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19 juillet 2008

Why Sa Dingding has China in her hand

Sa Dingding:
'Every day in the Mongolian grasslands I heard the people singing. It told me that music is freedom'

The eccentric costumes, ethereal beauty and haunting music of Sa Dingding have already made her China's biggest pop star. Now she's set to take Britain by storm. The precociously talented Mongolian talks to Sue Steward about zithers, pompoms and pigs

In one of MTV China's most popular videos, a beautiful woman stands in a long red frock straight from a pre-Mao soirée in old Shanghai; around her, kung-fu monks dance and wave ostrich-feather fans, leaping Crouching Tiger-like through the air. This is Sa Dingding, China's biggest pop star, whose album has sold more than two million copies in Asia and who is the first Chinese singer in a long time to have caught the attention of Western audiences.

Sa Dingding is a precociously talented singer-songwriter, a skilful player of traditional instruments and an insatiable student of languages, speaking Mandarin, Mongolian, Tibetan, Sanskrit and English (all but English are woven into her songs). Her sumptuously quirky costumes, which she designs herself, make even Christian Lacroix's recent foray into the exotic look dull. Just as the silk robe she wears on the cover of the album is constructed from colours, patterns and textures symbolising different locations, eras and cultures, so her songs are stitched together from different musical worlds, in a web of electronic beats punctuated with patches of sharp colour from the traditional instruments. She reflects certain key aspects of the new China: alluring, photogenic, intriguing and controversial, looking at once to the past and the future.

Sa Dingding's popularity at home has elevated her above the cloned armies of pretty teen poplets in the Asian charts, and her songs have drawn some of the world's leading DJ-producers, including Paul Oakenfold and Full Phatt, whose electronic wizardry reinvented hits by Kylie, the Rolling Stones and Radiohead. Her album, 'Wan Wushen', or 'Alive', recently won a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award in the Asia-Pacific category, and later this month British audiences can see her at the world-music festival Womad and at the Albert Hall in London.

Sa Dingding was born in Inner Mongolia on 27 December 1983, the Year of the Pig. A more unlikely creature could not be suggested for this beautiful, pale-skinned star, but she is proud of their shared qualities: 'A pig is very silent and serious,' she says, sipping tea in her Kensington hotel room. 'Serious about one thing: eating!' Her giggle is a surprise because, like the pig, she comes across as rather serious. 'I focus on one thing and give myself up to it. For me it's music.' Her passion to bring back traditions banned during the Cultural Revolution follows changes in the Chinese national curriculum, reinstating the teaching of traditional music. Apart from singing and composing songs in several languages, choreographing her shows and designing her costumes, Sa Dingding also plays the 2,500-year-old guzheng zither. And all of this at the age of 24.

Even at 11am, in an anonymous beige hotel suite, Dingding's appearance is an art form, from the purple high-heeled ankle boots fringed with iridescent bird feathers to the multicoloured layers of silky fabrics and black, almost waist-length hair, parted into long, straight sections over her shoulders. Her long false eyelashes flicker around her eyes and she wears apple-sized turquoise pompoms dangling from her ears on colourful plaited threads. 'I made them with my mother,' she says. 'They're Mongolian.'

Sa Dingding's mother is a Mongolian doctor and her father a Han Chinese government official. When she was a baby her parents moved around China to find work, as was the convention, and left their daughter with her grandmother in Mongolia. 'I lived in the grasslands and played outside every day,' she says. 'And every day I heard the people singing; those days told me that music is freedom.' They wintered in a house in a small city and in spring returned to the grasslands, where they lived with several other families in a yurt. Her grandmother sang songs to the child about Genghis Khan and about the animals, and called her granddaughter ding ding (Sa is her mother's family name), which means 'best best' in Mongolian.

When she was six Dingding joined her parents as they moved around the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. When she was 17 they arrived in Beijing, where they all still live together. Those journeys created a passion for languages, music and costumes, which now feeds her work. But where is her heart these days? 'My heart is in another world,' she replies, 'because I have imagination - more imagination every day when I face my computer and my heart runs everywhere. I still miss travelling because it was freedom for me. When I came to the city and went to school I didn't get used to it, but I used music and philosophy to relax, and expressed my emotions through my songs. Later I felt in my heart the grasslands, the buildings, the skies, the city, and when I opened my imagination I found the space again.' Her other way of finding space is reading old Chinese texts, she says. 'I want to reveal the "ancient time" to the young people, through my music.'

At college in Beijing her reputation for singing and dancing led to a suggestion from a producer that she enter a televised singing contest. 'It was very exciting to sing songs and dance on television,' she says, grinning. Aged 18 she won the competition and was voted best dance-music singer in China, but, instead of following the usual route into popdom, she started writing her own songs.

One song, Oldster by Xilin River, is a typical mix of old and new, blending heart-rending melodies on a traditional horse-hair fiddle with a child's singing (perhaps representing the young Dingding) and electronic effects. Intriguingly, she sings in her 'self-created language', a conglomeration of imitated, remembered and invented words used to capture a mood. She says she creates it by 'searching into my deep memory and emotions, for the language my grandma used to talk to me', and also from languages heard in her travels. She transcribes the lyrics phonetically for the album, short fragments resembling jazz scat lyrics, equally near-nonsensical and yet perfectly understandable.

She also sings in Tibetan and wears a dress constructed from imitation prayer flags to match her hypnotic singing of a Buddhist mantra. We meet the day after the riots in Paris over the arrival of the Olympic torch there, so I ask if she saw the news coverage. After a discussion with her interpreter, Dingding says that she would have seen it on the news in China, 'because everyone is caring about it', but she had been on the plane. A comment she made during an interview in April, saying she supported the Chinese government's policies, apparently led to Glastonbury dropping her as an act on the grounds that she was too 'controversial'. This time she treads a delicate path and refuses to be drawn on the issue. While she is happy to embrace Tibetan culture in her music, it seems it is too risky for a rising Chinese music star to comment on her country's policies (in fact, in many ways Dingding is actually in line with the new official directive promoting 'minority' cultures - which is reflected in the recent appearance of young Mongolian and Tibetan bands in the capital). She is also rumoured to be appearing at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, which could bring her closer to her declared ambition to 'take music out of China into the whole world'.

