Tag Archives: France

Artist Profiles: Kali

Kali

Kali (Jean-Marc Mournerville) lives in the hills of Martinique and espouses a philosophy that parallels Rastafarianism. He is one of the most popular roots artists from the French Antilles, sharing musical idioms with greats like Jean Claude Naimro (Kassav) and has been credited to influencing Dedé Saint Prix as well as innovative newcomers like Chris Combette. His musical career has been dedicated to the revival of Antillean music and exploring the roots of Zouk.

Circa 1980, Kassav introduced a fresh new Zouk sound via Paris by replacing the down trodden cadence with the rock influence of guitarist and rounder Jacob Desvarieux still keeping true to the gwo ka based rhythm. At that time much of the local pop music of Martinique and Guadeloupe had been greatly influenced by electronics, focusing on keeping up with dance floor beats all the while allowing Haitian compas and cadence beats to dominate the more traditional aspect of the popular music scene. The success of Zouk and of African music in general in the 70’s and 80’s rekindled an interest in the African heritage that contributed to the “Africanized French music” from Martinique. This revival helped Kali to bring his roots-based music closer to center stage helping to life Zouk into the international circuit.

Coupled with his solo career, Kali was one of the driving forces that inspired the band Pakatak that united a number of important musicians melting into the zouk kettle a heavy modern jazz influence. “Chouval Bwz 87” was an album that combined Latin Jazz and traditional percussionmembers included pianist Vasco and singers Timothy Herelle and Max Ramsay, along with Kali on his “magic banjo.” The success and vision of bands like Kassav and Pakatak helped to re-stimulate the local traditional music, thus igniting a spark that would later become a fire.

Kali’s discography mixes traditional chouval bwa and gwo ka rhythms with other Caribbean styles like biguine and reggae, as well as American funk and jazz. All these styles can be heard throughout “Francofaune” complimented with the trade mark sound of Kali’s banjo plunking out strong melody lines with style and finesse, never letting one influence wear out the other. He has grouped a wide range of dance-oriented styles to modernize traditional music creating a complex quality in his arrangements. His ability has been recognized by a wide range of international talent and is supported by performances with Manu Dibango, recordings with Rita Marley, and repeated invitations to perform at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD Festival.

Over the years his lyrical content has always defended moral values consistently dealing with issues such as slavery, economic oppression, and racism. Still keeping true to the carnival feel of the traditional music, he never overlooks the predominant issues of social importance in Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Discography:

Racines I (Hibiscus Records, 1989)
Racines II (Hibiscus Records, 1990)
Kali Live Au New Morning (Epic, 1991)
Roots (Hibiscus Records, 1992)
Ile a Vendre (1993)
Lésé La Tè Tounen (Déclic, 1993)
Débranché ‎(Déclic, 1995)
Racines Noël III (1996)
Kali au New Morning (1998)
Franc-O-faune (Tinder Records, 1999)
Racines IV (Hibiscus Records, 2000)
Bèlè Boum (Bap, 2002)
Racines Caraibes Vol 5 ‎(Jean-Marc Monnerville, 2007)
Weapons of Mass Destruction (2007)
Le Trio (2010)

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Artist Profiles: Kabul Workshop

Kabul Workshop

Heavily influenced by Afghan and Indian music, the electro-world of Kabul Workshop was a workshop of musical research where the resulting melodies were a direct expression of the state of mind of their creators; a bridge between their different cultures. Franceso Russo and Khaled Arman met in 1998. The intellectual and spiritual complicity that united them nourished their artistic collaboration. Both musicians came from a classical background. Khaled Arman is an Afghan musician and Francesco Russo is from Naples (Italy). Their artistic journey, their curiosity nourished their Kabul Workshop compositions, electronic extension of the musicians’ projects.

Composers: Francesco Russo: electronic, piano; Khaled Arman: rubab, Afghan strings

Musicians: Massoud Raonaq (born in Kabul, Afghanistan): voices and harmonium; Francesco Russo (born in Naples, Italy): keyboards, piano, mix, sound structures; Ikram Khan (born in Jaipur, India): Sarangi; Mostafa Benhmad (born in Meknes, Morocco): ud and violin

Discography:

Trigana

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Artist Profiles: Kalakan

Kalakan – Photo by Bernard

Kalakan is a band from the northern Basque country (France) featuring Thierry Biscary, Jamixel Bereau and Xan Errotabehere. Its style consists of minimalist arrangements (vocals, percussion) of Basque traditional songs. After touring Europe with pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, the trio became known to a larger audience when they collaborated with Madonna during The MDNA Tour.

