Articles review on the net, revue d'articles sur la toile

Inscription : feeds, flux :
(Atom) Gabriel Real World News

21 juin 2008

Peter Gabriel's BBC interview

The world-famous musician has given an exclusive interview to BBC Points West's Amanda Parr.

The stars who are hooked on start-ups

Why are A-listers so eager to pour cash into all things dotcom? Tom O'Meara investigates

Once upon a time, owning a private island or a luxury jet or supporting a high-profile cause was de rigeur for an A-list celebrity. Now, thought, the rich and famous are ploughing spare cash into online ventures. (...)

Music-related start-ups seem especially popular. Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant is an investor in live music site DeepRockDrive (...)

Peter Gabriel, the former frontman of Genesis, has invested a total of £3-£5 million into three online businesses, and says he's just about broken even.

"You're gambling," he says. "At my age, 59, what I want to be doing fun, interesting things with fun, interesting people." Gabriel also has a real interest in technology. "My dad was a sort of electrical engineer and inventor and although I didn't inherit his skills, I inherited his passion for what technology could do for people."

In a sense, it's an expensive hobby for Gabriel, who is an investor and part of the management team at the recommendation engine, The Filter, and has also put capital into the music site, We7. He has other fledgling projects in the pipeline, too.

"One is called TheMemory, which we describe as 'the first social network for the dead', and the other is Gabble, which is sort of a visual language for the internet," he says.

But not are all as fascinated with digital advancement as Gabriel. (...)

The infectious rhythms of Dengue Fever

In the Independent

An inspired marriage of Sixties Cambodian pop and West Coast psychedelia, Dengue Fever are set to rock the festivals this summer, says Tim Cumming

The day after a sweaty debut appearance at the Borderline in London, assorted members of Dengue Fever are grouped around a table in the bar of the Columbia Hotel in Lancaster Gate. Plans are afoot: food for some, for others, music. Senon Williams, the bassist whose home studio is where much of their new album, Venus on Earth, was recorded, is still in the twilit world of jet lag, grazing on Kronenbourg in the shabbily grand confines of London's premier rock'n'roll hotel.

For many US bands, the Columbia is akin to Rick's Café in Casablanca. Since the Seventies, virtually everyone in rock'n'roll has passed through. "It's kind of stinky and damp, and the lights flicker, and there must be ghosts in the rooms because they keep creaking," says Williams, "but we love it here. I could stay here every time I come to London."

The uninitiated might be forgiven for thinking that Dengue Fever is the result of some feverish hallucination in a tropical emergency. But they're the real thing, an inspired combination of soaring Cambodian vocals from lead singer Chhom Nimol, and West Coast psychedelia as seen through the colour-drenched lens of Cambodia in the swinging Sixties.

Picked up here by Peter Gabriel's Real World label, Dengue Fever's latest album, Venus on Earth, is their first UK release, much of it recorded on analogue tape using the same generation of decks that The Beach Boys used in the Sixties at Oceanways Studios. These are songs that cross multiple time zones, with sonic textures ranging freely from psychedelia to surf, mariachi to garage rock, and even Berber rhythms and Ethiopique sax. And as well as the record deal with Real World, they'll be performing at this year's Womad, whose organisers describe them as nothing less than "the grooviest band you don't yet know".

"We're really delighted to have them perform at Womad this year," says festival programmer Nicola Henderson. "They are going to be the must-see band for this summer."

The Dengue Fever story begins with Ethan Holtzman, the man behind the humid, floating sound of the Farfisa organ. After visiting Cambodia in 1997, he returned to LA loaded with vintage Sixties Cambodian pop, a hitherto unknown genre of world music, steeped in the sounds pumped out by the American Forces that were then in Vietnam. A classic case of musical blowback.

Holtzman's brother Zac had become similarly enamoured of Cambodian pop, stockpiling tapes in the Echo Park apartment they shared. It helped that they had Cambodia Town on their doorstep in Long Beach, the West's largest concentration of Khmer-speaking folk. It was there that they tracked down Nimol, one of Cambodia's biggest singing stars, and persuaded her to join forces with this curious band of indie musicians.

Joining them for the ride was David Ralicke, whose damp, rusty sax lines fill out the songs with strong riffs and humid tones; and drummer Paul Smith, who doubles up as sound engineer and producer. Bassist Williams provided the studio, and having visited Cambodia himself in 1995, he had his own stack of tapes with garish covers of singers in Beatles-esque suits and Austin Powers hair, and women in psychedelic dresses and towering beehives.

The few clips of film that survived the murderous ascendance of the Khmer Rouge are poignant, a haunted party music from a time and place that no longer exists. So much was destroyed, of course, and millions killed. Nimol's family escaped to Thailand. Others fled to Paris and the US, and brought the music with them. Decades later, the diaspora had coalesced into the Cambodia Town of Long Beach, where the band went in search of a singer.

"We went to this club where they'd have bands with six or seven rotating singers, and there'd be an artists' table full of food and drinks – Nimol still plays those clubs. Weddings, birthdays, New Years," says Williams. They tried out others before chancing on Nimol: "We had no idea she was from this famous, Michael Jackson-type musical family. The other singers thought we were nuts, saying, 'No way is she gonna come'. I think she was just intrigued by what we were doing."

Their first show was at a tiny indie club in LA, and the response was immediate. "The crowd went nuts. LA isn't a dancing town, especially in the indie scene, but these hipsters were rolling around on stage. It was like a crazy dance party. It got everybody jazzed."