She is an intriguing mix: wearing Mongolian pompom earrings modelled on those of Genghis Khan's time; playing a guzheng zither with a 2,500-year history; recording with cutting-edge DJs; wanting to conquer the Western music market, yet so conscious of her country's history it feeds everything she does. As Dingding rises from her chair with the grace of an emperor's daughter, moving on to the next of 37 European press interviews, I ask if she dreamed as a child of being a pop star. She explodes into laughter with an emphatic 'No!' then adds, 'But one day I signed my name on a piece of paper, and when my mother asked me what I was doing I answered, "I sign my name for my fans!" I was 10! I didn't know the definition of a fan, of course, but I was a fan of Michael Jackson.'

  • Sa Dingding is performing at the Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (, on 30 July. Her album, 'Alive' (£10.99), is out now
  • Peter's passion

    By Andy Welch, Yorshire Evening Post

    The World Of Music, Arts And Dance, or WOMAD as it's known, is an annual gathering which hosts, as its title might suggest, the very best performers from all corners of the globe. The festival was pioneered by former Genesis frontman and world music aficionado Peter Gabriel and a group of like-minded friends, who staged the first WOMAD in 1982 in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, and attracted 15,000 people.

    The festival found a new home in Reading, Berkshire, not long after, and 2007 saw the nomadic WOMAD up sticks once again and move to Malmesbury in Wiltshire. The latest site, argues Gabriel, will provide the festival, already the world's largest with events in more than 20 countries around the world, even more opportunity to grow.

    "It's about twice the size of the old place, particularly with the extra land we've been given this year, so we are able to do more things,"
    explains Peter. There will be more workshops, more stuff happening with the food, more stalls and better camping too. This year, we've also got a bit of a spa happening too, so you can either relax or clean up," he says, smiling. "It's growing, and the new site is a great place for us to be based. There are more opportunities, even though the people in Reading were great partners."

    Like most other festivals last summer, WOMAD suffered from appalling weather, but at Charlton Park this year, campsites will be on higher ground, and a track has been built allowing access for all vehicles.

    "We were renamed WOMUD last year because we were drowning in the stuff, but with a few new provisions this year, we should be in good shape even if we are hit by the weather.
    The site is such a beautiful site, with the trees and the big house there. It's going to be a great home for us."

    As in past years, this year's festival has a wide and diverse mix of music on offer, from disco godfathers Chic and critics' favourite Martha Wainwright, through to Dengue Fever, who are a group of Cambodian rockers based in Los Angeles, and Senegalese singer Wasis Diop.

    "There are lots of people I'm looking forward to seeing, but I was introduced to a band called Speed Caravan earlier this year, and think they're brilliant,"
    says Peter. "Mehdi Haddab from Speed Caravan is a bit like the Jimi Hendrix of the (11-stringed pear-shaped Arabic instrument, similar to a lute] oud. He really is unbelievable. Rachid Taha (an Algerian-French singer] has a similar vibe, but he's less about the playing, really, and Sharon Shannon who has a great Irish big band featuring Shane MacGowan," he continues, enthusiastically. "Chic are also playing. I've seen them before, they did a benefit concert for us a while back, and I've known Nile Rodgers a long time. He's an amazing groove player, and their set will be chock full of hits. That's just Friday night! Shall I keep going?"

    Other big names on the bill include dub pioneer Lee 'Scratch' Perry, reggae singer Eddy Grant, reformed new-wavers Squeeze, American singer songwriter Devon Sproule, and Mercury Prize-winner Roni Size And Reprazent, all of whom will be playing alongside relatively unknown artists from all over the world.

    "The idea is that there's a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar,"
    explains Peter. "We're making much more of the food element at the festival this year too. There'll be a 'food of the world' kind of thing, so you can taste all these amazing, new flavours while hearing amazing new sounds," he continues, before talking about the family-oriented nature of WOMAD - a mission statement he and the other organisers outlined from day one.

    "Families are a big part of what we do, and we're proud that parents can feel safe to let their kids play on the site, which they don't often do at a lot of festivals.
    People are happy with there not being so many people out of their heads as well," he says."One of our main goals has always been about introducing the kids to new things. If children get used to being introduced to different flavours from around the world, and different sounds and cultures, then they'll hopefully be comfortable in whatever world they find themselves in when they're older, and retain that curiosity, enthusiasm and open-mindedness. I think it was a passion for the music that got us going in the first place, but now more than anything else, the festival is about unity, and just shows the stupidity of racism."

    Now in its 26th year, WOMAD in the UK is undoubtedly a successful enterprise, with spin-off workshops and summer schools taking place in Bath, where children and adults can learn various musical styles from experts.

    More than 20 countries, including the USA, Spain, New Zealand and Australia, where it's the nation's largest outdoor event, have staged their own WOMAD festivals, while the organisation was involved in their own Live8 concert Africa Calling – and the Sri Lankan Festival Of The Drum. The WOMAD brand has now staged or been involved in more than 150 festivals since it began.

    "When we started WOMAD, I think we were just young people exploring our dreams, and we were planning to take over the world,"
    says Gabriel."The fact it managed to survive through potential disaster, and that we've managed to keep going and build it in so many countries, is just wonderful."

    takes place in Charlton Park, Malmesbury in Wiltshire between July 25 and July 27. Tickets are still available, for information go to

    Rossy ou le retour triomphal au pays

    par Bruno Mascle, la Nouvelle Republique

    Il s'appelle Paul-Bert Rahasimanana. Mais le petit peuple malgache dont il est l'idole ne le connaît que sous son nom de scène : Rossy. Une idole ? Un dieu vivant plutôt. Après six longues années d'exil, l'artiste domicilié à Issoudun, a retrouvé la terre de ses fans et de ses ancêtres au printemps dernier. Comme prévu, le retour au pays a été grandiose.

    Rossy, enfant pauvre du quartier de Mahamasina à Antananarivo, la capitale d'un pays un peu plus grand que la France, comptant 18 millions d'habitants. Porte-parole d'une musique colorée et rythmée, l'artiste a fait sien cet accordéon apporté dans leurs valises par les anciens colons français. Peter Gabriel a été son producteur et ami. L'ancien président malgache Didier Ratsiraka en a aussi fait son conseiller culturel. Mais quand sonne l'heure de la difficile transition de 2002 avec l'arrivée au pouvoir de Marc Ravalomanana, Rossy n'a d'autre issue que le départ vers la France.

    Chez lui, Rossy était en danger. En France, il n'est qu'un étranger parmi d'autres. Imaginez un peu Johnny Hallyday dans le deux-pièces d'un quartier de New-York, coupé de tout ce qui a fait sa splendeur et sa célébrité. Rossy à Paris puis à Châteauroux, c'est exactement pareil. Mais l'homme a un sacré caractère. Issoudun sera bientôt son nouveau port d'attache. Il va s'y reconstruire et recommencer à parler d'avenir.

