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Songlines World Music News Obituary: Dr G Yunupingu 1971-2017

Dr. Yunupingu-©Adrian Cook

Photo by Adrian Cook

Australia’s most successful and unique Aboriginal voice, Dr G Yunupingu passed away on July 25 at the age of 46, after a long illness.

A Yolngu man of the Gumatj clan from Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, off the Arnhem Land coast, the celebrated singer-guitarist was born blind. Fascinated by music as a child, he learned hymns with the local mission choir, and was provided first with a toy piano accordion and then an acoustic guitar, which the left-handed Yunupingu simply flipped over and played ‘upside down’ – a style he continued throughout his career.

Possessing a natural musical ability and a remarkable voice, in 1989 he was invited to join the seminal indigenous rock band Yothu Yindi, founded by his uncle, the late M Yunupingu. He toured widely with the popular band for three years, both within Australia and overseas, before family members concluded that the on-the-road lifestyle wasn’t good for him. Back on Elcho Island he joined the locally-based Saltwater Band with his friend Manuel Dhurrkay, recording three indigenous-reggae albums.

In 2007, producer-bassist Michael Hohnen suggested that Yunupingu record a solo acoustic album, and the resulting self-titled 2008 release became an international phenomenon, selling 500,000 copies and establishing Yunupingu as a major international artist.

Singing in Gumatj, Galpu, Djambarrpuyngu and English, the ethereal beauty of his transcendent voice captivated millions of listeners around the world. His subsequent albums Live in Darwin, Australia (2010), Rrakala (2011) and The Gospel Album (2015), further expanded his audience.

Yunupingu collaborated with many other well-known artists, performed for Barack Obama, and took part in the Queen’s star-studded 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Seth Jordan

 

For cultural reasons the full name and image of the late artist are respectfully not being published.

 

                                                                                                     

 

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Songlines World Music News WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: Sunday

WOMAD Roy Ayers

African stars old and new delight the Charlton Park crowds on the final day

Those who braved the lakes of treacle-like mud, wind, rain and eventually sun were treated to a glorious day of music on Sunday at WOMAD, featuring many newcomers plus a handful of legendary acts such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Roy Ayers and Bonga.

The day began at the Charlie Gillett stage with the BBC Radio 3 and 6Music simulcast broadcast. Presenters Lopa Kothari and Cerys Matthews were the as ever glamorous and entertaining hosts, whose guests included the Mexican chicano group Las Cafeteras from Los Angeles; Msafiri Zawose from Tanzania and the Ska Vengers from India.

The first act on the Open Air stage was Mamadou Diabaté from Burkina Faso and his troupe of balafon (wooden xylophone) players. Perhaps it was their thunderous percussive sound that briefly kept the showers at bay and meant they attracted a big crowd. They were certainly one of several acts from Africa who really shone out.

 

Mamadou Diabate WOMAD


On the same stage later that afternoon came Bonga, the resplendent singer from Angola. Now in his 70s, Bonga has recently released his 30th album, yet he’s still a striking figure onstage, with a deeply powerful and soulful voice. The light, semba dance rhythms of his music belie the fact that many of these songs are ones of resistance – in the early 70s his music was banned by the Salazar dictatorship in Angola.

Following on from one veteran’s performance, it was the turn of a new star in the making, Msafiri Zawose who had earlier charmed the crowd during the simulcast. His own solo set was an excellent showcase of this young musician who is keeping the Zawose family musical legacy of gogo music alive. He’s the fifth child of the late Hukwe Zawose and plays the zeze, a two-stringed bowed instrument that resembles the ritti, and the ilimba, a type of thumb piano. His new album, Uhamiaji, comes out at the beginning of September on the Soundway label – look out for more about him in a forthcoming edition of Songlines.