Kalakan was formed in 2009 by Paxkal Indo and Thierry Biscary, a chalaparta duo. They invited percussionist Frédéric Chambon to join them to form a trio. Before initiating their first artist in residence program to prepare their first album, Chambon was replaced by vocalist and percussionist Jamixel Bereau.

The Kalakan album was recorded at Laguna Records in Biarritz and mixed in Paris in 2010.

Paxkal Indo was later replaced by vocalist and percussionist Xan Errotabehere. Kalakan won the song contest 2011 at the Transhumances musicales festival in Laàs.

During the summer of 2011, Kalakan were introduced to Madonna by Katia and Marielle Labèque during her vacation at their house on the coast of the northern Basque country. On Madonna’s 53rd birthday, August 16, 2011, Kalakan performed their version of Ravel’s Bolero and some of their songs. Madonna liked Kalakan and asked the trio to accompany her on tour in 2012. After a workshop in New York City in February 2012, participation of Kalakan in The MDNA Tour was confirmed.

In Basque, Kalakan means “chatting”. The band members arrange Basque traditional songs to give them a contemporary sound, incorporating pop and rock structures. The percussion techniques used by the trio are inspired by world music bands as Dakha Brakha (Ukraine), Barbatuques (Brazil) and Berrogüetto (Spain).

Kalakan plays percussion instruments (pandereta, chalaparta, tobera, ttun-ttun, atabal), body percussion and handcrafted large drums.

Discography:

Kalakan (2010)
Elementuak (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Pawolka

Pawolka

Pawolka means the message of Ka, or Gwo-Ka, the traditional percussion music of Guadeloupe, although the group also uses voices and melodies from other Caribbean islands.

The group was born in 1985 as a result of the celebration that the francocaribeños students celebrated every year to commemorate the abolition of the slavery in the French colonies. Several students (Joël “Djo” Toussaint, and Maurice “Moy” Mayen), saw the opportunity to join and form a vocal and percussion group that they baptized as Gwo-Ka.

Later, the nucleus of the group wanted to broaden its objectives: to their common passion for rhythm, they added the desire to make music (and theater) as a way of expressing their ideals. The project immediately attracted two percussionists, Frank Kouby and Yannick “Yao” Loiuis and thus the second version of the group was born.

During the following four years, different musicians were in the orbit of this band and each of them contributed diverse influences. This explains the originality that has always marked the work of PWK but without ever losing the style of the group. They perform a musical style called “Afro Karayib Rifdim”, a powerful fusion of rhythms from the Caribbean Islands, from Africa and from the African-American world.

The music of PWK (Pawolka) draws from Gwo-Ka, the traditional music of Guadeloupe, freedom and spontaneity, two constants in all its repertoire. The peculiar style of the group is completed with the addition of soul, reggae, rock, jazz and African rhythms. Most of the lyrics are written in “Creyol”, a language widely used in the French Caribbean, although they also use English, French and Wolof (a Senegalese dialect).

Discography:

Wabe (Declic, 1998)

Pawolka

Ethiopik

Danse

Ticket Aller-Retour

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Artist Profiles: Kassav

Kassav

The brothers Pierre-Eduard and George Decimus, and Jacob Desvarieux created Kassav in Guadeloupe in 1979. During the following years, female singer Jocelyne Beroard, male singers Jean Philippe Martely and Patrick Saint Eloi and keyboard player Jean-Claude Maimro joined the band. These last four names, together with Jacob Desvarieux are still the driving force behind Kassav’. In 1991 George Decimus (co) author of many Kassav’ hits, quit the band and formed Voit Face, together with Jeff Joseph, the man behind the former and later restarted Gramacks.

In addition to a prolific recording career, Kassav dedicates a lot of attention to its spectacular live shows. The musicians manage to draw huge numbers of fans as never seen before, especially in France, the Caribbean and Africa. Their concerts in the Paris Zenith – capacity 8000 – are legendary. 1985 was a first time sell out for the group. Between that year and 1992 Kassav’ was able to have a full house for a record 45 times.

In 1998 the group recorded “Un toque Latino,” which included its biggest hits, sung in Spanish, with some Latin influences in the arrangements.

