AZA unites traditional Tamazight (Berber) music, indigenous to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, with the global influences of its diverse members. Evocative of Saharan-African blues, yet with an original style that truly defies categorization, AZA’s stirring performances feature deep, danceable rhythms, intricate string melodies, and soaring, soulful vocals. Visually dynamic and engaging performers, AZA has been inspiring international audiences for more than 20 years.
Founding members Fattah Abbou and Mohamed Aoualou are Berbers native to the High Atlas mountain region of Morocco, where they played and studied music for over twenty-five years, and are recognized as master musicians. They formed the sextet AZA in Santa Cruz, California, after moving to the United States eight years ago. The unique exchange between the High Atlas and Californian musicians has proved potent; AZA has produced two albums of original compositions, and performed at music festivals, clubs, and universities around the United States and abroad in Ireland, Canada, and Morocco.
AZA’s endeavors are not limited to music. The Imazighen (incorrectly labeled "Berber"), are the indigenous people of North Africa whose recorded history dates back to 3300 years ago. Fattah and Mohamed have always been part of the Amazigh movement and struggle to revive a culture that has been marginalized for centuries. Through music and cultural events, AZA continues to inspire awareness in people of all ages about the Amazigh culture, that it may be recognized and appreciated among the indigenous cultures of the world.
FATTAH ABBOU //
lead vocals, traditional string instruments and percussion
Fattah Abbou was born and raised in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where he began playing traditional Tamazight “Berber” music at the age of seven. He is proficient on several string instruments, including banjo, lotar, oud, sintir, ribab and an array of percussion instruments.
Recognized as a master of North African music, Fattah has studied and performed Tamazight (Berber) music, as well as other North African musical styles, for over thirty years. He recorded several CDs in Morocco with his former band Imdiazen, and has collaborated on recordings with many national and international artists.
He is also a producer of several cultural events, and the recipient of multiple grant awards for traditional arts and the preservation of indigenous culture.
Fluent in English, French, Arabic, and his native tongue, Fattah is also a sought-after music and cultural educator who has presented at schools and universities throughout the United States, in addition to performing nationally and internationally with AZA.
MOHAMED AOUALOU //
vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, percussion
Mohamed Aoualou is from Ouarzazate, Morocco. He grew up listening to different styles of music: Traditional Moroccan,Modern Moroccan, Middle Eastern, and some western music as well.
Mohamed mainly plays guitar for AZA, but he also plays Oud and percussion. Before moving to the United States, he performed and recorded with the band Imdiazen (with Fattah), and with Mallal, a Berber musician.
Mohamed is a prolific songwriter with a gripping vocal style that helps define the dynamic energy of AZA.
PETER NOVEMBRE //
electric and acoustic basses
Pete Novembre has been cultivating a unique bass sound for the past 15 years. Hailing from New Jersey, Pete received a degree in Literature and Music Theory from Rutgers University in 1995.
Over the years, he has toured internationally, and recorded with a multitude of different musical acts. His fluid, rhythmic style is and integral part of the sound of AZA.
ELIZABETH TORRES //
tenor and soprano saxophones
A graduate of UCSC’s music department, Elizabeth has studied with Paul Contos, Smith Dobson and Ray Brown. She begged for a saxophone at 6 years old and has been playing ever since. She pulls from many musical styles, avant-garde being one of the most prominent in her musical development.
Drawing from her many influences throughout her life, Elizabeth brings a deep tenor tone to AZA.
GENOA BROWN //
alto saxophone, flute, vocals
Genoa Brown is a Santa Cruz native and a professional singer and instrumentalist. She has been recording professionally since the age of 15 and continued to play music in and out of school professionally and recreationally.
In college she studied under renowned saxophonist Leo Potts at CSU Long Beach. She has played in several hiphop, funk, and experimental bands - and has had the honor of performing/touring with acts such as SoVoSo, KRS One, Del The Funkyhomosapien, Dj Zac Hendrix, APlus and Pharcyde just to name a few. The music she creates or she takes part in, has always been influenced by multiple genres of music. But her biggest influence on her musical journey, are her two grandfathers, both jazz instrumentalists, and her mother, whose lullabies are of her first memories in experimenting with music and harmony.
RUSSEL KREITMAN //
Russel Kreitman is an American keyboard player and mallet percussionist, a staple of the Santa Cruz music scene for 20 years. He has performed with countless acts in styles ranging from funk and soul to reggae, afrobeat, rock, jazz, and more.
Artists and bands Russel has worked with include Naomi and the Curteous Rudeboys, Rusty Zinn, Danjuma Adamu/Onola, Matt Masih, and Sound Reasoning. He is also the pianist for Inner Light Ministries.
KEVIN DINOTO //
drum set, cajon, bendir, quaraqeb
Kevin DiNoto brings a deep background in Afro-Caribbean and Latin music to AZA. A versatile musician and educator, Kevin performs on drum-set, percussion, and steelpan with a number of Bay Area-based ensembles.