Their album debut in 2003 consisted entirely of Cambodian pop songs from the Sixties. Nimol's vocal ornamentations and improvisations – one of her specialities is the "ghost note", jumping from one scale to another – are embedded like a sixth sense in the band's trippy mix of American psychedelia and surf rock, spinning the music up into the stratosphere.

"Our concept was not to be a Sixties cover band, but to be influenced by the music and to create a band out of it," says Williams. But at the beginning, with Nimol barely able to speak English, and the Americans no better with Khmer, the attempts to record original material ground to a halt.

"We couldn't get enough even to do a set, so we decided to be a covers band on that first album. Nimol brought in songs, and we'd scour the stalls on Long Beach for tunes we liked."

For their second album, 2005's Escape from Dragon House (the name of a Long Beach nightclub where Nimol still performs), Zac Holtzman started bringing in the vocal melodies for the band to work on, while Nimol was often holed up at their Echo Park apartment, turning English lyrics into Cambodian songs. She now she mixes the two languages with ease. Check out the wonderful "Tiger Phone Card" from the new album, a duet of Zac's frail American vocal and Nimol's impassioned and beautiful phrasing, it tells the story of a transcontinental, cross-cultural love affair.

Escape from Dragon House was recorded after a month-long tour of Cambodia – Dengue Fever are the first American band ever to perform in the country. The impact on everyone involved was powerful – even overwhelming – and was captured on film by the cinematographer-turned-director John Pirozzi with a local crew. Due for DVD release in the autumn, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong tells the story of Nimol and the band, and more important, opens the doors on the music and stars of a lost generation of Cambodian music that found its feet – and its soul – in American pop to produce a truly unique, long-lost hybrid.

The day after their arrival, they were filmed for Cambodia's national TV station CTN, a two-hour special mixing interviews with songs. It ended up being broadcast three times every day for the whole month they were there. "I'd never experienced recognition or fame," says Williams, laughing, "until I got to Cambodia."

Nimol's mother and relatives were at the recording session. "They knew she was coming back but she didn't tell them we were playing Cambodian music. They were expecting her to sing Madonna, not pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodian psychedelia. They were blown away with our performance."

They played free gigs across the country, from mountaintop temples using battery-powered amps, to the riverside slums of the Ton La Basae district in Phnom Phen, the improvised stage lighting made up of the tail lights of cars powered on a noisy, churning generator and a higgledy-piggledy tower of randomly assembled speakers on one side of the stage.

"It was one of the most epic shows I've ever played," says Williams. "I had culture shock at first. It was totally wild, the poorest place I'd ever seen. Heaps of trash, people with bandages, very sick-looking, just hanging out. The crowd was completely still, completely silent, didn't even clap between songs. Crazy faces with crazy expressions."

Given that Dengue Fever are embarking on their first tour of UK open-air festivals – the likes of Glastonbury, Womad, Lovebox and Larmer Tree – a sea of crazy faces with crazy expressions could be the order of the day if the summer conspires to be another washout. For festivalgoers, meanwhile, prolonged exposure to Dengue Fever is likely to bring on delirium and involuntary movements of the legs and arms. You have been warned.

'Venus on Earth' is out now on Real World; Dengue Fever play Womad (, 25-27 July

19 juin 2008

Amnesty International: Small Places Tour

Video Message from Peter Gabriel

(PR) Amnesty International marks the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the 'Small Places Tour,' and is now looking for musicians and bands to raise their voices in song and action in hundreds of concerts held around the world in fall 2008.

For nearly half a century, Amnesty International has been fighting the good fight on behalf of the underdog and the oppressed. And from Pete Townsend's "Won't Get Fooled Again" at the first Amnesty International 'Secret Policeman's Ball" gala in 1979 to Green Day's stirring rendition of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" for Amnesty's 2007 Darfur campaign, musicians have always answered Amnesty's call, and have been willing to stand on the front lines of the war to counter terror with justice and human rights.

Now musicians are being asked by longtime Amnesty supporters such as Peter Gabriel and The Edge to answer that call again. Starting on September 10th and running until the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("UDHR") on December 10th, Amnesty International will be running the Small Places Tour, its most ambitious global music and human rights project since the Human Rights Now! Tour in 1988.

The Small Places Tour is named in honor of human rights pioneer Eleanor Roosevelt, who spoke of human rights mattering "in small places close to home." This is a "tour" with a difference. No one has to travel to join the tour, or change any performance commitments. Musicians will have many different ways to engage with the tour, including performances as well as offering premium seating packages, meet & greets and other unique fan experiences. Gabriel and The Edge are hoping the Small Places Tour will represent the "passing of the torch" to the next generation of musician-activists.

As part of the Tour, Amnesty will be asking musicians and fans to support Amnesty's UDHR 60 campaigns, including stopping torture, demanding the closure of Guantanamo, ending the killing in Darfur, campaigning to stop violence against women, protesting China's actions in Tibet and working for the release of Aung San Sui Kyi in Burma.

Get ideas about how musicians and fans can help the Small Places Tour, hear music from Amnesty International supporters and contact the Tour:

Guitar Hero, Rock Band ... isn't it all a bit Peter Gabriel?

Keith Stuart, # The Guardian

Rock Band probably won't save the music industry

It's great that the mainstream media has switched on to videogames as an inventive and exciting form of media rather than the work of Beelzebub and all his techno-demons. The only problem is, every new trend is being eulogised as some sort of minor cultural revolution. If you believe everything you read, Wii Fit is going to solve childhood obesity, brain-training games have crushed idiocy, and online casual gaming could eradicate boredom and loneliness by 2012. Global warming? Games will probably have that fixed within the decade.

