Nuriya’s story is rooted three generations ago, in her family of Middle-Eastern Jews who fled their countries, Iraq and Syria, between the 1920’s and 1940’s, due to religious persecution. All were bound for the U.S. However, the majority were re-routed and sent to Mexico, as U.S. immigration quotas were filled. Some managed to land in New York, where they remain, and others moved to L.A.
Born in Mexico City and growing up between Mexico, L.A., and New York, Nuriya’s most formative years were abundant with music from the Middle East, Mexico and other parts of Latin America, the Caribbean, Spanish flamenco, and European classical. These deeply ingrained musical traditions along with their visual arts, instilled by her mother, determined how her soul would communicate for the rest of her life. Nuriya’s elders also made their mark with their perpetual playing of old Arabic records and singing of Pismonim (prayers sung to melodies of secular music) at family gatherings.
Her Iraqi grandfather in particular, imbued her with the colors of Middle-Eastern culture. He often recounted stories of summers in the old country when the tide was low. An island would emerge at a short distance from the coast, which became home to feasts and gatherings of musicians and belly dancers. In her homes, this vivacious way of life in the Middle-East and the Latin culture became effortlessly intertwined. Even the foods she still enjoys reflect those mixes: ‘shawarma con salsa’ and ‘tacos con tahini.’ Her childhood enchantment with the melismatic arabesques of Oum Kalthoum and Agustin Lara has never left her.
And so it was with these sounds, flavors, and memories that she approached early music and dance lessons. No matter what she learned, she always carried those elements. Later in her teens and college years, she studied opera and jazz. With stronger technical knowledge, she abandoned opera and jazz, and was powerfully drawn back to the Latin and Middle-Eastern musical languages so naturally forged together long ago.
Her nomadic curiosity has taken her all over the world to learn and play music. David Oquendo, a long-time friend and teacher, sent her to Cuba to study folkloric music and dance with the Muñequitos of Mantanzas. In Israel with Yair Dalal, she studied the ancient Hebrew and Arabic melodies that inspired some of those heard half way across the globe in Afro-Cuban music. Enriched by these experiences, she went on to Paris in 2007 to tour Europe as co-composer and singer, performing for thousands with Babylon Circus and 3W, in French, Spanish, and English. Europe then became yet another home for Nuriya where she crossed paths with many musicians and composers with whom she continues to collaborate.
Nuriya notes, “This gypsy existence, gleaning what moves me most from everywhere I go, is what emerges in my music and dance. It is what has inspired my album ‘Tanita’ - ‘Little Gypsy.’ Here, I have put into sound and words, the journeys, the colors, and revelations that are my life experience thus far…”