ishtar muses.
That song, “Alabina,” became a sensation on the burgeoning world music scene and a favorite on the European dance floors which had embraced Ofra Haza and the Gypsy Kings. “Alabina” created a cross-cultural communion which continues to appeal today: the video has garnered 22 million views on YouTube. Since the song gave the ensemble their name, Ishtar and Los Niños have only grown together as musicians, performers, and human beings.
Their 2019 USA/Canada Tour, produced by LA Concert Group, is more than just a concert series, however. It’s a celebration; a celebration of more than twenty years performing together. Listeners new and old will be delighted to hear the band’s signature mixture of Flamenco and Middle Eastern performed with the kind of energy and mastery only musicians with two decades of experience can deliver. With a variety of iconic hits like “Alabina”, “Ole y Ola”, and “Lolai” in their arsenal, Ishtar Alabina are ready to bring the dance party to North America.
It’s a rare and beautiful thing to find a band who, twenty years later, stays this vital. Their secret? “Passion and stress,” Ishtar proclaims. “I only feel stress before going on stage. For me, stress is a blessing–it’s the motor that drives me as an artist.” With a profound passion for music and the stress of performance to push that passion to its limits, Ishtar and Alabina are still at the top of their game.
It’s thanks to this passion and pressure that Alabina are able continue spreading the same message that they have for their entire career. “Our message,” Ishtar says, “is that music can gather people across all borders. Borders of age, generation, culture, and religion” Their message is simple, but far from trite–their message is one of joy, love, and tolerance. “Cross borders in yourself,” she says. “Discover yourself and others.”
They draw from more than just their own musical heritages, however. During her time with Alabina, Ishtar has written and sang songs in English, Hebrew, Moroccan, and more, incorporating aspects of a variety of musical traditions into her music. From Flamenco to African music and even French rap, there’s something for everyone in Alabina. On this latest tour, Ishtar is especially excited to debut a new cover of a Madonna song in Arabic. “It will be a magical moment!” she enthuses.
This habit to draw inspiration from other cultures comes from a sincere love and appreciation for different cultures and perspectives. “There is so much to discover about this world and the people who are different than us,” Ishtar tells me. “The more you respect and learn about others, the more you respect and learn about yourself.” Touring all over the world has given Ishtar and her band an uncommon love and appreciation for human culture, and they’re eager to share that love.
So this tour through Canada and the United States offers more than a stunning musical performance,—featuring eighteen musicians on stage at once, thirty in New York!—honed to perfection by the water stones of time, passion, and stress. Alabina’s tour comes with it a uniquely sincere message of love, respect, and tolerance. It’s a message that, perhaps, the good people of this continent might need to hear in these tumultuous days.
New York Jewish Travel Guide