The latest example involves the rock music sims Guitar Hero and Rock Band - both of which allow users to download new music tracks to twang along to. It turns out this is going to save the music industry. Admittedly, there are some compelling stats doing the rounds - Guitar Hero players have now downloaded over 15m tracks, while Rock Band users are at the 12m mark. Furthermore, when the ageing glam rockers Mötley Crüe recently debuted their latest single on both Rock Band and iTunes, sales were five times higher on the former. Music industry execs everywhere are crawling back from 20th-storey window ledges to their desks.

But let's look at the groups using Guitar Hero and Rock Band as a distribution platform for new material. So far, Mötley Crüe have been joined by Aerosmith and Metallica, both of which are set to have special editions of Guitar Hero based around them. We're hardly at the chalkface of contemporary music here. It reminds me of that period in the late 90s when artists such as Peter Gabriel and David Bowie started making awful websites and interactive CD-Roms. Call me back when Crystal Castles, MGMT or No Age start launching songs in this way and maybe we can talk. And no, the fact that Coldplay has just released three tracks for Guitar Hero III doesn't count.

Most recently, we discovered that the latest Guitar Hero sequel/cash cow, subtitled World Tour, is set to include an "innovative" studio mode, allowing players to "lay down" their own tracks. Amazing. A revolutionary concept. Except, 10 years ago, Codemasters introduced its Music series of sampler/sequencers on PlayStation, and later PlayStation 2. Cheap, yet powerful, these games were employed by a generation of urban artists - Dizzee Rascal for example - to create their first tracks and gain the attention of record labels.

This latest interplay between the game and music industries ... well, it's interesting, but certainly not new or world-shatteringly pertinent. Just as videogames are unlikely to destroy civilisation, they're probably not going to save it either. At least until Little Big Planet turns us all into brilliant game designers. Or Spore makes us gods.

Sa Ding Ding. La Björk mongole à la conquête de l’Occident

Par Élisabeth Stoudmann pour l'Hebdo (Suisse)

Avec ses chants en sanskrit sur fond de musique électronique, la chanteuse chinoise d’origine mongole Sa Ding Ding frappe haut et fort avec «Alive», son premier disque disponible en Europe.

Ian Ashbridge, audacieux producteur de world music anglais, peut se frotter les mains: l’actualité chinoise lui donne un sacré coup de pouce pour diffuser la pop ethnique de Sa Ding Ding, une chanteuse chinoise jusque-là totalement inconnue dans nos contrées. D’origine mongole, proche des minorités chinoises, Sa Ding Ding est une star en son pays où son dernier disque Alive s’est vendu à deux millions d’exemplaires. En pleine polémique sur le Tibet et les Jeux olympiques, elle s’est déplacée à Londres pour recevoir un BBC Music Award et y donner pas moins de quarante interviews. Sa Ding Ding sera-t-elle la première pop star chinoise à séduire le marché occidental? Tous les ingrédients sont réunis.

Robes maison. Les journalistes d’outre-Manche se sont empressés de la surnommer la Björk chinoise. Une comparaison qui se justifie. Comme sa consœur islandaise, Sa Ding Ding possède une voix très particulière, inclassable. Comme elle, elle se lance dans une carrière précoce et s’exporte en Occident en emportant avec elle l’amour des grands espaces et des terres sauvages. Comme elle encore, elle adore le kitsch, la pop électronique et se confectionne sa garde-robe elle-même. Depuis que son CD est sorti en Angleterre, le 9 avril, 15000 copies ont été écoulées, et Ian Ashbridge avoue des ambitions s’élevant à 50000 exemplaires, puisque Alive ne sera distribué en France et aux Etats-Unis qu’à la fin du mois de juillet.

Nomade jusqu’à 6 ans. «J’ai grandi en terre nomade, là où les hommes chantent pour tous ceux qu’ils aiment: parents, enfants et même animaux», expliquait Sa Ding Ding récemment au critique anglais Robin Denselow. Née en Mongolie où elle mène une vie de nomade avec sa grand-mère jusqu’à l’âge de 6 ans, Sa Ding Ding a aujourd’hui créé sa propre langue en se remémorant la façon dont cette dernière lui parlait, bébé. Les autres langues qu’elle utilise dans ses morceaux étant le sanskrit, le mandarin et le tibétain. Déménageant plusieurs fois lorsqu’elle retourne vivre avec ses parents en Chine, Sa Ding Ding continue sa vie de nomade, en version moderne. Elle atterrit à Pékin en 2001 où elle fait paraître un premier album de pop-dance à 18 ans: un succès.

Ce qui lui permet d’affiner sa démarche. S’intéressant au bouddhisme, à la méditation, étudiant la musique électronique comme la cithare chinoise, elle développe une mixture inédite et entêtante. Instruments à cordes traditionnels et boucles électroniques se mêlent harmonieusement à sa voix enfantine. Une approche pour le moins différente et nettement plus commerciale que celle de Yungchen Lamo, la grande chanteuse tibétaine à la voix gutturale, qui tourne en Europe depuis 1994 et dont les disques paraissent sur le prestigieux label Realworld de Peter Gabriel.

Réalité différente. La belle s’affirme représentative d’une nouvelle génération d’artistes ayant désormais accès aux musiques occidentales et est prête à utiliser toutes les armes à sa disposition – son charme exotique, son goût pour le clinquant – pour tenter son grand écart culturel. Reste à espérer que cette démarche ne focalise pas sur elle une fascination superficielle. Sa trajectoire hors norme, sa personnalité artistique et son album méritent beaucoup mieux.

