Monday, July 25, 2016

Star Trek Beyond marginalia: Safia Boutella

I've not yet seen Star Trek Beyond but I plan to. Safia Boutella, who plays the alien scavenger Jaylah, has received quite good reviews.

Safia Boutella, born in Bab El Oued, Algiers, is an Algerian dancer and actress. You can read about the high points of her career here.

She is the daughter of Algerian jazz musician Safy Boutella, who is best known to me due to the fact that he co-produced with Martin Meissonier, and and collaborated on, Cheb Khaled's great 1988 album Kutché. (He's shown on the cover reclining in a chair.) I have a longer post where I explain the context in which this album -- the first Khaled album produced in France -- is made, but briefly, the story is that members of the liberal wing of the Algerian government paid for its production and sent Khaled to France to produce it. It was not a major seller but it is the prelude to Khaled's 1992 breakthrough with "Didi" and the album Khaled.

Safia has worked with Spanish choreographer Blanca Li (born Blanca Gutierrez) since age 17 (she is now 34).

It was Bianca Li who recruited Gnawa musician Hassan Hakmoun in 1986 to appear in a collaboration called Trio Gna & Nomadas, a "fusion" project involving a Gnawa group (including Hakmoun) and a Spanish dance group (flamenco, modern) led by Bianca's partner Etienne Li, and in which she danced. You can see a video here, with a number of photos. Trio Gna & Nomadas traveled to the US in 1987, and Hakmoun stayed, in New York, where he has been ever since. He put out his terrific first album, Gift of the Gnawa in 1992. And he performed together with Adam Rudolph at the MESA meetings in San Antonio in November 1991, which is when I first became familiar with him.

So, the connections: Star Trek - Khaled - Hassan Hakmoun. There you have it.

One more: Blanca Li also collaborated with the late great Gnawa artist Abdenbi Binizi, who sang on her project "Blanco Y Pan." Check out the CD by Gnawa Halwa called Rhabaouine.

1 comment:

Julian Bond said...

Is there a Star Wars Tatooine link as well or is that too much of a stretch? Since Algeria is not Tunisia!