British folk star Eliza Carthy and her Wayward band put on one of the standout performances of the weekend. Comparisons with Bellowhead are inevitable but Carthy’s 12-piece band proved they are worthy successors of English folk’s finest big band crown. Always a hugely entertaining performer, Carthy is clearly relishing playing with this new outfit who have a punk-like attitude to the folk tradition. Their set included songs from their debut album Big Machine and rapper Dizraeli who joined them onstage for the song ‘You Know Me,’ Carthy’s response to the refugee crisis. Thankfully the torrential downpour at the start of their set was short-lived – “dance between the raindrops!” urged Carthy – and by the time they had finished, the delighted crowd and jubilant band were basking in sunshine. Even a rainbow made a brief appearance as the sun set on a veritably muddy yet enjoyable 35th edition.

WOMAD Ladysmith Black

 

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Songlines World Music News WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: Saturday

Seu Jorge WOMAD

Photography by Tom Askew-Miller

The Saturday at WOMAD might have been a bit damp, but Seu Jeorge and Toko Tolo brought a bit of musical sunshine to the fields

The name of Toko Tolo from Madagascar means ‘Group of Three’. But sadly there were just two on stage at the BBC Charlie Gillett Stage on Saturday afternoon as accordionist Regis Gizavo died just two weeks ago, aged just 58. The remaining members, guitarist D’Gary, who plays with a quirky finger-picking style, and singer Monika Njava are both top artists in their own right. We think of Madagascar as Africa, but the stripped-down sound underlined its Indian Ocean qualities and its links to the east. Hearing their music, it’s no surprise to learn that the word for canoe is the same in Malagasy as Maori. Their performance was bold and ebullient, but it’s no insult to them to say Regis Gizavo’s absence was felt. His funeral was also on Saturday in Madagascar.

Toko Telo

Ifriqiyya Electrique in the Big Red Tent solved in a powerful and innovative way the problem of putting ritual on stage. In this case it was the possession and trance ceremonies of the Banga in the south of Tunisia. Like the Gnawa in Morocco, this community of black African origin use trance as a healing force and guitarist François Cambuzat and bassist Gianna Greco spent months filming the rituals and perform on stage along with that film and three Banga musicians on drums and metal castanets. With Cambuzat’s punk sensibilities, sometimes it’s pure noise, but to powerful effect. You see flailing arms, contorting bodies, heads swaying back and forth; you hear spiritual songs, follow processions, catch a goat sacrifice and feel almost like you’ve witnessed these ceremonies for yourself. Talking to people in the audience afterwards, they were deeply moved by what they’d experienced. The music isn’t easy, the rituals are sometimes disturbing, but Ifriqiyya Electrique have a clear vision and integrity in what they’re doing.

I wish the same could be said for Lamomali, which features French rocker Matthieu Chedid with some stellar Malian musicians including vocalist Fatoumata Diawara and Toumani and Sidiki Diabate on koras. Chedid, better known in France as -M-, has a strikingly high voice thatsometimes blends rather effectively with the ten-strong group on stage, except he spends most of the time upstaging them with grungy electric guitar riffs and what look like triangular aluminium spectacles. While he jumps and prowls, attracting attention to himself, his musical contributions transform Malian gold into bland Europop. Quite an achievement. It’s been very successful in France and almost justifies Brexit.

Much more tasteful was Seu Jorge’s The Life Aquatic tribute to Bowie. The Siam tent was packed, because Bowie, who died in January last year, is a national hero, but also because it was the best place to get out of the heavy rain. Sitting alone on stage with his guitar, surrounded by Aquatic paraphernalia, he launched into ‘O Astronauta de Marmore’. Occasionally he would stop singing and the audience would take over: ‘There’s a starman waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us, But he thinks he’d blow our minds.’ Seu Jorge’s sweet voice made Bowie sound very Brazilian and the meeting of cultures – Bowie as a bridge between Britain and Brazil – unlike Lamomali, was very touching.

