The music of Ruben Zahra carries the fragments from a variety of musical cultures. His interest in classical, rock, jazz and world music has led him to develop a style which absorbs these influences within the music tapestry of his contemporary works. Besides his work as a composer within the classical / contemporary arena, Ruben Zahra is also very active in the Mediterranean folk music scene.
In 1999 he set up the Etnika project together with Ġużi Gatt, Steve Borg and Andrew Alamango to revive Malta’s traditional instruments. His Nafra ensemble has become the most important international exponent of Malta’s music heritage. Ruben Zahra has been invited to present concerts in major festivals all over Europe as well as in Egypt, Tunisia, USA, India and Hong Kong.
In 2008 he was appointed artistic director of the Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festival, known as Għanafest and in 2010 he became president of the Malta Association for Contemporary Music. In 1994 Ruben Zahra graduated from the University of Malta in Music & Theatre Studies and was awarded a scholarship by the Italian Cultural Institute to further his studies in composition with Azio Corghi at the National Music Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome.
While in Italy he studied electronic music with Giorgio Nottoli and film music with Ennio Morricone. In 2000 he moved to the USA for an MA in composition at Mills College in Oakland, California. Here Zahra released a recording of his sextet entitled Music from Malta and beyond, which included four tracks: Grinta, Tidal Wave, Preludju and Ragħaj. The six musicians were Ruben Zahra on traditional Maltese bagpipe, Lydia Einfeld on clarinet and saxophone, Jennifer Curtis on violin and dumbek, Roger Riedlbauer on electric guitar, Aurie Hsu on piano and Eddie Pollard on drums and percussion.
In 2002 Zahra moved to Los Angeles and spent two years working for the Hollywood film industry. Since 2004 Ruben Zahra is based in Malta and works internationally as a freelance composer.
He has written a number of books, including A Guide to Maltese Folk Music, edited by Steve Borg, in 2007. This book was awarded the Best Publication in English by the National Book Council.
In June 2013, following his research, Zahra reintroduced the Maltese lira during the Għanafest festival. The reconstruction model, entrusted to Pietro Forlani, was played by Calabrian musician Ettore Castagna.
- http://www.rubenzahra.com Official webpage
- http://www.cloudvalley.com/reviews/REVMalta.htm Review of A Guide to Maltese Folk Music