A real happening : Bernard Lavilliers’s last album, a musical homage to Lebanon and to its tragic present. Vibrant with a pain that is perfectly translated into music, the main title, «Samedi soir à Beyrouth», speaks more of the war, with simple sounds and a few images, than any long and pompous speech… Also this month: a world music album…coming from France! Oh yes, we’re always someone else’s “world music”! A fresh find: Sevda - the star of Azerbaijan, where artists are little known in Europe. Also a good music album from Portugal, for guitar lovers. And to conclude, the last album by Bernardo Sandoval, a Spanish artist living in Toulouse, who finds back his roots through language as well as with the title – AMOR.
Bernard Lavilliers, Samedi soir à Beyrouth, Universal
A homage album to Lebanon and to the Middle East at war, that reaches Afghanistan and its green eyed girls. Some artists can be far more touching than any political declaration. Bernard Lavilliers likes to draw his musical inspiration from places in the world where populations suffer in silence – Brasil, Jamaica, Africa,… - but who also have an excellent knack for music and party, therefore an excellent taste in life. This time he’s come up with a wonderful album on the Lebanese capital. In Beirut, the poet comes into contact with all the violence of a war that doesn’t show, that is present and absent at once, and he renders all the ambiguous atmosphere of this city that lives and dies at once, in a way that will sound strangely familiar to any Lebanese ear. “Samedi soir à Beyrouth”, the title song, sways to a reggae rhythm, like in many other compositions of this album, partly recorded in Jamaica. Reggae, the song of revolt, the rhythm of a beating heart, of life that goes on despite all oppressions or feelings of injustice…Bernard Lavilliers speaks of this bruised city with the reserve of a poet: “Saturday night in Beirut – separate universes/Lonely under the blasted welkin (…)/ Underground life – almost walled – (…)/ The crimson suns – the misty suns/ the ghost of freedom…” But apart from the images it’s the music of this infinitely melancholic title which touches, not only the slow reggae rhythm, simulating the tiredness and weariness of this battered population, but also the tunes of the ‘oud intertwined in the melody, a touch of Oriental sadness that the musician hears. “I can hear what you can’t”, he confides to us in “Ordre nouveau”, and that is indeed the role of the artist: hearing the world and echoing it – for pain as much as for joy. “I’m not an angel – I haven’t got the voice/ I’m not pure, I haven’t got faith/ But I have rage - believe me”.He asks himself: “All that man can do – all his determination/ To eliminate his brothers – radical and bloodthirsty (…) This image at the front of a woman dressed in white/ laying down in the dust”… (“Solitaire”). Other songs deal with other themes, such as “Bosse” (“Work”) or “Killer”, criticising our Western culture that overrates work at the expense of life and creates robots that only dream of their career… Luckily, love still exists, and with “Je te reconnaîtrai” (“I will recognise you”), Lavilliers reminds us that in this revolting world, love is one of the last ways left to “light up our imagination” … If you want to hear this new album, visit the artist’s site…
PARIS (The Rough Guide to the music of…), World Music Network
We all are “strange strangers” to others, as Prévert used to say… So here’s a record on “world music”…on French music! Well, why not? Why should only Dakar, Oran or Cuba have the privilege to be visited by musicologists and other experts, to discover “typical” music groups? It’s quite interesting, once you hear this album, to also understand the logic behind a good deal of music albums that want to show you how the music of such or such country should be. So this album, PARIS, contains a variety of artists considered as “typically Parisian” by our Anglo-Saxon neighbours. First of all the new stars of France’s “nouvelle chanson” music such as Emily Loizeau or Pauline Croze (personally, we don’t like them too much but apparently they’re a success abroad, maybe because they portray the idea that foreigners have of French music: minimalist melodies but “songs with a meaning”. But then again, not everyone is Brassens…). Then there’s the accordion: we love that instrument and the bagpipes, they’re so “tipically Parisian”, and Jo Privat turns them into jazzy and fantastically free tunes. But in which Paris café can we still hear this instrument (which we miss by the way?) And was Lili Boniche, an Algerian star before the war, now aged 80, whom we