In 2000, the group received the Martinique Music Award for its anniversary concert, and Patrick Saint Eloi won the SACEM award for Best Artist from Guadeloupe.

Kassav’ continues to perform throughout the world. Its concerts at the Indoor Caribbean Festival in Europe are usually sold out.

Discography:

Love and kadance (1979)
Lagué mwen (1980)
Kassav n°3 (1981)
George Décimus with Kassav (1982)
Kassav (1983)
Kassav n°5 (1983)
Passeport (1983)
Ayé (1994)
An-ba-chen’n la (1985)
Vini pou (1987)
Majestik Zouk (1989)
Tékit izi (1992)
Difé (1995)
Cho (1996)
Un toque latino (1998)
Nou la (2000)
K Toz (2004)
All U Need Is Zouk (2007)
Sonjé (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Thierry Robin

Thierry Robin

Thierry “Titi” Robin was born August 26, 1957 in Rochefort Sur Loire, France. Titi Robin is a self-taught musician. He built his personal musical universe by borrowing instinctively from various musical sources, his two main sources of influence being the Gypsy and Silk Road cultures. These two communities welcomed him warmly, the French mainstream music world not understanding his approach at the time.

Community celebrations were a way for him to test the validity of his original approach of music, taking his inspiration from these strong traditions without ever simply copying them. His two main masters at the time were Spanish flamenco cantaor Camarón de la Isla and Iraqi ‘ud master Munir Bachir.

On March 2004, after a career spanning more than 20 years, with more than 600 live performances and 92.000 records sold, French label Naive presented Alezane, the definitive anthology of Thierry Robin with 35 tracks, including 11 unreleased tracks, presented in a luxurious 2 CD digipack with a full color 28p booklet richly illustrated with photos and original drawings by Eric Roux-Fontaine.

Alezane’s 2 CDs are a selection made over 12 years of recordings but actually derive from 25 years of composing music. “In my previous albums, I always tried to blend dancing themes and more intimate ones. Here, on the contrary, we have selected the tracks according to two categories : the rhythmic tunes (CD1 : Le jour / daytime) and the slower ones (CD2 : la nuit / night-time). The real challenge is to show the path I follow as a contemporary musician, inside an artistic system which imposed itself on me rather than being of my own choosing. I want to express pain and joy, the lonely words and the collective exchanges, all the colors and the perfumes that circle around me and penetrate me. I have invited Eric Roux-Fontaine to design this anthology. He is a painter and a photographer, who has been involved in Gypsy cultures for about ten years. He accepted to entirely create the package for this double album.”

Discography:

Duo Luth et Tablâ, with Hameed Khan (Playasound, 1986)
An Henchou Treuz, with Erik Marchand (Ocora, 1989)
An tri breur, with Trio Erik Marchand (Silex, 1993)
Gitans (Silex, 1993)
Le regard nu (Silex, 1996)
Payo michto (Silex, 1997)
Kali gadji (Silex, 1998)
Un ciel de cuivre (Naïve, 2000)
Rakhi (Naïve, 2002)
Alezane (Naïve, 2004)
Ces vagues que l’amour soulève (Naïve, 2005)
Olé (Naïve, 2005)
La Mentale (Naïve, 2006)
Anita (Naïve, 2006)
Kali Sultana (Naïve, 2009)
Jaadu, with Faiz Ali Faiz (Accords Croisés, 2009)
Les Rives (Naïve, 2011)
Taziri, with Mehdi Nassouli (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Soig Siberil

Soig Siberil

Soig Siberil was born February 1, 1955 in Paris, France. He is a name that keeps coming up in the Breton folk music scene. After recording with Sked, he founded Kornog together with Jamie McMenemy of the Battlefield band and two additional musicians.

Soig Siberil later became a member of Gwerz, another legendary Breton band. Since then he has toured and recorded with Pennou Skoulm, Orion, Les Ours du Scorff, Kemia, Den and Alain Pennec.

