Cosmophono Chansons a patrides (Wagram, 2009)
It had been years since I received the last Lo’Jo recording, “Ce Soir Là” so I reached the conclusion that Lo’Jo disbanded. Fortunately I was wrong and Lo’Jo had been releasing CDs in France. “
Cosmophono” was released earlier this year.
For all those folks new to world music, Lo’Jo, currently a sextet led by Denis Pèan, represents a brave new world of music. The French musical pioneers resisted the allure of pop music and the music industry in general. In its early days, Lo’Jo toured with circuses, provided soundtrack music for film projects and acted as musical diplomats both as touring musicians and by hosting a music-collective near Angers, France. Lo’Jo was also instrumental in discovering Tinariwen and producing the Festival of the Desert in Mali.
Musically-speaking this band provides a passport to the world. Throughout its history, Lo’Jo embraced French music, klezmer, West African, reggae, gypsy and tossed in just about anything that appealed to the musicians’ sensibilities. “Cosmophono” provides a somewhat darker side. The songs move at a slower pace, often dissonant with dense poly-rhythms laced by Richard Bourreau’s violin and augmented by the Nid el Mourid sisters’ vocal harmonies and Pèan’s poetry delivered in his gruff voice.
The music feels melancholic in places and at other times, swirls to a glittering hint of circus. But the music reflects the times we currently reside. I feel a strong pull of the musicians’ nostalgia and grief for all that has been left behind in the wake of change when I listen to this recording. American jazz elements surface on several tracks punctuated by Airelle Besson’s trumpet and Pierrick Menuau’s tenor saxophone. A listener might feel that they have landed in a Parisian jazz club. Other tracks possess a classical ensemble feel which does not come as a surprise since both Pèan and Bourreau studied at a conservatory in their early years.
“Yalaki” with its feminine vocals and lonely accordion is the most beautiful track on the CD. And the sisters sing what sounds oddly like a Native American chant on “Café De La Marine.” Overall, gravity and maturity have dug their roots. The musicians seem to have acquired a road-weariness, but they have not stopped experimenting and their musicianship shines here. Yamina and Nadia’s vocals sound more beautiful than ever as they reflect this new era of transformation.
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Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.