definitely love but which few Parisians know, a good choice? Why not Rachid Taha or Souad Massi, who definitely belong to today’s culture, if you open up to music imported from other cultures? Why not Sidney Bechet, in a 2007 album, who was the glory of the Parisian music nights in the 50’s? Or Django Reinhardt, another wonder of the past?... Luckily, artists like Biréli Lagrène and Richard Galliano add a taste of contemporary quality to this selection. This album cruelly reminds us that if you want to be honest and propose the music that Paris really listens to today – which is different from the one it produces – that is a music album that would be aired on the radio, the telly or in cafés, you should propose Rap, Rn’B or Techno music, sung in English by Beyonce, Mika, Shakira and the lot, and it wouldn’t be too different from the “London”, “Frankfurt”, “Rio” or “Dakar” album after all…
SEVDA, A flower in bloom, Network
Do you know today’s Azerbaijan music? I didn’t before I listened to this album by Sevda, a music star in his country. This is his first album produced in the West by the well-known German label, Network. For Christian Scholze, a talent scout for this producer, it was love at first sight. He discovered him during a trip to Baku, when he heard him sing one night at the Jazz Center, a club of the capital. Sevda varied from classical Azeri mughams (Maqaam in Arabic) to jazzy atmospheres with disconcerting ease, and deployed an incredibly varied vocal talent. So here’s an album which lets us discover a new voice, playing on human emotion in different styles, sometimes by whispering its desperation in a soft blues tone, others by uttering sighs Oum Khaltoum style. A second album is to be produced: Sevda will have to choose his own musical style and abandon the “club music” of some of his compositions without necessarily having to turn to afro-cuban or salsa styles, which have been heard elsewhere. The artist will have to have a good accompaniment for a more homogeneous album, more faithful to his Azeri identity, though remaining free, as for the lovely composition “Lachin”, where we can hear the steppes of Central Asia together with the piano…
Portugal, coll. World Travel, ARC Music
We are committed to Portuguese guitar music and this album is the tops! José Maria Fonseca and Américo Silva offer their interpretation of several Fado classics and popular Portuguese melodies. Since the very first tunes, the notes of the two guitars drip like clear water on an azulejo fountain flowered in blue, white and green, to appease our soul and give us immediate freshness. We liked the purely instrumental compositions better, where you get a full taste of the game of the two guitars, which is so necessary to Fado: the Spanish guitar, which we know, and the Portuguese guitar, derived from the lute, whose sound box, as for the lute, looks like a water drop! While the latter plays the melody – the strings have a typically metallic sound – the former accompanies it and gives it the rhythmic base. The only wrong note: a bit of a “variety” arrangement for “O Meu Pais” and an interpretation of “Forbidden Games” whose Lusitanian origin is hard to find…
Bernardo Sandoval, Amor, Milan Records
On last December, Bernardo Sandoval was in concert at the New Morning, a famous jazz hall of the French capital, to present his new album, AMOR, born from a collaboration with a remarkable jazz trio (the excellent Guillaume de Chassy at the piano, Joël Trolonge at the string-bass and Jean-Denis Rivaleau on drums and percussion). In this love ballad album, the guitarist abandons his instrument to play with his voice. He sings in Spanish: the artist was born in Toulouse from exiled Spanish parents. This city adopted many Spanish refugees during the era of Franco and has become the most Spanish city of France! The artist never abandoned his Iberian roots; he left at the end of the 70’s to study flamenco in Cordoba and won many prizes for flamenco guitar. His wandering spirit then led him to work for the cinema (original soundtracks for various films by Mehdi Charif, notably “Daughter of Keltoum”, original soundtrack of “Western” by Manuel Poirier, who won a César for best music,…) and to collaborate with musicians of other cultures, coming from Benin (the album “Negriluz”) or Mexico. This year he will spend several months in Mexico to work with an Indian female singer. Through these Spanish songs, which are not Flamenco songs, Bernardo Sandoval revisits his Spanish roots, without the folklore, and discovers that theyr aren’t so far from his French roots after all.
www.bernardosandoval.com - www.milanrecords.com