Forcément confrontée par la presse occidentale à se positionner sur la question du Tibet, Sa Ding Ding défend le particularisme du Tibet, mais pas ses velléités indépendantistes. Sa Ding Ding s’y est d’ailleurs rendue pour apprendre certaines techniques de chant traditionnel. La chanteuse n’aime pas être confrontée aux questions politiques. Elle préfère se considérer comme une ambassadrice des cultures minoritaires en Chine. A l’intérieur comme à l’extérieur de son pays, elle cherche à faire passer leur enseignement, leur force. Ses mantras, son défrichage de nouveaux territoires sonores et musicaux permettent dans tous les cas d’entrapercevoir une réalité chinoise fort différente de celle qui fait si peur à l’Occident.

A Consulter:

15 juin 2008

Thomas Brooman CBE


We'd like to offer our warmest congratulation to Thomas Brooman - co-founder and for 28 years, from 1980 to 2008, Artistic Director of WOMAD, who was awarded the CBE (Commander of The British Empire) in The Queen's Birthday Honors List, "for services to Music and to Charity".

"Pure enthusiasm for music from around the world led us to the idea of WOMAD in 1980 and thus to the first WOMAD festival in 1982. The festivals have always been wonderful and unique occasions and have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists…. Equally important, the festivals have also allowed many different audiences to gain an insight into cultures other than their own through the enjoyment of music. Music is a universal language, it draws people together and proves, as well as anything, the stupidity of racism."Peter Gabriel

WOMAD TARANAKI 2008 – New Plymouth, NZ

Article by Tom Brookman / Soulshine :

WOMAD New Zealand is held in the province of Taranaki on the west coast of the North Island. Overshadowed by Mt Taranaki, the town of New Plymouth wakes from its usual laid-back combination of rural and surf life to become a hive of colour and activity for one big weekend in March…. WOMAD weekend!

I sit and begin writing this review an hour and half before the festival actually starts. Why?....because I already know that WOMAD Taranaki is going to get a rave/five star/perfect review. I’ve been to many festivals but few have had the combination of charm, liveliness and tranquillity that I already feel here in an empty Brooklands Park, New Plymouth. In his media introduction Thomas Brooman mentioned that this venue is perhaps the best setting for a festival that he has encountered; considering Brooman is the co-founder of the worldwide World Of Music And Dance movement, this is just about the highest praise going around.

Now, after the dust has settled it’s time to review the festival experience… despite the worldly emphasis of WOMAD festivals, WOMAD Taranaki has its feet firmly rooted in Aotearoa (NZ), with a deep sense of Taranaki’s Maori heritage throughout the site; the festival takes a respectful and modern approach to its homage to the first peoples. Te Paepae is an area dedicated solely to teaching WOMADders about Maori culture; from traditional weaving and tribal medicines to ‘poi’ (ball and string) and mastery and moko (tattoo) creation, Maori customs are constantly on display bringing ancient tradition into a modern festival.

As well as the cultural learning experience, Maori traditions are strongly represented in the performance arena. Local dance was amply represented and Maori-influenced music was also present in fusion projects that bridged the traditional-contemporary gap. At the contemporary end of the scale, local produce was again bountiful. While most of the headline acts in 2008 hailed from overseas, 12 of the 33 acts were based in NZ and at least 3 more included local collaborators. This local pride makes WOMAD Taranaki not only a wonderful place for visitors to see a diverse international festival but an amazing setting in which to scope some of the prodigious local talent. It’s the local influence that I’ll concentrate my review on because most of the international acts played in Australia over the summer and autumn, either at Blues-Fest, WOMADelaide or in solo shows.

Amongst the Kiwi acts in 2008 there were some true standouts: ‘Black Grace’ and Whāngārā-Mai-Tawhiti (pronounced Fung-a-ra My Taffitti) both drew on traditional Maori art. The former combined pacific traditional dance with contemporary styles to stunning effect; Neil Ieremia’s often mischievous choreography was infectious and many of the audience sat openly smiling between ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of amazement. Friday night’s performance quality was repeated in Saturday afternoon’s workshop which ended with a crowd of around 500 whooping, twirling and knee slapping at the beautiful dell stage.

More whooping followed wherever they performed their kapa haka. This group managed to combine the haka’s power with soaring vocal harmonies, cheeky story-telling and visually delicious traditional costume; most Australians will never get the chance to see Whāngārā-Mai-Tawhiti perform but if you’re lucky enough, cherish every moment.

Another, less traditional Kiwi group was also a crowd favourite; the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra provided harmonious and hilarious renditions of some classics, rock hits and folk tunes. Like ‘Black Grace’ they were also a huge workshop success, with hundreds of people, almost half wielding ukuleles, turning out to learn from the masters.

One part of the orchestra, who also played in his own right, was Wellington’s Age Pryor. Any Fionn Regan fans out there will want to check out Pryor’s folky ditties which are pleasantly sung in a voice often eerily similar to that of Whitlam’s front-man Tim Freedman.

Easily on a par with the aforementioned acts and probably THE standout to many festival goers, were four brothers and a ‘token white boy’…to many of you Soulshiners Kora will need no introduction but to those not familiar with NZ’s latest Dub-Soul-Reggae-Rock powerhouse…. become familiar. I was recently told ‘forget Fat Freddy's Drop (they were soo last summer)… [Kora] have the best "happy summer" music out at the moment.’ Never were truer words spoken as the audience could be nothing but happy after watching the glee with which this quintet go about their music.

As much as the Kiwi talent impressed, it was also provided perhaps the only weakness in the lineup. I was a little disappointed not to see any of the Australian acts from WOMADelaide’s bill. Plenty of New Zealanders have made the trip across the Tasman in recent years including Black Grace, Kora, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Mahinirangi Tocker. However, no Aussies appeared in Taranaki which was a surprise, especially given up-comers ‘Watussi’s’ rave reviews in Auckland’s alternative media. The addition of a few Australian acts may also have given more depth to the lineup, as a couple of the New Zealand acts ‘An Emerald City’ and ‘Village of the Idiots’ left crowds a little bemused.