Raquel Tavares WOMAD

The evening ended with Portuguese fado singer Raquel Tavares. She’d performed the Songlines Fado Series on Friday night in London and reminded us that people fear coming to the UK because of terrorist attacks. Although she’s directly from the fado tradition, she wasn’t dressed in the customary black dress, but a One Love Manchester sweat shirt and leather trousers. She’s got a strong, deep voice and a playful manner on stage. After a set of fados, she ended with fado-like ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse proving, like Seu Jorge, that British pop is also world music.

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Songlines World Music News WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: Friday

Oumou Sangare-7

Photography by Tom Askew-Miller

Oumou Sangaré, Alsarah & the Nubatones and the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians get the party going on Friday at WOMAD Charlton Park

Saturday morning at Charlton Park, head slightly fuzzy after Friday night’s shenanigans but at least the clothes have just about dried out after the evening’s downpour. However it takes more than a bit of wet weather to dampen WOMAD festival-goers’ spirit.

Friday kicked off with members of the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians on the Open Air Stage then there was some raucous klezmer from London-based band Don Kipper – the first act on the BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett stage. Two recent Songlines coverstars were among the highlights of the day – Mali’s Oumou Sangaré on the Open Air Stage and Alsarah with her band the Nubatones over in the arboretum, on the Ecotricity stage. But the joy of the ever eclectic WOMAD programme is there are always random new discoveries to be made as you wander around the site.

Two acts that left a notable impression yet were completely unknown to me were The New York Theremin Society on the Bowers & Wilkins Sound System stage and the wonderfully weird but slightly bonkers Goat from Sweden in the Siam tent who definitely get the prize for best costumes and masks. And Orkesta Mendoza’s Salvador Duran wins the award for the most flamboyant maracas playing I’ve seen in a long time! The most touching moment of the day came when a longtime Songlines subscriber came to the stand, mentioned in passing to the team that the only back issue he was missing from his collection was the first issue whereby the always eager to please publisher made a quick dash to his secret stash and then presented the loyal subscriber with a pristine copy of the very same issue from 1999 – now a collector’s item. The Songlines team always aims to please!

Saturday’s weather forecast is not looking too good but at least there’s plenty of cracking music lined up. Things on the list to check out today are Colombia’s Grupo Canalón de Timbiquí, the Indian singer Parvathy Baul who is bound to entrance the crowd and festival faves and Songlines Music Award winners Afro Celt Sound System. It looks set to be another corker of a day!

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Songlines World Music News WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: Thursday

Orchestra Baobab WOMAD

Photography by Tom Askew-Miller

After months of feverish excitement and anticipation, the 35th edition of WOMAD is off to a great start with Bixiga 70 and Orchestra Baobab

Kicking off proceedings in usual WOMAD tradition were the Malmesbury School Project – a group of local students who were joined by Sheelanagig on the Open Air Stage.

Following this, it was a quick dash over to the Big Red Tent to catch São Paulo big band Bixiga 70 who put on a terrific show. Their high-energy, big, bold brass sound went down a storm with the enthusiastic crowd clearly eager to get into festival party mode. It didn’t take long before they were doing a Brazilian style conga around the packed tent. Bixiga’s funky, highly danceable version of Afrobeat has a very particular Brazilian flavour to it, augmented by a superb duo of percussionists who almost stole the show with a blistering solo. The ten-piece band graciously gave fellow Brazilian group Metá Metá a plug – they’ll be performing later on today in the Big Red Tent.

An altogether more laid-back but charming performance from the Senegalese veterans Orchestra Baobab – the ideal mellow Thursday night closer.

Orchestra Baobab WOMAD

Things crank up considerably on Friday with a ridiculously full-on programme. Top of the list to check out are this month’s Songlines coverstar, Alsarah, who will be performing with her band the Nubatones on the Ecotricity stage. Unfortunately roots reggae group Inna de Yard were unable to secure visas in time for their performance on Friday, but their spot will be deftly filled by the ever-excellent Dele Sosimi.