    L'avenir, ce seront des tournées à destination de la communauté malgache française, un formidable mais trop bref festival international d'accordéon à Issoudun puis un conte pour enfants. Lors d'un premier et discret retour à « Mada » en septembre 2007, Rossy peut mesurer l'étendue intacte de sa popularité. Mais le meilleur est encore à venir…

    “ Tu reviens quand à Madagascar ? ”

    Dans l'une des chansons de l'album produit en octobre 2007 baptisé « Ins Vaovao » (NDLR : Quoi de neuf), Rossy pose avec malice les questions qui lui sont adressées de son pays natal. « Il paraît que tu es milliardaire. Il paraît que tu es chauffeur livreur. Il paraît que tu es sans papier. » Rien de tout cela. L'homme qui a obtenu entre-temps la nationalité française ne roule pas sur l'or mais il ne vit pas dans la misère. Il tient à le faire savoir. Pas trop difficile. Dans les colonnes des quotidiens malgaches « La Vérité », « Les Nouvelles » et « l'Express », son nom et sa tête sont partout. « Rossy, tu reviens quand ? » Un peu de patience…

    Oui, Rossy veut revenir. Mais lors d'une conférence de presse organisée tout spécialement, le ministre malgache de la culture déclare « que ce retour n'est pas opportun. » Il aurait mieux fait de se taire. S'il est difficile de parler de liberté de la presse à Madagascar, le pays dispose malgré tout d'une nouvelle génération de journalistes courageux. Face au tollé médiatique, le ministre devra démissionner. Et la présidence sera dans l'obligation de lâcher du lest. Rossy peut revenir. A une seule et unique condition : pas de déclaration politique durant son séjour…

    Ce séjour a eu lieu en mai et en juin. L'occasion de concerts monstres. 15.000 personnes à Nosy Be, encore plus à Fianarantsoa. Le summum sera atteint à « Tana » le 26 juin, jour de la Fête de l'indépendance. Après avoir épuisé le stock de billets, les organisateurs sont obligés de vendre les souches ! 50.000 personnes en transe garnissent le plus grand stade de la capitale. Paul-Bert Rahasimanana a fait mieux que le pape !

    Promis, juré, il y retournera. En attendant, Rossy a retrouvé la quiétude issoldunoise avec un plaisir non dissimulé. « En France, j'ai découvert la tranquillité. C'est bien aussi. » Rossy est devenu « taiseux. » Presque un vrai berrichon…

    18 juillet 2008

    Vampire Weekend bites back

    By Brian Towie/Metro News

    Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut has drawn comparisons to Paul Simon’s Graceland.

    Vampire Weekend faces the danger of getting killed with kindness.

    Sources in the know have gushed over the four Ivy League preppies from New York — named by Spin Magazine as “The Year’s Best New Band” in their March 2008 issue — and how they’ve appropriated African sounds into their perky, self-titled indie pop release. The album earned ubiquitous comparisons with Paul Simon’s 1986 Grammy Award-winning Graceland, a work he recorded in South Africa that featured several of that country’s artists. But Vampire Weekend accepts the praise “with a grain of salt,” says keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij. One can easily tell the band frets that the “world music” label the press has given them, and that the Columbia University grads consider inaccurate, might stick.

    “F—k them!” he says over the phone from Utrecht, Holland. “I’ve read stuff about us that the press has written and half the time they don’t know what they’re talking about. Parts of it are definitely inspired by African music and world beat, but we think it sounds pretty Western. It’s a blitz: You can’t go anywhere without hearing someone’s opinion and everyone wants to respond to what’s said about them.”

    Possibly a much more difficult handle to rebuke given recent events: World beat maestro Peter Gabriel released a cover of Vampire Weekend’s single Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa — VW’s version made Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the Year — as a response to the band dropping the ex-Genesis member’s name to hand-drummed Congloese dance music, Kenyan benga beats and off-time guitar licks. Batmanglij says British electro-pop act Hot Chip provides the instrumentals while Gabriel lends vocals.

    “It’s pretty surreal to hear him (Gabriel) cover us because he’s so huge,” Batmanglij said. “But I think it’s cool. You get the feel of his music in the cover.”

    In the meantime, the band has set to work penning songs for their sophomore effort, experimenting with two new tracks at the recent Bonaroo and Glastonbury festivals. Batmanglij says the second will have less of an afro-beat, but will still feature an eclectic mosaic of various global styles — one features a back-up six-string for frontman Ezra Koenig, and an electric backing track. For Batmanglij, a return home to record might be the most welcome part of it all.

    “We’re interested in plurality in our music and combining points of view,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be different, and we’re looking forward to getting back to New York to do it. Since the album came out, we’ve had this ‘out-of-town’ lifestyle. It’s hard to justify paying my rent.”

    The world descends on Wiltshire

    in :

    This year's Womad will have the most eclectic line-up in its history, reports Tim Cumming

    Womad 2008 has a lot to live up to as it enters its second quarter-century. In 2007, it moved to its current site at Charlton Park, a 17th-century pile in 4,500 idyllic acres near Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

    More than 70 acts from 40 countries will pass through its gates for the three days of the festival. Everyone involved, from Womad founder Peter Gabriel to the festival crews, must be praying to the gods of global gatherings for no repeat of last summer's quagmire. "Not so much offering a taste of the world, but providing a glimpse of the end of it," grumbled one festival-goer. Others were critical of some obvious teething problems in the new site.

    So getting it right for 2008 has been a priority. On the BBC's Points West news, Gabriel said they'd had to rethink everything. "We've got a bigger chunk of Charlton Park, and that will help a lot." They're on higher ground, too. "And I think we'll get better weather. It couldn't get any worse than last year, when it became Womud. And, musically, I think it's one of the best festivals ever."

    Not everyone agrees; there's been sniping at what some see as mainstream pop. "Squeeze, Chic, Eddy Grant, Boy George... You did say you were going to Womad, not TOTP2?" someone posted on Charlie Gillett's web forum.

    But world music is not only a roots music encompassing the traditional and indigenous. Traditions get bent and amalgamated as they clash with change, technology, and innovation. "Fusion" is not always a bad word.

    Son de la Frontera combine Cuban tres guitar with flamenco and Moorish influences, to remarkable effect. Rachid Taha exerts a strong crossover appeal. You can find the drum'n'bass of Roni Size and Reprazent on street stalls in Morocco alongside Tinariwen or Toumani Diabaté. Why shouldn't a Guyanan pop singer like Eddy Grant play on a bill alongside Diabaté? Womad is not solely about cultural purity.