Secondly, Wellington boys ‘The Pheonix Foundation’ were essentially Taranaki’s answer to the Beautiful Girls at WOMADelaide, which prompted numerous ‘it’s a little triple-j this year’ type comments. Solid performers with inoffensive music, ‘The Pheonix Foundation’ were no doubt the festival highlight for the ‘hippy-for-the-weekend’ crowd of screaming teenagers that climbed all over the speakers and blocked the view for everyone else. However, their performance wasn’t something that couldn’t be heard from any number of other bands on any contemporary radio station. WOMAD is about hearing things we might otherwise miss, things that are different, things that include a worldly influence – exactly what indie-rock is not.

This is not meant to be a Tourism NZ advertisement…. so I will dwell briefly on international bill. Beirut was arguably the lineup’s biggest international attraction, especially amongst the younger generation and they did not disappoint. Zack Condon’s eclectic fusion of pop with traditional French and Balkan folk somehow harmonises wonderfully into a visually interesting, sonically dazzling live show. Less eclectic but every bit as spectacular in their own ways were American divas Mavis Staples and Sharon Jones, both using gigantic gospel-tinged vocals to impart their blues/gospel and soul/funk respectively.

Less known outside their countries of origin would be Farafina and David D’Or. The former, from Burkina-Faso, received a rare WOMAD encore on Saturday night as they converted the sedate Bowl-stage crowd into a mass of gyrating percussion fans. If you are a fan of African percussion then you should love Farafina. David D’Or’s music is hard to classify but Hebrew folk-rock might come close. D’Or’s super-tight band provided an excellent canvas upon which he worked his stunning vocal artistry…think Jack Johnson-esque smoothness overlaid with Jeff Buckley-esque falsetto, all in wailing Hebrew; it’s impressive!

Equally charming and enjoyable as the music in the WOMAD lineup is the ‘taste the world’ stage, an innovation of recent years run by a rare person indeed: a gastronomically-gifted Englishman! Roger de Wolf takes some of the festival artists into the kitchen to cook up a storm from their country of origin. Almost invariably the kitchen is full of fun, music and wonderful food for the audience to taste. This year saw a culinary highlight when Manjiri Kelkar and Mohindar Dhillon cooked dhaal and vegetables; apparently some very basic things are done very differently in India’s provinces and numerous arguments ensued. Less contentious but equally delicious was the Terem Quartet’s Russian dessert of savoury-sweet stuffed pumpkin.

As an avid WOMADelaide patron I had very high expectations of WOMAD Taranki. On the musical side it delivered everything expected of a WOMAD, quality, diversity and interactivity. A couple of local acts might have been better suited to other festivals but overall it was music and dance of the highest caliber. In the site-layout and scenery stakes WOMAD Taranaki was nothing short of mind-blowing; TSB Bowl and Brooklands Park have all the ‘purpose built’ feel of Woodforde Folk Festival without actually having been manufactured with the festival in mind. The scenery is stunning; the inclusion of water in the site makes for some wonderful nighttime vistas and during the day the greenery is reminiscent of Northern NSW without the oppressive humidity. All the while Mt Taranaki provides a spectacular backdrop to a truly remarkable festival.

Across the great divide

by Ben Thompson, The Observer

In 1980, Jon Hassell and Brian Eno released an album of woozy, African-themed ambient fragments called Possible Musics. The idea behind this strange and magical record seemed to be to try to imagine what a fusion of sounds from the northern and southern hemispheres might sound like. Twenty-eight years later, this dream is on the point of being realised.

In recent months, watching Björk's live duet with Malian kora maestro Toumani Diabaté at Hammersmith Apollo, or hearing Tony Allen's limber Nigerian polyrhythms underpinning the older, wiser, Britpop of Damon Albarn's The Good, the Bad & the Queen at the Love Music Hate Racism Carnival in Victoria Park, it's felt like those Possible Musics are in the processing of becoming a reality. And the truly remarkable thing about this new African adventure is that the main impetus for it comes not from the kind of highbrow avant-garde sources one might expect, but rather the notoriously backward-looking and insular enclave of indie rock.

When pop historians look back upon 2008, they will struggle to unearth a more momentous eventuality than the lost tribes of Camden Market finding sonic salvation in a continent traditionally regarded as beyond the pale by generations of pasty-faced Velvet Underground impersonators. For beyond the immediate excitement of indie's new African frontier - from the haute-bourgeois hi-life of this year's biggest breakthrough band, Vampire Weekend, to the wiry student Afro-beat of OMM53 cover stars, Foals - there lurks a change in our appreciation and understanding of African music so dramatic that it might almost be called a revolution.

How better to prepare for an in-depth exploration of seismic cultural shifts than with a live appearance by Hard-Fi? A year ago, the idea of these doughty Staines plodders being joined onstage by Algerian rebel-rocker Rachid Taha to perform an Arabic language version of the Cure's 'Killing An Arab' would have seemed like the stuff of a music press April Fool. But this is exactly what happened at the African Express show at the Olympia Theatre, Liverpool in March.

With more than 130 musicians fulfilling that promise so often made in live performance but so rarely fulfilled to 'play all night long' in a sequence of almost equally improbable combinations, this event was properly acclaimed as a triumph. Flushed with excitement at performing 'Take Me Out' with Baaba Maal, and a new song with Malian ngoni wizard Bassekou Kouyate, Franz Ferdinand guitarist Nick McCarthy enthused: 'Afrobeat is the new thing. Ethiopian mixes are everywhere. We're getting really into it...'