Here’s hoping the weather behaves…

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Songlines World Music News Celebrating 20 years of Essaouira’s Gnawa & World Music Festival

Gnawa-blog

Tim Cumming joins in the 20th anniversary celebrations in Essaouira 

Some ten hours after pulling an all-nighter at an off-festival lila (the all-night healing/trance ceremony of the Gnawa) at Zaouia Bilal in the depths of Essaouira’s medina, I was shuffling sans sleep through Casablanca’s international transit lounge wondering if this was what taking the drug spice felt like. I then heard the familiar bass sound of the gimbri, and spied a young man in Gnawa robes on a sleek sofa set outside a luxury goods concession, arranging his robes, fingering his strings and looking decidedly decorative in a setting far removed from Gnawa culture’s sources. Gnawa is almost a brand for Morocco now, and 20 years of Essaouira’s Gnawa & World Music Festival has helped make it so.

Earlier that night, from mid-evening to about 3am, I’d sat with Mokhtar Guinea’s band of Gnawa as they shuffled in and out of the back room behind the musicians and trancing audience crowding around them, three young women up on their feet and head-banging right in front of the musicians, sheets of white cloth draped over their heads as the spirits of the lila descend into them one by one in the form of specific songs with specific symbolic colours attached, accompanied by the scent of incense, hashish and mint tea.

In its 20th year the festival must accommodate both extremes – of cultural decoration, and of personal immersion and revelation. Both are quite real, and both play out across Essaouira’s stages, decorated with sponsor Renault’s advertising. The old rules forbidding cameras at the intimate, after-midnight performances at places such as Dar Loubane clearly do not apply to smartphones these days – will the spirits of the lila survive smart-screen culture, or will they fade to local colour, then fade out? I think not, because what underlies it is as hard and resilient as the music itself, a common currency, and everyone of all ages in Morocco seems to know and to sing the songs of the Gnawa.

TimCummingThe Riyad El Medina by Tim Cumming

For its 20th edition, the festival had its wings clipped – four days cut to three – and a paucity of prominent jazz headliners, Snarky Puppy’s Bill Laurance aside. Why a fairly obscure, self-aggrandising soul-blues singer named Lucky Peterson got three hours of main stage on the closing Saturday night is inexplicable. Luckily, Bahia artist Carlinhos Brown opened (with maalem Mohamed Kouyou) and closed the festival with two excellent sets, while Friday saw festival regular Titi Robin joined by rising Moroccan star Mehdi Nassouli and percussionist Luis Nascimento at the intimate Dar Louban with maalem Abdenbi El Gueddari, where the following night a young all-girl Gnawa group, Bnat Timbouktou, led by Asmaa Hamzaoui, was joined by one of the festival’s founders Loy Ehrlich. Female Gnawa are rare – for the moment – and Bnat Tombouktou were one of the gems of this 20th edition.

The next night, Nassouli and Nascimento joined Hindi Zahra’s band on the windswept Borj Bab Marrakech for an outstanding set featuring two drummers as the sun sank in the west behind the white rooftops and minarets of the medina. Ah, but how the wind blew. It was at its very worst for this edition. The beach stage, bedecked by the likes of Speed Caravan and Houssam Guinea, felt a little like being in a speeding hurricane. But the music never stopped. The wind blows, and the Gnawa play all night – it seems that here, the natural creative order doesn’t change, even as Gnawa becomes a brand for Morocco, a kind of symbol of its luxury goods.

Gnawa is reputed to have healing properties, and even this reviewer found it so – I flew in with a frozen shoulder, left loose-limbed, body healed and mind blown by rhythmic air and the raw pure Gnawa that takes you right down to the bottom and through a door into a dynamic world of rhythmic sound and raised spirits that can knock you out like a plank of wood. Those rhythms are a key that can unlock the mind and free the body. One of the great pleasures of this festival is watching the crowds, all 300,000 of this year’s visitors, and how they unleash themselves as the music takes hold. However far you have to come to experience it, it’s worth taking the trip.