Solo Discography:

Digor (Gwerz Pladenn, 1993)
Entre Ardoise et Granit, Maen Glas… (Gwerz Pladenn, 1996)
Gwenojenn (Gwerz Pladenn, 1999)
Gitar (Naïve Records, 2001)
Du côté de chez Soïg! (Siam Production, 2003)
Lammat (Coop Breizh, 2006)
Tan Dehi, kan ha gitar, withc Lors Jouin (Coop Breizh, 2009)
Botcanou (Coop Breizh, 2009)
Red, with Nolwenn Korbell (Coop Breizh, 2007)
Noazh (Coop Breizh, 2010)
Dek (Coop Breizh, 2014)
Habask (Coop Breizh, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Slonovski Bal

Slonovski Bal

Slonovski Bal plays the sounds of the central European Balkans, blending the music of the Gypsies with a unique mix of European, Slavic, Turkish and Mediterranean cultures, representing the fine tradition of the oriental brass band music. Slonovski bal means “the Elephant’s Ball” in Serbian.

Grooving with the roaring sounds of tubas, the water-flow of the accordion, the tender whisper of the clarinet or the blasting clamor of the trumpet, Slonovski Bal blasted onto the music scene.

Finding room for composition and improvisation Slonovski Bal have toured Europe with the energy of such dances as the Coceks, the Sa-Sa and the devilish Kolos played at the speed of light and thunder.

Discography:

Local Stereo (Bal Bazar Production, 1998)
Balkanska Rumba (Label Al Sur, 2001)
Balkan Merak (Bal Bazar Production, 2003)
Dzumbus (Bal Bazar Production, 2007)
Electric Combo (Bal Bazar Production, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Skolvan

Skolvan

An essential act of the Breton revival for many years, Skolvan originally comprised five of Brittany’s most respected musicians, including guitarist Gilles le Bigot, percussionist Dominique Molard, and Youenn le Bihan on bombarde, biniou, and his own oboe-like invention, the piston.

Skolvan was founded in 1984, at a time of great effort on the part of many musicians in France to preserve traditional music in Brittany. They introduced the atmosphere of a traditional Breton fest noz (“night festival”) to international audiences.

Discography:

Dañs (Adipho, 1987)
Come to Dance – Musique à danser (Adipho, 1989)
Kerzh Ba’n’ Dañs (Keltia Musique, 1991)
Swing & Tears (Keltia Musique, 1994)
Fest Noz Live (Keltia Musique, 1996)
Cheñchet n’eus an amzer – Les temps changent (Keltia Musique, 2000)
Live in Italia (Keltia Musique, 2004)
C’Hoari Pevar (Keltia Musique, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Sergent García

Sergent García – Photo by Liberto Peiro

Bruno García (a.k.a. Sergent García or Sargento García) was born in 1964 in France. He got started in 1997, by pure coincidence, on the eighth anniversary of the radio show “Salsamania.” Its director was asking listeners (and Bruno was one of the faithful), to join the party with letters, postcards, and messages in any format. García couldn’t think of any better homage other than recording the “Salsamama” tune. It is an explosive mix of Cuban rhythms, salsa and reggae. The response on the radio was such that it led its creator to compose another fifteen tunes. These were soon recorded at home, without a band and produced an exciting debut album titled, ¡Que viva el sargento! on the indie label Crash. Bruno, a true one-man band, promoted his own album by handing out flyers at concerts. While doing this, he bumped into the promoter of a Cuban festival that would take place in August of that year. “Isaac Delgado wants you to play with him,” he said. “But I don’t have a band!” was the musician’s reply. “Well then make one!,” said the promoter. So Bruno got a dozen musician friends together, prepared a half hour show, was a Hit, started playing non-stop, signed with Virgin, and recorded a new album.

Sergent García has a powerful mixture in his ancestry: French mother, African cousins (Algerian), and particularly Hispanic roots. His grandfather was from Granada (Spain), and his father from Bilbao (Spain). It turns out that out of TV watching habits and the cruelty of fellow children, he was nicknamed after the bad guy in “Zorro.” After overcoming this annoyance (since the Zorro García was fat, evil and not very smart), the artist became Sergeant García and came out a winner.

When asked about the title of the album “Un poquito quema’o” (“A Little Burnt” in Spanish) he responds: “We’re all crazy here. That’s how things are,” regarding his band, which is made up of another ten musicians. He is the vocalist and plays guitar, along with two on percussion, three on brass, one on trap drums, one piano, a bass, a flute and another Cuban singer. “I also refer to how we see the world, its condition. Our lyrics are about jokes, love, party and also politics. We are a people with very open eyes.”