It was around this time that the canny Scots ensemble announced that their promising flirtation with Girls Aloud producer Brian Higgins was to remain unconsummated. In the quest to complete their long-awaited third album, Franz Ferdinand had opted instead to throw in their lot with the hip sound of the moment. 'Our new songs have an African feel,' McCarthy insisted. 'The whole album does.' Surely it can be only a matter of time before U2 announce their intention to record their new album in Morocco? Oh, wait a minute, that's already happened.

Readers can be forgiven a twinge of alarm at the prospect of having to listen to a generation of Anglophone rock aristocrats claiming that there has 'always been an African element to their music', but this unexpected turn of events should not be greeted too cynically. First, because - whether the bands concerned really believe it or not - there will always have been an African element to their music. Second, because, like the Vampire Weekend performance at ULU earlier this year, which only really caught alight after someone interrupted it by setting off a fire alarm (and the fact that Afro-indie éminence grise Damon Albarn was seen dropping his trousers at a security guard on the staircase shortly before this incident took place certainly didn't mean he had anything to do with it), this is one of those instances where the ringing of alarm bells actually signals that the best is yet to come.

Far from being a source of environmental anxiety, the faddishness that fuels the Afro-indie bandwagon is the basis of a positive kind of climate change. For if there is a unifying theme to the healthy aesthetic realignment that is currently under way in our understanding of African music, it's an acknowledgement - a celebration, even - of the fact that it is no more immune to the whims of fashion or the corruptions of the human ego than the sonic artistry of any other continent.

In the autumn of last year, a cluster of new bands - among them the Dirty Projectors and Yeasayer - began to irrigate the barren fields of New York's underground rock scene with the life-giving fluidity of Afrobeat. The coltish Foals were pawing the ground on this side of the Atlantic, but precocious Columbia University graduates Vampire Weekend were undisputed leaders of the pack. While this urbane Ivy League quartet's infectiously tuneful debut album was generally well-received, some of the critical responses showed just how much ground remained to be covered.

One UK national broadsheet reviewer observed regretfully that he was 'not sure if African music is as interesting as they think it is' (substitute 'American' for 'African', and imagine the band under discussion as, say, the Beatles, and the inherent absurdity of lumping a whole continent's music under a single banner in order to dismiss it as overrated rapidly becomes apparent). Q magazine began a generally favourable review with the bewilderingly callous observation that 'Africa is back on the rock'n'roll map, and for once no one's wheeling out starving toddlers covered in flies'.

How did it become socially acceptable to view African music as an exotic irrelevance and/or a tiresome reminder of the necessity for charitable giving? To make sense of this cultural aberration, it is necessary to get to grips with a historical process in which Live Aid is the end - rather than the beginning - of something beautiful, the 'world music' category gradually turns from an effective marketing strategy into a kind of wholemeal ghetto, and Live 8 is the final insult that begets a glorious new beginning.

Setting aside long-running arguments about where the blues originally came from, there are very few manifestations of modern popular music that cannot claim at least a partially African root-system. These subterranean links have a way of showing up in the most unlikely places, from the music of Nick Drake (whose classic debut album, Five Leaves Left, derived its sumptuous instrumental adornments from exiled South African jazz men) to the birth of hip hop (and the fact that Afrika Bambaataa got the idea for his Zulu Nation from watching Michael Caine in Zulu! only rendered the post-imperial complexity of this transaction more captivating).

If there was one period in pop history when African influences really came to the fore, it was amid the post-punk ferment of the late Seventies and early Eighties. While the Jon Hassell and Brian Eno collaboration may not have set the charts on fire, Eno's collaborations with David Byrne and Talking Heads combined with the buccaneering globalism of Malcolm McLaren's Duck Rock to institute a period of unprecedented cross-fertilisation that seems to have come to an end with Live Aid in 1985.

The idea that Live Aid marked the point at which the musical freshness of the early Eighties coagulated into something rather staler is implicitly addressed by Vampire Weekend. How else to explain their penchant for dropping sardonic lyrical references to Peter Gabriel and Benetton (both intrinsically - if not chronologically - 'post-Live Aid' phenomena) into music that gleefully accesses the less corporate 'pre-Live Aid' sensibilities of the Beat and Orange Juice? In comparison, the superstructure of Paul Simon's definitive 'post- Live Aid' Afro-pop crossover statement Graceland (1986) now feels as colonial as the architecture of Elvis's mansion.

The vital material succour which the proceeds from Live Aid's festival of good intentions brought to victims of famine in Ethiopia had unwelcome cultural side-effects. Not so much in Africa itself, as in the eyes of the British and American music industries, wherein it seems to have stigmatised not just Ethiopia, but the whole continent, as a place which somehow needed Queen and U2's help. If you wanted to find a single incident that summed up the regrettable contraction of musical horizons that took place in the years after Live Aid, it would probably be the moment on BBC2's Glastonbury coverage in 2003, when Jo Whiley expressed outright bewilderment at John Peel's assertion that the person he was really looking forward to seeing was Kanda Bongo Man. Over the past two decades, as the meaning of indie has mutated from Peel's conception of the word to Whiley's, its deracination from African root-systems has been virtually complete.

Nor has this just been a failing of the broadcast media. When the Melody Maker picked up the NME's discarded baton to style itself the intellectual vanguard of the British music press in the late Eighties and early Nineties, the African grounding which had been part of music's core curriculum throughout the previous decade somehow got lost in the shuffle. In the mid-late Eighties, Zimbabwe's the Bhundu Boys had been as integral a part of the teenage musical education as Billy Bragg, the Smiths or New Order. But by the time Melody Maker folded, leaving an ever more timid NME plodding on its wake, the days when it had put King Sunny Ade on its cover seemed so far off that it might has well have been a different paper.