To see more images of the Gnawa & World Music Festival by Tim Cumming, click here

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Songlines World Music News WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: The weekend ahead

WOMAD-©Suzie-Blake
Photography by Suzie Blake

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Oumou Sangaré, Inna de Yard, Toots & the Maytals, Eliza Carthy, the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians and many more perform at WOMAD Charlton Park this weekend

With just days to go until the UK’s premier world music gathering, the Songlines team are gearing up for four days of festivities at WOMAD Charlton Park. Another fantastic line-up awaits as a multitude of artists from around the globe will take to the stage, including the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo, roots Reggae collective Inna de Yard, folk singer-songwriter Eliza Carthy, the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, and a welcome return from Malian superstar Oumou Sangaré. Renowned as an event for all ages, a range of family-friendly activities are also on offer, including tree climbing sessions, yoga, music workshops and, new for 2017, the Giant Wheel at WOMAD. 

If you’re not able to make it, you can keep up-to-date with the latest news and events by following the Songlines team on Twitter and Facebook. To view the full line-up, visit womad.co.uk or download the free WOMAD mobile app.

Once again we’ve partnered with independent record store Rise and will be hosting artists signings for the Siam and Open Air stages. Artists confirmed include Michael League and Malika Tirolien’s new supergroup Bokanté, Ghanaian master drummers Kakatsitsi, members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Mexican/American cumbia collective Orkesta Mendoza. You can download your own artist CD signing timetable here.

SonglinesWOMAD16_CD-signing-schedules_RiseShop

You can download your own artist CD signing timetable here.

SonglinesWOMAD16_CD-signing-schedules_CharlieGillettStage

And don’t forget that we’ll be selling copies of The Guardian and Observer throughout the festival (Fri-Sun inclusive) from both Songlines stands (next to the BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage and inside the Rise Records shop), so be sure to drop by for a morning chat with the team!

Below are some of the acts we are looking forward to the most, and an exclusive Apple Music and Spotify playlist to give you a taste of what’s to come.

 

//tools.applemusic.com/embed/v1/playlist/pl.1b770608a3d24c358c9b7f3a9b385e08?country=gb&at=10lwtw

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Songlines World Music News Creole Exchanges: Michael League and Malika Tirolien on Bokanté

Bokante

Photo by François Bisi

Jane Cornwell speaks to Snarky Puppy’s Michael League and singer Malika Tirolien about their latest supergroup Bokanté, who are set to be making waves this summer.

This article originally appeared in Songlines July #129. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: http://ift.tt/2lbcV5M

Michael League has never formed another band in the 14 years since he founded Snarky Puppy. For who needs a side project when your Grammy-winning, Texas-bred, New York-based, improvisational instrumental jazz collective is an active collaborator, working with the likes of the Dutch Metropole Orchestra and releasing albums that feature such special guests as Peruvian diva Susana Baca, Americana icon David Crosby and the Malian Caruso, Salif Keita? Serendipity, however, works in mysterious ways – and Bokanté, which means ‘Exchange’ in Creole, feels like it was meant to be.

“I record ideas on my phone all the time,” says the slight, bearded League, sitting backstage at a sunlit WOMADelaide in March. “Melody, groove, rhythm, bassline, whatever; I’ve been doing it for about five years. When I eventually listened back to them I thought, wow, there’s a lot of stuff with the same sound.” A Delta-meets-desert sound that he is reluctant to define: “This band [Bokanté] marries a lot of my interests. I grew up loving American blues and Led Zeppelin and different blues formats, and over the last five years I’ve been getting deep into West African music. Bassekou Kouyaté, Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita, Tinariwen,” he pauses and smiles. “I started thinking that I should put a band together that plays this sort of stuff. A band with a singer, a bunch of guitars and a bunch of percussionists but no [kit] drums, horns or keyboards.” In other words, a band that was nothing like Snarky Puppy.