    In April, it was reported that Womad's artistic programmer from its inception, Thomas Brooman, had stepped down. Programming was completed by Paula Henderson with Gabriel himself sending out the invitations. It may be coincidental, but Boy George was dropped not long afterwards – though Seventies disco band Chic remain. "They're playing on Friday night," affirms Gabriel. "Many people will remember their hits, but it's also got Nile Rodgers, who I worked with as a producer, and they're just great songs and an extraordinary group of musicians."

    And there's plenty of variety elsewhere. "Not all the artists will appeal to everyone," Gabriel says, "but I challenge anyone to come and not find someone or something to inspire them."

    Artists he highlights include the swampish Cambodian-West Coast psychedelia of Dengue Fever. "And on Sunday, we have the legendary Orchestra Baobab"; not only the full band on the main stage, but a stripped-down acoustic version playing the Radio 3 stage later in the day. "Orchestra Baobab were really well known and then people forgot about them. Now they're back in a more mature, reformed mode," Gabriel says.

    There's also Adrian Sherwood teaming up with Lee "Scratch" Perry and blues player Little Axe on Thursday night. The Malian kora player Diabaté performs at dusk in the Siam Tent, and Sharon Shannon leads a ceilidh with the aid of Shane MacGowan and Damien Dempsey on Friday. "And on Saturday we have the wonderful Martha Wainwright," Gabriel says.

    And there's Sufi Night. Beginning at 10.30pm on Saturday, a trio of performers including Sheikh Taha, the Egyptian Sufi singer, will take the audience in the Siam Tent deep into the early hours.

    Sunday closes with the Afrobeat grooves of Seun Kuti fronting his father Fela's Egypt 80 orchestra. Kuti is coming into his own with a forthcoming debut album to mix in with a selection of his father's classics.

    One busy artist will be guitarist and producer Justin Adams, performing in his Soul Science trio with Gambian griot Juldeh Camara and English percussionist Saleh Dawson Miller. He's also heading the closing gala and tutoring at the Womad summer school. One focus of his tutorials reflects the fan debates on the programme. "I'll be looking at the debates about modernity vs tradition and authenticity vs non-authenticity and innovation. I have opinions and experiences on those questions," Adams says. Eddy Grant and the Frontline Orchestra are on his to-see list. "He's a bit of a legend in my eyes, though people might think, 'God, that's not very authentic or obscure.'"

    But if you want obscure, it's there, with a range of artists playing in the UK for the first time. There's Wasis Diop, the golden-voiced Senegalese singer, and Terakaft, a kind of Tuareg band.

    When the music's over, there's always the World of Wellbeing (yoga, sushi, English tea) and a spa in which to relax, rest, get a massage or get your hair done. The Global Village houses a cornucopia of food, drink, merchandise and merchants, and the Fifties fairground pumps out rock'n'roll.

    Like Gabriel, Adams points to the sheer variety of musical experiences at the festival. You don't have to visit the main stage at all. "The great thing about Womad is that, even after all these years and all the things I've seen, there's always a surprise or two, and something to really knock me off my feet. So I'm sure there'll be things I know nothing about, and it'll be great."

    Womad takes place at Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire from 25 to 27 July (

    As the official media partner for Womad, 'The Independent' and Womad are offering 15 per cent off the standard ticket price (£125) when ordering weekend tickets, plus entry in a draw for 25 pairs of tickets to attend an exclusive Dengue Fever concert at Real World Studios and Womad in Bath, hosted by Peter Gabriel.

    To book your festival tickets and to receive the 15 per cent discount, visit or call 0845 146 1755 quoting 'Independent Womad 15 per cent off weekend tickets offer'


    The Algerian-French rai-rocker recalls young Elvis in his rebellious charisma and wild dancing. You don't need to speak Arabic to hear the earthy rebellion in his growl, whether he's singing traditional Maghreb songs or reclaiming The Clash's attack on fundamentalist Islam as "Rock El Casbah".
    Mali's kora master honed his skill for two decades before the virtuoso Mande Variations confirmed the instrument's breakthrough as a major instrument. The lightning improvisation in subsequent gigs showed the album was no accident. Diabaté's work with Taj Mahal, Damon Albarn and Björk confirms his questing spirit.

    Chic's influential bassist Bernard Edwards died in 1996, but surviving founder Nile Rodgers still owns the patent on New York disco with the accent on sinuous funk and fun. "Everybody Dance", "I Want Your Love", "Good Times" and "Le Chic" will be the inevitable crowd-pleasing highlights. Studio 54 in the West Country.

    When the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan of Pakistan sang mesmerising devotional music through until dawn in 1985, it was one of the great Womad nights. This sequel sees Pakistani, Egyptian and Uzbek musicians draw together wider strains of Sufi Islam's mystic sounds. It's the sort of mind-expanding trip only Womad supplies.

    Saturday's headliner has more 1980s reggae anthems than you remember, including "Give Me Hope Jo'anna" and "Electric Avenue". His new secret weapon is the Frontline Orchestra, band of murdered South African star Lucky Dube.

    Nick Hasted

    17 juillet 2008

    Real World Peter Gabriel, biographie

    Paru chez Lulu :

    Real World Peter Gabriel, biographie par Franck Buioni

    * Livre Broché €18.50

    * Téléchargé €10.00

    Imprimé: 288 pages, 6" x 9", perfect reliure, noir et blanc encre intérieure

    Téléchargement: 1 documents, 587 KB

    Description: Cette évocation de la carrière de Peter Gabriel permet au narrateur de mettre en avant les fantastiques talents de l’artiste anglais. Devenu célèbre grâce à Genesis, dont il était le leader charismatique, Peter Gabriel décida brutalement de quitter le groupe et entama une carrière solitaire, incapable d’assumer plus longtemps un statut de rock star prévisible. Dès lors, s’amorçait une orientation prodigieuse, qui permettra à Peter Gabriel de collaborer avec les plus grands, que ce soit sur un plan purement musical mais aussi scénique, combinant habilement tous les supports technologiques pour parfaire ses explorations artistiques dans les domaines les plus divers : électronique, vidéo, informatique et Internet. L’auteur met en exergue l’aspect humaniste de l’artiste, ses engagements visionnaires dans un « real world » en pleine mutation, et l’actualité ayant accompagné son parcours atypique.

    WOMAD Festival In Gabriel's Words

    By Peter Gabriel, for Sky News Online

    Peter Gabriel helped launch the WOMAD world music festival back in the early 1980s. Peter Gabriel has performed at WOMAD Festivals through the years. Since then it's become an event not just in the UK, but in venues around the globe. The latest celebration of 'World Of Music, Arts and Dance' is held next weekend in Charlton Park, in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. Here Gabriel writes for Sky News Online on how this year's Womad will be one of the best ever... :

    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. I rang around a few friends I knew were into music and floated the idea. We were a bunch of rank amateurs, really. I brought people like Africa's Drummers of Burundi over to the UK to perform. I never made a penny but I didn't expect to.

    Cynical business-minded people said we'd never survive and a couple of times they were nearly right.
    But we're still here, 26 years on. This will be the second year at our new home in Wiltshire's Charlton Park. It's a fantastic venue in a beautiful location. This year they have very kindly let us have more land and we've put measures in place to improve and enhance the site.

    Musically, this is one of the best festivals we've ever had, and I don't always say that.
    There are very many I want to watch including Orchestra Baobab, Martha Wainwright and the rocking Algerian-French trio, Speed Caravan. We've got 70 artists from over 30 countries so there's something for everyone of every age. I challenge anyone not to find something on the bill that inspires and moves them.

    There is stuff for a really wide range of tastes.
    WOMAD is now a very successful model that travels to other countries around the world. No other festivals to my knowledge have been able to do that. There is something really special that people find in WOMAD that they don't find in other festivals.

    festivals have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists; they 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 and Karl Wallinger - In Conversation at Charlton Park

    On :

    WOMAD is thrilled to announce that Peter Gabriel and Karl Wallinger will be taking part in the In Conversation sessions at this year's WOMAD Charlton Park. They will be playing tracks from upcoming Real World release, Big Blue Ball, and discussing how the project has evolved since its inception in the early '90s.

    18 years in the making, Big Blue Ball is an album of wonderful and unexpected musical collaborations between The Holmes Brothers, Billy Cobham, Joseph Arthur, Iarla O'Lionaird, Deep Forest, Hukwe Zawose, Natacha Atlas, Papa Wemba, Sinead O'Connor, Joji Hirota, Guo Yue, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger and more.

    You can catch Peter and Karl from 16.15-17.00 on Friday in Little Sicily.

    Toumani Diabaté, David D'Or, Celso Alvin from Monobloco, Wasis Diop, and members of Orchestra Baobab and Siyaya are also confirmed for this year's In Conversation sessions.

    Get the Big Blue Ball CD in advance of its official release date (on July 28) - on sale in the on-site WOMAD Shop. Plus, buy the WOMAD Souvenir Programme and get a £2-off voucher!

    16 juillet 2008

    Peter Gabriel collabore avec 75 artistes pour son album "Big Blue Ball"

    Après seize ans de gestation et trois ans d’enregistrement, Peter Gabriel publie dans l’Hexagone son projet : Big Blue Ball.

    Ce disque, qui réunit 75 artistes de 20 pays dont Sinead O’Connor, Joji Hirota, Natacha Atlas, Billy Cobham, Papa Wemba, Juan Canizares, est issu des sessions légendaires qui se sont déroulées dans les années 90 dans les studios de Peter Gabriel. L’album paraîtra le 31 juillet prochain sur son label Real World et sera distribué en France par Harmonia Mundi.

    "Mon idée était de confronter des musiciens de rock à des artistes du monde entier. Aujourd’hui, c’est comme un bon vin prêt à être bu. Et c’est la musique que je me suis le plus amusé à faire", précise Peter Gabriel dans un communiqué de presse.

    L’artiste britannique a débuté son projet en 1992 lors d’une "recording week" dans ses studios de Real World. Pendant plusieurs années, de nombreux artistes comme Karl Wallinger, Sinead O’Connor, Tim Finn, Joseph Arthur, Natacha Atlas, Papa Wemba, The Holmes Brothers, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Manu Katché, Vernon Reid, Billy Cobham, Arona N’Diaye, Jah Wobble, Sevara Nazarkhan, Hukwe Zawose, Juan Cañizares, Francis Bebe, Marta Sebestyen, Eric Mouquet, Michel Sanchez, Alex Faku, Joji Hirota, Wendy Melvoin, Hossam Ramzy, Andy White ou Guo Yue se sont succédés dans ses studios, improvisant des duos surprenants. L’album Big Blue Ball compte 11 titres qui offrent un véritable voyage dans l’univers de la world music. Peter Gabriel, chef d’orchestre de ce projet, propose des rencontres originales. Dans cet opus, la chanteuse irlandaise Sinead O’Connor chante avec le percussionniste japonais Joji Hirota tandis que Papa Wemba rencontre le guitariste flamenco Juan Canizares.

    Le premier single extrait de cet album concept s’intitule Whole Thing. Le disque de Peter Gabriel, co-produit par l’artiste lui-même ainsi que Karl Wallinger (ex-Waterboys et World Party) et Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys, O.M.D.) sera officiellement lancé lors du festival Womad en Angleterre à la fin du mois de juillet. Invité d’honneur au Midem en janvier 2008, Peter Gabriel est considéré comme un artiste complet particulièrement avant-gardiste, notamment dans les nouveaux modèles digitaux.

    Tracklisting :
    - 1. Whole Thing (Original Mix) (featuring Francis Bebey, Alex Faku, Tim Finn, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger, Andy White)
    - 2. Habibe (featuring Natacha Atlas, Hossam Ramzy, Neil Sparkes)
    - 3. Shadow (featuring Juan Cañizares, Papa Wemba)
    - 4. Altus silva (featuring Joseph Arthur, Ronan Browne, Deep Forest, James McNally, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Vernon Reid)
    - 5. Exit Through You (featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger)
    - 6. Everything Comes From You (featuring Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Sevara Nazarkhan, Sinead O’Connor, Guo Yue)
    - 7. Burn You Up, Burn You Down (featuring Billy Cobham, Peter Gabriel, The Holmes Brothers, Wendy Melvoin, Arona N’diaye, Jah Wobble)
    - 8. Forest (featuring Levon Minassian, Arona N’Diaye, Vernon Reid, Hukwe Zawose)
    - 9. Rivers (featuring Vernon Reid, Marta Sebestyen, Karl Wallinger)
    - 10. Jijy (featuring Arona N’Diaye, Rossy, Jah Wobble)
    - 11. Big Blue Ball (featuring Peter Gabriel, Manu Katché, Karl Wallinger)

    Peter Gabriel & Friends, Big Blue Ball
    Sortie : le 31 juillet
    Real World/Harmonia Mundi
    Site officiel :

    Peter Gabriel's WITNESS in association with Concordia University Co-Host Global Convening of 30 Human Rights Activists

    MONTREAL, July 15 /CNW Telbec/ - WITNESS, the human rights organization co-founded by musician and activist Peter Gabriel, is proud to return to Montreal July 20-August 2, 2008 for the 2nd Annual Video Advocacy Institute (VAI), a unique and innovative program that will train 30 global human rights defenders to use video as a tool for advocacy and social change.

    The VAI will be held in association with Concordia University's Communication Studies Program and Documentary Centre, where WITNESS has found a true ally and unparalleled support for the its mission to empower people with technical and strategic training in the use of video to create change.

    The VAI will provide an immersive introduction in video advocacy - filming, editing, and strategic online and offline distribution - for a group of 30 human rights advocates from around the globe working on some of the most challenging issues facing our world. Participants include: Shaka Ceesay from Gambia who is campaigning to end the practice of female genital mutilation;
    Parimala Devi Narayanasamy who is working on improving labor conditions for migrant domestic workers in Malaysia; and Debora Diniz Rodrigues who wants to bring attention to the vulnerability of people living in psychiatric prisons in Brazil.

    For more than 15 years, WITNESS has worked with thousands of human rights defenders in over 70 countries providing video equipment, training and support so that human rights abuses are brought to the attention of key decision makers, concerned citizens and the media.

    For the complete press release, please visit:

    For further information: Su Patel, WITNESS, (718) 783-2000 ext. 316,; Source: Tanya Churchmuch, Concordia University, (514)
    848-2424 ext. 2518, Cell: (514) 518-3336,

    Le retour de Peter Gabriel

    sur Mint "la musique a meilleure goût" radio pop-rock écoute en ligne

    Cela fait 15 ans que Peter Gabriel rêvait de sortir “Big Blue Ball”. L’album est enfin sorti fin juin aux USA, il sortira le 28 juillet chez nous. Album concept, il s’agit des collaborations datant de différentes époques, on retrouve des duos avec : Billy Cobham, Joseph Arthur, Deep Forest, Natacha Atlas, Papa Wemba, Sinead O’Connor.

    WITNESS, fondé par Peter Gabriel, et l'Université Concordia réunissent 30 défenseurs des droits humains

    MONTREAL, le 15 juill. /CNW Telbec/ - WITNESS, organisme de défense des droits de la personne fondé par le musicien et activiste Peter Gabriel, revient cette année encore à Montréal, du 20 juillet au 2 août 2008, dans le cadre du Video Advocacy Institute (VAI), qui réunit trente militants internationaux autour du thème : la vidéo, instrument de changement social.

    Ce programme unique et novateur est organisé en collaboration avec le Département de communication et le Centre du documentaire de l'Université Concordia qui soutiennent la mission de WITNESS : donner du pouvoir aux citoyens en les initiant aux techniques de la vidéo pour accélérer le changement. Une trentaine de vidéoactivistes préoccupés par certains des problèmes les plus graves de la planète suivront ce programme qui abordera les techniques de tournage et de montage ainsi que la diffusion stratégique en ligne et hors ligne. Parmi les participants : Shaka Ceesay de Gambie, qui milite contre la mutilation des organes génitaux des femmes; Parimala Devi Narayanasamy, qui lutte pour l'amélioration des conditions de travail des travailleurs domestiques migrants en Malaysie et Debora Diniz Rodrigues, qui attire l'attention du public sur la vulnérabilité des personnes internées dans les prisons psychiatriques au Brésil.

    Depuis 15 ans, WITNESS procure à des milliers de défenseurs des droits humains de plus de 70 pays matériel vidéo, la formation et soutien afin de sensibiliser les principaux décideurs, les citoyens engagés et les médias sur les violations des droits de la personne.

    Pour obtenir le communiqué de presse intégral, visitez le site :

    Renseignements: Su Patel, WITNESS, (718) 783-2000, poste. 316,; Source: Nadia Kherif, Conseillère en relations médias, (514) 848-2424, poste 4187, Cel.: (514) 262-0909,

    15 juillet 2008

    One huge effort

    By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times

    Peter Gabriel’s album of world music had to wait while his social activism, Web businesses and other music took precedence.

    LOS ANGELES OK, so cut Peter Gabriel some slack for taking too long to finish an album: Big Blue Ball, a long-simmering world music project he launched back in 1991, that finally surfaced last week.

    In the intervening 17 years, Gabriel has released four other collections of his music; launched an innovative United Kingdom-based music download Web site (; continued nurturing WOMAD, the world music and dance festival he initiated in 1982 and started a lifestyle-driven site (

    He also assembled The Elders, a group of about a dozen veteran world leaders, including former South African President Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, with the aim of bringing their collective experience to bear on the planet Earth’s social and political problems.

    Meanwhile, Big Blue Ball sat. And sat. And sat. But, in truth, partly because of Gabriel’s many other interests and commitments. In some respects, it’s taken nearly two decades for Gabriel and his collaborators to get a lasso around this large-scale effort.

    Over the course of four years, Gabriel threw open the doors of his Real World recording studios for a week at a time, 24 hours a day. That way, musicians he’d invited from around the world to participate in WOMAD would have a forum to collaborate during the course of that event on new sounds and new ideas, unencumbered by geographical, musical or budgetary limitations.

    Big Blue Ball features collaborations between Gabriel and U.S. roots-gospel group the Holmes Brothers (on the album’s first single, “Burn You Up, Burn You Down”), Irish singer Iarla O Lionaird and Papa Wemba’s Congolese band and Japanese percussionist Joji Hirota with Sinead O’Connor.

    About half the songs are sung in English; others are in Arabic, Congolese, Hungarian, Swahili and Madagascar languages.

    It’s eclectic, but there’s a rhythmic pulse to the tracks that underscores the many-cultures, one-world idea behind the project.

    “We knew we only had this collection of people for a limited time, some of them for just two or three days,” Gabriel said from his Real World headquarters in the countryside west of London. “So we decided to spend all time recording and performing and waste none of the time sorting it out. With the many, many tapes, which we were still using in those days, it was a bit of a nightmare.”

    Engineer Richard Chappell, who worked on virtually all the sessions, recalled that “in the first year, nobody quite knew what to do. In the second year, people started to get more excited about what was happening, and by the third time people had really figured it out. We’d have up to 20 different recording sessions going on in various places at the same time. If it wasn’t raining, there’d be people set up outside with portable studios.”

    Gabriel gave the task of sorting through mountains of raw material to Stephen Hague, who has produced albums by Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams and others, Chappell and mixing engineer Tchad Blake.

    “There were a lot of wonderful performances,” Hague said, “but a lot of them were really unformed … My background is more in contemporary pop music, and I’m a real structuralist. My goal was to try to get these things to read from beginning to end, and in the end, I think the album reflects that.”

    Gabriel and his main Big Blue Ball partner, Karl Wallinger of World Party, were more interested in songs than an international jam session.

    “Jamming can be fantastic for those people who are participating in it, but it’s not always great for the audience,” Gabriel said. “So Karl and I mostly stayed in the upstairs room and tried to steer people more toward actual songwriting.”

    Recently, he’s said he thinks of Big Blue Ball as a fine wine, released only after it had been aged properly.

    Not only that, but it also represents something larger for a performer whose career has been defined by a commitment to exploding conventions, either through his epic prog-rock excursions as the original lead singer of Genesis, through his genre-bending solo albums of the 1970s and 1980s and through his groundbreaking music videos in the early days of MTV.

    Whereas some musicians strive for hit singles, others for philosophical or political statements in themed albums, Gabriel is ever on the lookout for ways to change the fundamental shape of what music can and should be.

    “I always thought the digital revolution would actually change the content of music, the same way the piano roll or the 45 rpm single did,” he said. “But it’s been very slow to come. I really feel there should be a cultural renaissance that digital technology could advance. So even though this project is 15 years old, I think it’s still a precursor to a day when people all over the world can work together to generate new ideas.”

    “Now, not only can we make records very cheaply, but the costs of distribution have been virtually eliminated,” Gabriel continued. “And I’ve always thought that should result in all sorts of things should and could happen, like collaborations left, right and center. We should begin to see more artists like Damon Albarn and Jack White, who can be part of two or three projects simultaneously rather than being locked into one identity.”

    And how did this forward-thinking musician choose to introduce this project to the world?

    The first version of Big Blue Ball was released in vinyl LP form two weeks ago, ahead of the CD and download editions.

    “I actually like the fact that young kids today are getting heavily into vinyl again,” Gabriel said. “It’s always had a very warm sound, so even though I’m a huge digital fan, there’s still something to be said for analog— in the same way that there’s still something to a bunch of musicians sitting around in the same room playing together, as opposed to recording alone in their bedrooms.”

    Top musicians lend a hand

    Zimbabwean musicians paid a visit to Malmesbury Primary School on Monday to train the children for a performance at WOMAD.

    Si Ya Ya
    visited the school to help prepare for the children's performance on the main stage at the festival at Charlton Park in two weeks time. The band will be joined on stage by 120 children from schools in Malmesbury and the surrounding villages.

    Malmesbury Primary chairman of governors Tristan Cork said: "The children absolutely love it although they find it hard work because the singers are top musicians and want it to be absolutely perfect." The children will sing three songs, two of which are sung in native African languages, alongside Si Ya Ya drummers and singers.

    Malmesbury Primary School music co-ordinator Angelique Martin said: "I feel that we are very privileged to work with such a talented African band. It's a fantastic opportunity for the children to develop their multicultural awareness." The children will join Si Ya Ya on stage on July 24 in front of a huge audience, before the main festival begins on July 25.

    Getting into the rhythm of things

    By Tina Robins, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard

    The rhythms of Africa have been wending their way through Malmesbury and the villages ahead of WOMAD. Children from local schools have spent the week working with Zimbabwean group SIYAYA in preparation for a concert in the Abbey on the eve of this year's festival at Charlton Park. The group was brought over by artist and former head teacher James York Moore who met them while he was running a workshop for WOMAD in Spain earlier this year.

    Chairman of the governors at Malmesbury School Deborah Gray said: "James has worked really hard on this project not just with the co-ordination between the primary and secondary schools and WOMAD, but in writing grant applications to try and fund the visit too." She explained: , "I think the project is of great cultural value to the young people who will see SIYAYA perform and work with them in the various schools, as well as those lucky students who get the opportunity to perform at WOMAD itself."

    The first stop on the tour was Malmesbury Primary School followed by St Josephs, Lea and Garsdon, Minety, Brinkworth Earl Danby's and Oaksey. The group is due to spend Friday with students at the high school. Mrs Gray, who watched the musicians on Monday morning said: SIYAYA were captivating in the assembly a whole room full of transfixed young faces. "The session with their Womad choir went really well too. The kids have such energy and enthusiasm in their singing and SIYAYA were really encouraging helping them perfect the African rhythms and movements.

    The group's visit has been supported by the school as part of its specialist performing arts college programme. Malmesbury Carnival has also chipped in with a donation of £1,000. The concert in the abbey is at 7pm on July 21. The schoolchildren are also expected to perform in the festival itself, which runs from July 25 to 27.

    Gabriel finds strength in numbers

    by Tristram Lozaw

    Take about an indentity crisis Whatever you call it, it's good Gabriel finds strength in numbers We don't dispute the album title He's got wheels of his own

    Big Blue Ball (Real World )

    ESSENTIAL "Jijy"

    Peter Gabriel's best albums are usually slow burns, favoring muted melodies and slip-n-slide rhythms over full-bore hooks. So it's a mild surprise that his jigsaw of collaborations, co-produced with Stephen Hague and Karl Wallinger, with its global scope and 17-year incubation, has this much immediate appeal.

    "Big Blue Ball" was drawn from musical connections made during open sessions at Gabriel's Real World studios between 1991 and 1995, among them the Holmes Brothers' gospel blues with Arona N'diaye's djembe. Gabriel's fingerprints are all over it - vocals, keyboards, rounded tonalities, layered big-beat grooves, and flares of ethereal texture that add interest and depth. Some songs shine without his help - "Habibe" is a stirring, seven-minute improv led by Hossam Ramzy's Egyptian string ensemble.

    Meanwhile, Sinead O'Connor, Japanese percussionist Joji Hirota, and Guo Yue's Chinese flute make "Everything Comes From You" a moody, antiwar standout. Not everything is as wonderfully exotic; Gabriel's touch can't fully rescue a couple tracks from easy listening. Luckily, most of "Ball" follows the inventive lead of "Jijy," a brassy Madagascar rap pumped by Rossy's wordplay and Jah Wobble's dub bass.