Sergent cites numerous musical influences, especially three different genres (Rap, Reggae and Cuban Son and Timba). the list includes Busta Rhymes, KRS One, Mexakinds, Bob Marley, Anthony B, S-izzia, Gladiators, Irakere, NG La Banda, Charanga Habanera, Paul-i-to FG and Rubén Blades as his main sources of inspiration. The Sergeant said: “Mixing is the largest part of my music. I like to break barriers, mix influences, mix cultures and also cultures from other countries.”

Bruno, who once lived in Barcelona, lives in one of Paris’ marginal neighborhoods, where citizens of all races take refuge and one that is the center, of the Afro-Arab diaspora that took place in the 80s. “In my neighborhood, in Belleville, many people mix, refugees or flashy people, who drag along music and mix with French culture.”

The Sergent’s influence is divided among three French groups with similar influences. First it was Ludwig Von 88, a group that served as a beacon in the explosion of alternative rock during the 80s. They started out in 1988, when the alternative rock band La Mano Negra were only beginners. They played very basic punk, produced independently and with lots of humor. Bruno García cites Spanish bands Siniestro Total and La Polla Records as references. The band was independent to the core, and ended up recording eleven albums before their breakup in 1998.

Though still distant from the Latin rhythms that characterize the Sergent’s sound, they went through the reggae path. Taking this into consideration, it seems logical that Bruno, who already had the “Sergent” title in mind, would be one of the first ragamuffins in Spain in the midst of DJs’ dub circles.

He did it with Bawawa Son Sound System. The pause in Ludwig’s history served to introduce Cuban as opposed to traditional rap sounds (Bruno had just finished producing the rap group Timide Sans Complex). France had not yet succumbed to the charms of Afro-Cubanism. It was the mid 90s and the Sergent’s third French influence, Bawawa Son Sound System’s parties had the Latin fever that now drives his fans crazy.

Sergent Garcia’s first three albums Viva El Sargento (1997), Un Poquito Quema’o (1999,), and Sin Fronteras (2001) were conceived in Paris, using exotic ingredients as inspiration.

Sergent Garcia’s U.S. debut, Poquito Quema’o, launched a new music style coined “salsamuffin”: spontaneously melding the common roots of Jamaican, Cuban, and African music into salsified hip-hop. The album La Semilla Escondida goes back to the origins of this exhilarating musical style. “When I first started the new album, my goal was to combine the two sounds I love most: Jamaican and Cuban music. This blend of cultures contains all that I seek and uphold.” La Semilla Escondida (Shakti Records, March 9, 2004) refers to a ‘hidden seed or bean’ as the cover visually displays in a Juan Valdez coffee fashion.

The album was recorded in Jamaica and Cuba. The first phase took place in Kingston, Jamaica, in April of 2003. Tyrone Downie, Bob Marley’s former keyboard player who has worked with such artists as Jimmy Cliff, Steel Pulse, Khaled, Tonton David, and Stomy Bugsy was in charge of all the reggae, ska, and ragga-inspired pieces. Seven other Jamaican artists joined in and lay the foundations of the beats, heavy bass, and reggae guitar riffs.

The second phase led Sergent Garcia to Flores, Santiago de Cuba, in May of 2003: The home of Ivan Montoya, a tireless percussionist and the album’s co-producer, was the scene of the band’s rehearsals in Cuba. At the end of the day, when the heat faded away and the inhabitants of this working-class neighborhood returned home, curious faces crowded around the windows of the dining room which became the practice area.

Ivan, who comes from a long line of musicians (his father also plays tres on La Semilla Escondida), acted as conductor. In the backyard, shared with roosters and dogs, the brass section was going over Herencia Africana. “When I first started this project,” Sergent Garcia reflects, “my goal was to combine the two sounds I love most: Jamaican and Cuban music. I am fighting for a world without borders, but with many more colors. Music can only be understood in terms of a blend. Everything that we listen to today is the result of a coming together of sounds.” The final phase happened at the mythical walls of Egrem Siboney Studios, which have witnessed the presence of a pantheon of Cuban musical legends: Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Eliades Ochoa, and a dozen others. And this is where Sergent Garcia, backed by twenty musicians, put the final touches on La Semilla Escondida.

Discography:

Viva el Sargento (1997)
Un poquito quema’o (Higher Octave, 1999)
Sin Fronteras (2001)
La Semilla Escondida (2003)
Best Of (2004)
Máscaras (2006)
Cumbiamuffin, EP (2009)
Una y Otra Vez (Cumbancha, 2011)
Contre Vents Et Marées (Warner, 2015)

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