As the indie establishment moved in one direction, the newly inaugurated 'world music' camp shifted in another. The excitement of the inaugural Womad festivals in the very early Eighties - Echo and the Bunnymen playing with the Burundi drummers, Peter Gabriel rescuing the whole noble enterprise from the brink of the fiscal abyss - had quickly coalesced into a more rigid organisational identity. And as 'world music' evolved from a record shop labelling strategy into something more like a lifestyle brand, the social and cultural baggage associated with the term was increasingly off-putting to those outside its charmed circle of pan-global righteousness.

Andy Kershaw's ominous drift from Radio 1 to Radio 3 exemplified world music's perceived shift from 'pop' to 'high' culture. The ultimate confirmation of Africa's alienation from the rock'n'roll mainstream came with Live 8, when Bob Geldof proudly - and apparently obliviously - announced the bill for a concert to raise awareness of the continent's economic situation which featured no actual Africans.

'I just thought that was insane,' remembers Ian Ashbridge, MD of Wrasse Records (home of many a competitively priced Fela Kuti reissue). The anger prompted first by Geldof's oversight and then by 'the awful apartheid corralling' of the subsequent, hastily organised 'Africans-only' sideshow at the Eden Project bore life-enhancing fruit in the form of the Africa Express coalition.

From an initial informal gathering of promoters, managers, journalists, and Damon Albarn (whose 2002 album Mali Music had been the exception that proved the rule in terms of indie indifference to the creative possibilities of an African entanglement), the germ of the Africa Express idea quickly began to ripen. Its first flowering was a riotous extended jam session in an out-of-the-way field at last year's Glastonbury. With some high profile consciousness-raising trips to Mali and Congo feeding into March's coming together in Liverpool, the harvest which might be reaped is only now beginning to become apparent.

Plans are being finalised for their most ambitious series of happenings to date: a spectacular sequence of inter-continental coups to unfold in the autumn. With the wholesale participation of Radio 1, NME, etc, guaranteed by the magnitude of the names involved, these events promise more than just a reprise of the early Eighties' happy convergence of Anglo-African musical interests. If the momentum can be kept up, they could bring African music closer to the centre of UK pop discourse than it's ever been before.

I remember going into African music heartland Stern's on the Euston Road three or four years ago - for the first time in more than a decade - and being shocked by how the atmosphere had degenerated. What was once a dynamic place to visit had become (in the course of 'world music"s shift from vibrant pop category to self-consciously worthy rump) a virtual aesthetic desert.

There was still plenty of great stuff in there, including an excellent biography of Congolese pop giant Franco, which recounted the way he used to eat an entire goat in front of his band without sharing it, just to show them who was boss (it is a little-known fact from the early days of Britpop that Damon Albarn used to do the same thing to Blur). The problem lay with the visual presentation: the prominent display of those horrible Putamayo world music compilations being a case in point. It's no accident that this series sounds like an imaginary Hispanic swear word: have you seen the covers they put on those things?

But venturing back to Stern's in 2008, the sensitive modern shopper can be assured of a much less traumatic experience. Landmark new recordings such as Konono No.1's amazing Congotronics (who would have guessed that the greatest electronic dance album of the 21st century so far would be recorded using home-made thumb-pianos and recycled car-parts?), Ali Farka Toure's sumptuous Savane, and Amadou & Mariam's multi-platinum breakthrough Dimanche a Bamako all boast their own distinct and stylish 'look'. And the wave of revelatory retrospective compilations making the last few years such a bounteous time for African music consumers set even higher design standards.

Talking (separately) to two of the men responsible - Mark Ainley of Honest Jons and Miles Cleret of Soundway - both make similarly discreet and carefully worded statements to the effect of 'world music people not having much taste in that area'. Alongside kindred spirits Francis Falceto (whose Éthiopiques series has included some of the most remarkable music released in any form over the past decade) and Samy Ben Redjeb (whose Analog Africa label's recent African Scream Contest is the most exuberant funk release of the year so far), these are currently redefining the African canon in the same way that great American song collectors like Harry Smith mapped out the landscape of the blues and folk revivals of the Sixties.

At a time when the idea of the album as something you can hold in your hands is supposed to be on its way out, there is something inspiring about Cleret, Ainley and co's tireless pursuit of the perfect artefact - whether that be a long-lost vinyl single hunted down in the back streets of Accra, or a reissue package crammed so full of visual and musical information that it functions as the perfect antidote to the cultural emptiness of the age of the free Coldplay download.

'These days it's more important than ever to try and make your records things of beauty,' maintains Cleret, whose Nigeria Special selections (see Charlie Gillett, page 66) - with their alluring combination of bright colours and 'pop-arty hand-done Letraset' - replay the exuberance of original Fela Kuti artwork through a distinctly post-punk sensibility.

Ainley, whose ear-opening London is the Place For Me series, and ongoing trawl through the EMI archives of the Twenties, have redefined our understanding of just how far back British pop music's African lineage stretches, illuminates his exquisitely packaged albums with fascinating polemical sleevenotes. 'It shouldn't just be about downloading a couple of songs and letting them blend in with everything else,' he explains. 'The impact music has on you will be so much richer if you make the effort to try and understand where it comes from and what it's trying to say.'

Both Cleret and Ainley have profound objections to the imposition of what the latter calls 'a Western idea of authenticity', which has often been at least the implicit goal of previous generations of African music evangelists.