Bokanté’s outing at WOMADelaide was only their third public gig. Some in the appreciative crowd made comparisons to Talking Heads, King Crimson and Meshell Ndegeocello; to this observer they sounded like no one else. Their performance was tighter and more accomplished than any band with very little rehearsal might dare to imagine, much of which can be explained by the calibre of musicians in the line-up (acclaimed in some quarters as a ‘super group’). There is League, swapping his bass for baritone guitar, along with Snarky guitarists Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti and Miami-based pedal steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier, seated centre-stage, a slide guitar set across his knees.

On percussion, there is Keita Ogawa – Nagasaki-raised, Riotrained, a veteran of orchestras including the London Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the group belonging to superstar cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. On more percussion, the multi-awardwinning Jamey Haddad, an ex-Berklee College music professor and longtime rhythm man for Paul Simon and Sting. On the third and final set of percussion, André Ferrari, a mohawked Swede whose innovative flourishes – handfuls of bells, Gnawa qaraqab (metal castanets), frame drums played face down – are a trademark of Swedish folk outfit Väsen, and whose self-penned ‘Shapons Vindaloo’ is the first track that Snarky Puppy ever recorded. “André is one of the most unique percussionists I’ve met,” says League. “Nothing he uses is conventional.” The bass guitarist, just for WOMADelaide, was Paul Bender of cult Australian space-jazzers Hiatus Kaiyote. The bass guitar slot will remain open, with bassists cherry-picked locally; the bassist for the UK tour is yet to be decided.

“One of the things I love about Snarky Puppy is we always have new musical personalities contributing. With Bokanté the bass chair will be that thing.”

Then there is Bokanté’s pièce de résistance: Malika Tirolien, a charismatic Montréal-based Guadeloupian vocalist who sings mainly in Creole, in a honeyed voice that hits the spot and then some. It was the creative exchanges between Tirolien and League that fleshed out the ideas on the latter’s iPhone: “I would send Malika the music and a lyrical concept that was socially conscious, to do with individual and social struggles.” More specifically, about strife and success, racism, apathy and the refugee crisis; hopes for peace and unity. “She would write the lyrics and melody, demo the song and send it back.”

Trained in classical piano and jazz, Tirolien was fronting a hip-hop leaning outfit called Groundfood that supported Snarky Puppy in Québec, and blew League and his band mates away. “Our whole band were like, ‘Who the fuck is that?’” says League of Tirolien, who is here at our table underneath a spreading Moreton Bay fig tree, and laughing good-naturedly. “She was singing beautifully in three languages, then she’d improvise, then she’d rap in Creole.”

The French-based Creole language has a percussive flow, they say, that lends Bokanté another dimension. “It is beautiful but it can be really rough sounding too,” says Tirolien with a grin. “If you want to insult someone, it’s fantastic.”

Her dialect is particular to Guadeloupe, and not dissimilar to that of the neighbouring Caribbean island of Martinique. Of the ten songs on Bokanté’s debut album Strange Circles, two are in French (‘Heritier’ asks us to think about the legacy we are leaving the next generation) and the rest are delivered in Creole. Tirolien has the gift of conveying real emotion, even if we don’t exactly understand what it is she’s saying.

“We tried one song in English when we were recording [at the legendary Dreamlands Studio in New York] and were like, ‘No!!’” twinkles League. “It’s kind of like when you hear certain styles of music sung in different languages, flamenco sung in English, for example, and it feels wrong. For some weird reason for this band Creole works perfectly.”

While Tirolien, Collier, Haddad, Ferrari and Ogawa have all collaborated individually on Snarky Puppy projects, most notably on the Family Dinner recording sessions, many of the musicians in Bokanté hadn’t met until the first day of their week-long recording. Establishing a sense of unity was paramount: “The ensemble is multilingual, multicultural and multi-generational but we all feel connected as musicians and people. This combination of different accents gives a strangely common and poignant sound, a sound that can reach and relate to listeners around the world.”

