I already had parts of songs in Palermitano, the Sicilian dialect of Palermo as well as in Salentino, the dialect of the southern most tip of Puglia but I also dreamt of hearing Arabic on the new album, sung alongside the English lyrics. While searching for the right voice, my friend the cellist, Vincent Segal, suggested I work with the Algerian musician and singer Malik Ziad who’s based in Marseille and as always with Vincent, his suggestion was spot on.
I travelled to Marseille to meet Malik and play him the song and the part that I had in mind for him to sing on. He initially found some words by the great Algerian Chaabi singer Hadj El Anka that fitted well with the song but I suggested instead that we look for a C12th Sicilian poem. I’d read some beautiful translations of poems by Ibn Hamdis who was born in Syracuse, Sicily in 1056 and so I suggested to Malik that it would be wonderful if we could find some of his poetry to quote on the song. Amazingly Malik found not only an Arabic poem that was a perfect fit but also one that contained the line ‘I dreamed of Sicily’.
Here’s a performance by Malik sitting outside the steps to my studio, accompanied by a chorus of cicadas!
My drawing of Malik Ziad: