Tag Archives: France

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.”


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)


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)


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.


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)


Artist Profiles: 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.


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)


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.


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)


Artist Profiles: Serge Camps

Serge Camps is descended from a family of French and Ukrainian musicians, was raised like a Gypsy touring Europe with his parents, and is fluent in both French and Russian. For the past 45 years he has worked as a performer, composer, arranger and studio musician with the great gypsy vocalists and musicians in the most prestigious venues of the world. The 1996 formation of Opus 4 represents the flowering of his accumulation of experience as both a guitarist and singer.

At the age of 14 he started to play guitar. By the age of 15 he was hired as a bass player in Russian cabaret located in Paris and called “La Grande S?verine”. There he met Mark de Loutchek who created the “Balalaika Ensemble”.

An historical moment occurred in 1967 when Serge had the singular honor of recording the one and only CD featuring Yul Brynner the actor, on The Gypsy And I album by Vanguard. This recording has become a popular artifact among Russians, although rarely mentioned in the American discographies of the King of Siam. Undiscouraged, he continued to produce recordings with scores of other notable artists. Fortunately, many of Serge?s other recordings have met with much greater critical acclaim and popularity than his early attempt with the famous Hollywood and Broadway star.

Starting in 1968, for the next 20 years Balalaika Ensemble, toured with the Russian singer Ivan Rebroff. Serge performed with Rebroff in famous theaters like, Carnegie and Royal Albert Halls.

From 1985 to 1990, Serge and his father opened and managed the Parisian cabaret “La Roue Fleurie”. It became the hangout for the gypsies from Paris. It was here that he began became the mentor to a younger generation of musicians such as Raphael Fays and Angelo Debarre. In fact, Debarre credited his interest in Hungarian gypsy music to his many appearances with Serge at La Roue Fleurie. In 1989 Jon Larsen from Hot Club Records, brought together Debarre, Serge Camps and Frank Anastasio in Norway to produce the CD ‘Gypsy Guitars‘ – A showcase CD for the incredible variety of the Gypsy repertory and then the CD, Angelo Is Back in Town. In addition to his performances with Opus 4, he has performed sat Ravinia and the prestigious New York and Northwest DjangoFests.


Artist Profiles: René Lacaille

René Lacaille

René Lacaille is the musical embodiment of the unique Creole culture of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Island (La Reunion), incorporating African, Indian, Malagasy and European rhythms and instruments.

Like other Reunion Island Creoles, Rene is descended from white colonists, African or Malagasy slaves and possibly hired hands and the Chinese. Reunion Island became a melting pot of African, Indian, Malagasy and European influences. The music of René Lacaille harnesses many of the styles present on the island, including sega, which mixes African and European rhythms with instruments from Europe, and maloya that represents the island’s African heritage and mixes the chants of slaves, which sung of labor, toil, sorrow and revolt.

Playing alongside his father at funfairs, weddings and balls from the age of 7 onwards, René Lacaille learned to play sega, maloya, tango, bolero, cha-cha-cha, samba, pasodoble, calypso, waltzes, mazurka, quadrille and more.

During his twenties, René listened to a lot of music. In the 1970s, René formed the group Camaleon, which also included Bernard Brancard, Herve Imare, Loy Erlich, Joel Gonthier and Alain Peters, who wrote the song La Rose Si Feuilles Songes. Written in the 1980s, René’s composition La Mandoz has been continuously revived and has become a part of the island’s repertoire. The title refers to someone who can?t walk straight due to drinking too much ?mandoz? (rum).

Over the years he has played with many talented musicians, including Yuri Buenaventura, Ray Lema, Manu Dibango, Bob Brozman and Raul Barboza. With a wealth of musical elements and styles at his fingertips, René Lacaille has produced an album that stretches across his own musical journey as well as the island?s musical history.

On the album Mapou (2004), this remarkable singer, accordion player, guitarist and extraordinary songster tells the story of his troubadour life, which highlights the evolution of the music of La Reunion and features (among others) the fascinating styles of sega and maloya. Mapou is named after a type of sweet and perfumed sugarcane.


Aster (1996)
Patanpo (D’aqui, 1999)
Digdig (Riverboat, 2002)
Mapou (Riverboat, 2004)
Cordéon Kaméléon (2009)
Poksina (D’aqui, 2011)
Fanfaroné (2014)
Gatir (2015)


Artist Profiles: Orchestre National de Barbes

Orchestre National de Barbés in 2008

Orchestre National de Barbés is a piece of North Africa stranded in the heart of Paris. In English, the name means The National Barbés Orchestra, implying that Barbés is a nation unto itself. It is a sentiment that few who visit the neighborhood would dispute.

The band’s story started in Belcourt, a working class section of Algiers, Algeria at the peak of the 1980 baby boom. Youcef Boukella’s older brothers listened to rock and bossa nova, people watched Cairo film classics on TV and tuned to Kabyl folk music on the radio. Outside the Belcourt alleyways, there were street peddlers, muezzins, Gnawa street performers, shaabi concerts, and ghetto blasters playing reggae, funk and raï.

My style of music goes back to my childhood in Belcourt,” explains Youcef Boukella. In 1985 he was offered a slot playing bass for the first Arabic-language rock group, T34. But when Youcef heard what visiting jazz musician Jeff Gardner was performing, that’s when he decided to leave home. Raï was all the rage when he arrived in Paris. He worked with Cheb Mami and Kabyl native Takfarinas at diaspora parties. Safy Boutella introduced him into underground jazz.

Larbi Dida comes from the town of Sidi bel Abbes and is a founding member of Raïna Raï, the rock-raï group that transformed the Algerian rock scene. Recognized by the Algerian media as a historic breakthrough, this group was the first rock group to use raï in its repertoire. Ever since Larba Dida moved to Paris in 1989, his has been one of the great Arabic voices in the French capital.

Aziz Sehmaoui is another pillar upholding Youcef’s vision. Raised in Marrakesh, Morocco this Sufi artist was nourished on a combination of Gnawa Arab-African beats and British-American pop performed in Morocco with various traditional and electric groups (Association Ziriab, Lemchaheb and others). Like Youcef, Aziz attempts to weld the mystical power of healing rhythms with today’s sounds.


En concert (1997)
Poulina (1999)
Alik (2008)
Rendez-vous Barbès (Le Chant Du Monde, 2010)
15 ans de scène, live (2012)
Dame de coeur (2014)


Artist Profiles: Renaud Garcia-Fons

Renaud Garcia-Fons

Renaud Garcia-Fons was born December 24, 1962 in Paris, France. He is a double bass phenomenon of Spanish-French origin who studied classical music and received an advanced degree from the Conservatoire da la Ville de Paris.

Renaud Garcia-Fons is one of the border-crossing virtuosos equally at home with contemporary classical music, jazz and traditional music. His bass has an ear open to the sounds of Andalusia, the Orient and the Occident, developing genuine World Music.

Garcia-Fons has grown into a highly reputable musician for his breathtaking technique and intonation as well as his talent as a composer. A dazzling performer on five strings, he uses his instrument’s entire range, thus dominating the music and making the bowed double bass sound rather like a cello or a violin. When listening to his percussive speed pizzicato or his sweeping arco flageolets, the breadth of his capabilities becomes evident immediately.

As a composer Garcia-Fons likes to take the listener on a gypsy’s journey through the Mediterranean area, especially Andalusia (Spain), then Brittany, Latin America, India, the Arab world and even into European classical music of the past. Although incorporating influences from far and wide, his compositions are always focused and efficient and keep to the spirit of charming chamber music.

He has collaborated with Dhafer Youssef on 1999’s Malak (Enja Records); Gianluigi Trovesi Nonet on Round About A Midsummer’s Dream (Enja Records, 2000); Antonio Placer, Paulo Bellinati and Jorge Trasante on Nomades D’Ici (Le Chant du Monde, 2000); Nguyên Lê on Three Trios (ACT Music, 1997), Bakida (ACT Music, 2000) and Fragile Beauty (ACT Music, 2008); Gerardo Núñez on Jazzpaña II (ACT Music, 2000), Kudsi Erguner on Islam Blues (ACT Music, 2001) and David Peña Dorantes on Paseo A Dos (E-Motive Records, 2015).


Légendes (Enja Records, 1992)
Alboreá (Enja Records, 1995)
Suite Andalouse, with Pedro Soler (Al Sur, 1995)
Oriental Bass (Enja Records, 1997)
Fuera, with Jean-Louis Matinier (Enja Records, 1999)
Acoustic Songs, with Gérard Marais (Label Hopi, 2000)
Navigatore (Enja Records, 2001)
Entremundo (Enja Records, 2004)
Arcoluz (Enja Records, 2006)
La Linea Del Sur (Enja Records, 2009)
Méditerranées (Enja Records, 2010)
Solo – The Marcevol Concert (Enja Records, 2012)
Beyond The Double Bass (Enja Records, 2013)
Silk Moon, with Derya Türkan (e-motive Records, 2014)
La Vie Devant Soi (E-motive Records, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Pol Huellou

Pol Huellou

Grandson of a storyteller and son of a traditional singer-songwriter, Pol Huellou grew up immersed in the culture of central Brittany. He learned the music and dances of his people at an early age, beginning with flute lessons and later pipe playing. Pol played at traditional dances and weddings and collected dances and music for nearly ten years. In 1978 he settled in Ireland.

He has recorded over 30 albums, composed music for dance, film and therapy and has given lectures and workshops all over Europe.

Huellou is a skilled player of both transverse and shakuhachi flutes. His music combines traditional Japanese, Celtic and Breton elements.

After studying traditional music for many years, he works a lot today as a composer, writing for theater, contemporary dance and TV. He also collaborates with Breton harpist Anne Auffret.

Since 1989 he is living again in Brittany, in the Tregor area.

Selected Discography:

Harp & Bamboo, with Myrdhin (1991)
Escale Dédale (2005)
Anne Auffret and Pol Huellou (2010)
There Are No Checkpoints In Paradise (2012)
Let’s Blues It (2012)
The Lost Agenda (Goasco, 2017)