Asked to file Bokanté under a genre, and League and Tirolien spar good-humouredly. Jazz? Rock? They shake their heads. League wants to call them a blues band but Tirolien doesn’t; the folky Gwo-ka rhythms from Guadeloupe and the three sets of percussion, she argues, are almost blues averse. From a guitar perspective, counters League, the root of Bokanté’s music is African, Delta blues and rock; ergo, the music of the blues.

“A lot of this stuff is so rich harmonically,” he says. “I think of the guitars like percussion instruments or voices; at any moment the guitars are playing something very rhythmic and short and groovy or else long slide melodies and harmonies in the same way as singers. The way I think of the band is having two singers: Malika and the guitars including Roosevelt.” They settle, reluctantly, on ‘world’ (“We’d rather not file us under anything”), what with Ogawa hailing from Japan, Ferrari from Sweden and the Lebanese-American Haddad having studied Karnatic traditions in South India among other musical pursuits including building his own instruments (“I’m a jazz musician who jumped the fence,” Haddad has said).

Bokanté’s one-love vibe tips over into songs such as ‘Nou Tout Sé Yonn’, which means ‘Remember We are One’ and ‘O La’, a song-come-fable about a lost man who is welcomed into a remote house and shown great hospitality before killing the owner and taking over, building a wall to keep people out. “One night comes a knock on a door and a cry of ‘I’m lost, can you help me?’” says Tirolien, who wrote it. Karma, it seems to be saying, is a bitch.

Tirolien flashes a grin. “This is why we called our album Strange Circles,” she says. “What goes around comes around.”

“It really does,” says League. “You’ll see.”

This article originally appeared in Songlines July #129. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: http://ift.tt/2lbcV5M

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Songlines World Music News Régis Gizavo (1959 -2017)

Régis Gizavo

Régis Gizavo © C. Paes / Laterite productions, photo extradite de “Songs for Madagascar”

Words by Ulrike Hanna Meinhof

One of the most important and best-loved musicians from Madagascar, the brilliant accordionist, song-writer and singer Régis Gizavo died of a heart attack on July 16. It happened during a concert in Corsica where he was performing with the Corsican group Alba. He was due to play with Toko Telo at WOMAD Charlton Park next week.

Gizavo was born in Tulear in the South-West of Madagascar, from where he made his way to the capital Antananarivo. There he recorded his first songs for which in 1990 he received the coveted ‘Prix Decouvertes’ of the French radio station RFI. Regis talked amusingly about how he suddenly saw himself on a clip shown on public tv, not having realised till that moment that he had won the prize and that his adventure to Europe was about to begin. He recorded five albums, one of which, with Louis Mhlanga and David Mirandon, was a Top of the World in 2006 (Songlines #40).

Since 1990 he lived in France, performing worldwide as a solo artist, but also with other musicians such as the Corsican group I Muvrini, the Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora, and the Brazilian singer Lenine, to name but a few. Since 2006 he was a member of the illustrious Madagascar All Stars, comprising musicians from diverse regions of the country who memorably performed at Songlines Encounters in 2012. Losing Gizavo, with his extraordinary music, his unbounding energy, his infectious laugh, his great pleasure in life and his deep and lasting friendship, will leave a terrible gap.

This is evident in the feature documentary Songs for Madagascar, directed by Cesar Paes from Laterit productions in Paris, which has only just opened in French cinemas after its first screenings at international film festivals. It shows Gizavo talking about his life, rehearsing with his musician friends, performing songs such as ‘Malaso’, an indictment of the local bandits who steal zebu cattle from poor peasants, and a song about the drongo bird whose black colour the song celebrates alongside all the other colours in the world – a typically subtle reminder of how mixed we all are. He will be missed in Madagascar, in France and around the world.

Gizavo was only 58 years old and leaves a wife and a young son at their home in Paris.

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