Ahmed Malek was an Algerian musician and composer, known primarily for his groundbreaking soundtrack work. His enduring influence combines Arabic traditions with jazz, psychedelic rock, and funky R&B. His often dark and dramatic cinematic soundscapes intersect with the musical innovations being made in African jazz by Mulatu Astatke and Bembeya Jazz National, and some of Europe's finest experimentalist composers like Pierio Piccioni and Janko Nilovic.
Malek was born in Fort-de-l'eau in 1930, and formally trained at local music schools and conservatories in Algeria and France. He earned his degree in composition. His earliest composed music was in the North African classical tradition, and he made his living during his twenties as a session player. His fascination with jazz, classical, and funky R&B led him to soundtrack work.
His first film score was in 1972 for director Mousa Haddad's Les Vacances de l'inspecteur Tahar. The music was as big a hit as the film, and Malek was in-demand almost instantly. The same year, he composed the powerful score for Al Fahham (released in 1973 as Les Charbonnier) a work of social realism directed by Mohammed Bouamari. In 1974 he composed at least four major scores, among them soundtracks for the documentary Massinissa, Zone interdite, El Massoul, and L'Héritage. The political was always near the forefront of Malek's work, as displayed brilliantly in Haddad's film Les Enfants De Novembre, one of several thrillers he scored about the Algerian war and its liberation from France. In 1976 and 1977, he composed scores for everything from shorts and documentaries to industrial films, commercials, and comedies — the latter as evidenced in his soundtrack for Merzak Allouache's Omar Gatlato.
Malek's recordings were bona fide hits on the radio and in the marketplace. In 1978, a double album was compiled by
In 1980, the title theme from the Tunisian film Aziza was issued as a three-track EP and became not only a hit, but an instant collector's item. While Malek's last major film score — for L'Homme qui Regardait les Fenêtres by Allouache — was issued in 1986, he worked increasingly in television and behind the scenes as a studio producer. He was the conductor of the Algerian Television Orchestra for decades. He was also selected as his country's musical ambassador. During his career he won numerous awards and earned international recognition.
Malek passed away in Algeria in 2008. Long before his death, his recordings had become extremely collectible on the international market, which amused him greatly. In 2015, the blog-turned-record-label Habibi Funk was given Malek's entire catalog by his daughter. The label discovered a wealth of previously unheard electronic music (a fascination of his since the early '70s). They reissued Musique Original de Films globally in the spring of 2016 as their debut entry in his oeuvre. ~ Thom Jurek