Virtuoso guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer, Djamel Laroussi was the first African to be admitted to the prestigious Music University of Cologne. He was also the first of his class, in composition and jazz arrangements, guitar and drums, to graduate with honours. He taught himself until he attended the University. He is left-handed and plays the guitar upside down without reversing the strings.
Musical journalists consider him to be one of the Top 20 best Guitarists in the world.
A star in his home-country, Algeria, Djamel has been the Algerian representative for UNICEF since 2009. Video . As the Musical Advisor to the Cultural Minister of Algeria, he has been the Artistic Director for the second Pan-African Cultural Festival, in Algeria, since 2009.
In April 2010, Djamel went on Tour to Russia, as a member of a cultural delegation chosen by the Cultural Minister of Algeria (the delegation consisted of Djamel and his band, the National Ballet and Zahouania, the Diva of Rai Music as well as the Cultural Minister of Algeria and her team). Also Djamel was asked to set up an annual International Jazz-Festival in Algeria, in cooperation with the Cultural Minister of Algeria.
With his band he has published 3 albums (“Etoile Filante”, “Live” and “3 Marabouts”), which were inspired by the musical culture of the Marabouts, as well as Gnawa trance music and the music of the Sufi brotherhoods of North Africa.
In June and July of 2010 he was hired, as a member of Stevie Wonder’s Band, for the European tour.
Over the years Djamel has played with many of the great names in the Jazz World, including: Graham Haynes, Steve Williamson, Nelson Veras, Keith Copeland, Chico Freeman, Benny Golson, Billy Cobham, Munyungo Jackson, Richie Beirach, Dave Liebman, , Jiggs whigham, Frank Haunschild, Karim Ziad, Dwight Trible, Brice Wassy, Mokhtar Samba …
Djamel Laroussi is endorser for Schertler, DR strings, Human Base, Pagelli Guitars, Dodorer Guitars, Tonhunter.
About his music
Today, many musicians can claim to be wanderers between the worlds. But it is considered a special stroke of luck if one of the guild not only roams between the spheres but also masters the music equally well in both realms. The music of the Algerian Djamel Laroussi reflects this special skill: His Arabic-Kabylian genes melt with a deep understanding of Western sounds from jazz and rock through to Latin rhythms. He uses his knowledge of occidental musical language to draw us into the realm of his spiritual heritage. And with 3 MARABOUTS he has produced his most personal and exhilarating album to date.
From early youth onwards, the guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, song writer and producer from Algiers was never content to belong to just one cultural group. The son of an Arab from Oran and a Kabylian-Berber mother he played radio songs by Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau or the Beatles’ sounds directly on his guitar. At the festivities in his local neighbourhood, he effortlessly absorbed Chaâbi and Raï, the local pop music from his home metropolis. It is not surprising that this rather restless creative head droped out of his computer science studies and moved to Cologne (Germany) to fulfil his dream: to study at the Cologne Academy of Music, The biggest jazz school of Europe. Djamel immersed into music and obtained a degree in jazz, as well as a pedagogue while distinguishing himself through his spontaneous style and unpremeditated joy of playing. His music was shaped by his joint gigs with celebrities.
The album Étoile Filante is a stroke of genius: It presents itself as a complete, spectacular musical journey from the Egyptian grooves through to the Moroccan music; Berber rhythms are coupled with salsa; jazz and funk elements are deftly integrated in a luxurious musical arrangement. Gnawa rituals and a musical excursion into the depths of the Sahara ensure that the pieces have traditional foundations.
“This is precisely the style of pop music which could set itself apart from conventional world music and from the common trends of the pop music markets,” was the verdict of the magazine Jazzthetik. Blue Rhythm was equally impressed with his complex, though captivating, composition: “A genuine mixture of all global rhythms!” And not only in Europe has the new album been greeted with positive reactions: For months, the title piece on his CD was at the top of the Algerian charts. The effervescent live show accompanying the album was also finally recorded (‘live’) on a CD and DVD, showing Djamel’s perfectly rehearsed Band, performing in Cologne’s Stadtgarten. Shortly afterwards, DJ Djeepy King remixed the song ‘Laâfou’ with the new name ’Alafo’ which became another hit in Algeria.
Since then, the prolific Algerian has not remained idle: He has played his music at world festivals in Europe, Algeria, Malaysia, Brasil, Canada..etc.. and was the only Muslim musician to play at the World Youth Day in Cologne for the Pope.
His third opus is 3 marabouts written: Mara3bouts. Here Djamel Laroussi hesitantly opens the door to his spiritual heritage. He teaches us the secrets of his own roots, while at the same time unveiling fascinating aspects of the entire Islamic culture. The marabout figure is a lynchpin for the events—he is a saint, who plays a crucial role in Sub-Saharan countries.
The marabouts (mourâbit in Arabic) were originally residents of a fortress, a ribât, in which the monk soldiers prepared for the jihâd. The term jihâd didn’t have the same terrifying connotations it has today—the marabouts mainly sought to win the war against themselves, against their passions and weaknesses. Today, the marabout has the function of a spiritual leader or mentor, who assists his scholars or adepts in certain vital matters.
Djamel Laroussi has a very personal relationship with the world of the marabouts. In almost every Algerian village a marabout is revered. The word ‘sidi’ (‘master’) in each village’s name indicates this. In Djamel’s father’s birthplace even three masters were revered in the mausoleums: Sidi Rabah, Sidi Meftah and Sidi Ben Aâda and this is why this place is called ‘3 Marabouts.’ But the reason he has dedicated his new album to this place goes deeper than that. “In 3 Marabouts, my uncle was the leader of a spiritual brotherhood” Djamel explains. “I was very close to this uncle and when I was young I always heard people refer to him as the ‘magician’. But I only grasped the full meaning of the word later on. I realised that he could heal people with rhythm and that he always accorded a spiritual meaning to music. I think that, as a musician, I have inherited a lot of his chromosomes“. The Laroussi family had always a close connection to the marabouts and a line of holy spiritual healers runs through the family. The Gnawas brotherhood often thanks a Laroussi marabout in their songs and there is still a Laroussi temple in Tangier, Morocco, today. “My father found out that our ancestors must have come from Tunisia and then migrated to southern Morocco and moved up North from there. There are even indications that our ancestral roots can be traced back to Senegal”. This would mean that his family is genetically linked to an entire cultural realm with its own mysterious connection between the Maghreb and Sub-Saharian Africa.
Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, one piece was linked to another in preparation for this album, as many marabouts crossed Djamel’s path. There is the famous European Mama Binette, who became a religious idol on the Algerian coast after a ship wreck or the many spiritual leaders who are honoured in the Marabout´s world to whom he pays his respect in his texts. Djamel also made a tribute to the 48 Wilayas (Algerian districts). The word in itself comes from Wali which means Marabout, as Algeria is known as the Arabic country with the most Marabouts.
Djamel Laroussi’s musical style in this album ties in with the ingenious mix of styles of the previous CD. He cleverly blends his roots with modernity, adds polyphonical choirs, lets jazz and funk flow into it and colours this with Caribbean and Brazilian shades of reggae, zouk and bossa. Nostalgic reverences complete the musical tour of his homeland. Alongside all his unusual arrangement skills, the special emphasis on his guitar stands out in particular.
With MARA3OUTS, Djamel Laroussi really has pulled off a very clever feat: weaving an underlying spiritual theme in incredibly catchy and sophisticated fabric of pop music. The world of the marabouts is not an abstract sphere, but firmly rooted in the present moment and clearly has down-to-earth and playful notes. The album’s twelve compositions, dedicated to the homeland of his ancestors, clearly reflect this in all of their facets.