'I remember the effect hearing James Brown or Jimi Hendrix for the first time had on me,' Cleret explains, 'and why should anyone in Africa be any different? If you're a 21-year-old student with a guitar, why wouldn't 'Sex Machine' or 'Voodoo Chile' have the same impact on someone living in Lagos as someone living in Liverpool? That's what makes music great - the amazing things that happen when people try and copy someone else and get it slightly wrong.'

With its marvellously wonky fusion of American soul and the ancient coronation music of Benin, Cleret's next release - Sir Victor Uwaifo's Guitar Boy Superstar 1970-76 - is a case in point. Talking to the 67-year-old Uwaifo (who is no more a 'real' sir than Duke Ellington was a real Duke) at his home in Benin City in Nigeria, the story of his career casts a damning light on the patronising idea that African music needs to be somehow separated off for its own protection from decadent Western pop.

Far from being the denizen of some exotic anthropological netherworld, Uwaifo inhabits a creative landscape that looks rather familiar. Having first learnt to play the guitar by copying Spanish flamenco records on a home-made instrument made from bicycle spokes and animal traps, he went on to earn Africa's first gold disc for selling over 100,000 copies of his biggest hit, 'Joromi', in the late Sixties. He now lives in a house called 'Superstar Highgate' (come back and try again when you've got a street named after you, Noel Gallagher) on Victor Uwaifo Avenue.

As well as a recording studio, this extensive property has its own hall of fame and chamber of horrors. If a generation of callow indie whippersnappers are about to take Sir Victor Uwaifo as the benchmark of what it means to be a proper rock star, nothing but good can come of it.

Soundtrack of my life: Youssou N'Dour

In :

Senegal's superstar tells Caspar Llewellyn Smith how he became a mate of the man others call God

The record that reminds me of Africa

Soro, Salif Keita (1987)

A great, great, great record. For the first time, an African artist managed to bring all the elements, the traditional and the modern, together to create what I call urban African music. Salif is from Mali and a decade older than me. I first knew of his work with Les Ambassadeurs, a famous group from Bamako; he had to struggle because he is an albino and because he comes from a royal family he wasn't meant to be a singer. But with that voice, it really would have been a disaster for the world if he hadn't made it. I'm proud to say we're friends now.

The record that reminds me of dancing

Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye (1982)

It's about the voice again. I first heard him when I was 14 or 15, when I used to go dancing. There was a club for teenagers in Dakar open from 5pm to 7pm, called the Matinee Disco. Later, Sexual Healing came out and it was a big hit in Senegal, and even though I couldn't understand the lyrics, because at the time I only spoke Wolof and French... well, I didn't have to understand them. Then when he died [Gaye was shot dead by his father in 1984] I found out more about him, and records like What's Going On, which also had a political message.

The first Western record that I loved

So, Peter Gabriel (1986)

After my first-ever show in London, Peter Gabriel came to my dressing room and told me he loved my voice. I knew of Genesis but I wasn't really aware of who he was. One of the technical people said: Do you know who that was? That was God ! So then I listened to his records, and I toured with him, and I became his friend. And of course I sang on In Your Eyes on this album. But thats not why I like it. It was the first Western pop record that really touched me deeply. And Peter, with his Real World label and the Womad festival, has done so much to support music from undeveloped countries.

The record that I played every day

Purple Rain, Prince (1984)

When Michael Jackson was really successful, and then Prince came along, there was a big debate among everyone I knew. And while I respect Michael Jackson, I was on Prince's side. For a couple of years at least, Id watch the film of Purple Rain or listen to the CD every other day. And then I saw him perform in Verona, in Italy, and I learnt a lot from him. I really liked the way he seemed to be enjoying himself on stage and acted with the audience. Unfortunately, in Africa, its not really been possible to stage big shows like that because of the money that's needed.
The record that alerted me to music's power

One Love, Bob Marley (1977)

I had an uncle who worked in a record store in downtown Dakar and one day he came round with a Bob Marley record and I thought it was really fantastic. At first I just liked the music, but then I started to be interested in the content, and the way in which he used the songs to carry a message. I have so much respect for him as one of the first big stars to come from an underdeveloped country. What about the connection between Rastafarianism and Ethiopia? Yes, even here in West Africa, we are asking ourselves the question.

Strange and possibly true
  • 1 Youssou started performing as a teenager, earning the nickname Le Petit Prince de Dakar, and by the age of 23 had his own group, the Super Etoile de Dakar.
  • 2 His duet with Neneh Cherry, 7 Seconds, was a huge global hit in 1994. He sang it again at Live8 when he performed in London, at the Eden Project and in Paris with Dido taking Neneh's part.
  • 3 He has twice been dropped by Western labels.
  • 4 Youssou is a member of a Sufi brotherhood and a follower of early 20th-century Senegalese poet and holy man Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba.
  • 5 Recently he toured America in the company of pianist Moncef Genoud, returning to Senegal to play a concert featuring jazz interpretations of his songs. The trip is documented in the forthcoming film Return to Goree .

Bio teasing

Sur le blog de The Intruder :


Tout ce qu'il faut savoir pour se procurer le livre.

Le plan média associé à l'entreprise.

Le livre sera en vente dans les tous prochains jours directement via Internet, référencé sur de très nombreux sites, et bien évidemment sur celui de l'éditeur. La biographie a été également référencée par Google. Les commandes pourront se faire en ligne directement auprès de LULU PUBLISHING.

Un site spécifique va être créé par Intruder consacré à la bio, une page spéciale contiendra des extraits et un historique délirant des événements qui en ont accompagné sa gestation (photos, anecdotes etc ...).