    14 juillet 2008

    Robert Lepage's 'uncareer' in writing is proof

    by Jian Ghomeshi, National Post

    A mammal with a plan isn't everything

    Robert Lepage's 'uncareer' in writing is proof

    Our country has gotten itself into a right kerfuffle over the latest Order of Canada recipients, but that's nothing compared to what's to come. To recap, some of our compatriots don't think Dr. Henry Morgentaler should be receiving the honour (of course he hould). Others think Don Cherry should be considered for the honour (of course he should). And no one is quibbling with Peter Mansbridge getting the honour (of course they shouldn't). But imagine the outcry once the nation digests the idea that previous OC inductee Robert Lepage doesn't have a career. The shame!

    Robert Lepage was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1994. That was quite an achievement for the 36-year-old, but also not surprising. Lepage is a prolific and wildly imaginative playwright, actor and film director who merits the term "national treasure." He has staged celebrated productions around the world and at our National Arts Centre and Canadian Opera Company. He has acted in films ranging from Jesus de Montreal to Far Side of the Moon (which he also directed). He designed the stunningly innovative world tours for his bud Peter Gabriel in 1993-94 and 2003-04, and last year was awarded the European Commission's Europe Theatre Prize.

    This summer, Lepage is launching two new productions in London's West End, beginning with the inspired adaptation of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress that opened last week at the Royal Opera House. Lest anyone wonder how he spends all of his free time amidst helming two important new shows, he's also presided over a spectacular outdoor tribute to his hometown for Quebec's 400th anniversary. The installation, Le Moulin a images ( The Image Mill), harnesses grain silos in the Port of Quebec each evening to create an immense projection screen.

    So the kid's all right, right? Surely all of this makes for a career fit for the Order of Canada? Well, not according to Lepage. "I don't have a career," he tells me in an interview in London on the very day of Quebec City's birthday and his final preview for The Rake. I pause.

    "What do you mean you don't have a career?"

    "I mean I don't have a career. I don't have agents and managers. I don't have a plan."

    My face is communicating confusion. How does this ridiculously prolific and successful mammal not have a plan? He explains that he works only on projects that he is passionate about. He says he has always been that way. He tells me he has had tremendous successes and dismal flops and he embraces them all because they each have contributed to who and what he is.

    I start to understand. Though I've been wowed by so much of Lepage's work, this is perhaps the moment in which he has most inspired me. Lepage is an example of the artist who fears not confronting untried, risky ideas and projects, but rather, the notion of ever doing anything other than what he creatively desires. And let this not be a prescription reserved only for artsy types. Lepage is a breathing example of following one's passion and ignoring any preoccupation with a planned career trajectory. The fact that he's achieved international accolades might suggest that it's not such a bad idea.

    In an economy that makes the linear vocational path all but impossible (especially in the arts, entertainment, cultural or media fields) maybe that old romantic idea of following your passion is actually the shrewdest ticket. It can lead to the Order of Canada. Mind you, do we give those out to people without careers? Discuss.

    All Hands On Deck: Daniel Lanois

    by petermurphy, Hot Press

    It’s a beautiful loop. Musician and producer Daniel Lanois originally envisioned his film Here Is What Is as a documentary about the making of his latest solo album, but the record in question eventually became the soundtrack to the film.

    “I wanted to make a record, and a friend of mine said, ‘Why don’t you bring a camera into the studio and look at the situation through a lens?’” Lanois explained over tea in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin last April. “So I said okay, and that opening shot with Garth Hudson playing the piano intro came to us very early on. On the strength of that I decided it seemed like a reasonable idea, and we kept moving from city to city for the purposes of my work. Every town we went to, we caught a little something, and it just started adding up to a nice film. Quite late in the project there was that sit-down with Eno, where we just had a little bit of an exchange, and by slotting in those philosophical moments it just kind of tied everything together.”

    As Lanois attests, making a film is an exponentially more challenging enterprise than recording an album, even if your client list includes Bob Dylan, U2, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and the Neville Brothers.

    “It was very expensive to make, to feed people and put them in hotels, travelling and everything, but I’m proud of it,” he says. “Is it a perfect film? I’m not sure about that, but it can at least hold its head up in terms of having brought quality to the table.”

    That quality is evident in the pace of the film. Patient, unhurried, at times it evokes Wim Wenders’ aversion to fast and ostentatious edits.

    “Some of the young idealistic record listeners that I know, they don’t want to see fast edits anymore,” asserts Lanois. “They’re curious about the authenticity of something, and to slow the pace down a little bit. It doesn’t mean slow the rhythm down, but just slow the pace of the servings. I wish I had a nice uninterrupted film of the movement of Michael Jackson’s feet. We never see him dance, we see the editing room dance.”

    Featuring cameos from the aforementioned Band organ grinder Hudson and Brian Eno, plus Billy Bob Thornton, Sinead O’Connor and drummer Brian Blade, Here Is What Is ventures deep into the music, depicting the recording process in graphic detail. There are a lot of close-ups of hands: on piano keys, on the pedal steel, on the mixing desk.

    “Yeah, a bit of a hands theme,” Lanois chuckles. “It started with Garth. And Adam, the guy working the camera, also shot close-ups of my hands on the steel guitar, which is a very complex instrument, and to see how it’s done is fascinating enough to show for a while in itself, so why not?”

    At this point, Lanois leans in and examines the interviewer’s fingers. “Can I see that ring?” he says. “What is that?”

    It’s an antique ring inset with a blue stone, given to me by a writer friend who maintains a side business selling vintage jewellery. She trawls the net for interesting pieces, winnows through them, evaluates their worth and sells them online.

    “In a way that’s what I do with music,” Lanois says. “I select the best riffs, the best lyric ideas, the best titles, the best grooves, pull them out of a day’s work and say, ‘Let’s sweep everything else under the rug and present our best wares.’ It’s incredible what happens through a day, and often times the most signiificant moments will not be noticed because people might think they’ve got bigger fish to fry. But sometimes that one little sliver of delight will be enough to build a whole record on top of.”

    One of the more interesting sequences in Here Is What Is illustrates how Lanois approaches mixing as performance, playing the desk like an instrument. Watching him manipulate the various elements of a track like ‘Bladesteel’ is akin to observing a painter at work.

    “It’s something that I develop, just trying to tap into my musical gift,” he says. “Not every person at the console has an ability to understand the positioning of ingredients and is able to move the faders in a musical fashion. It’s usually thought of as a technical job, but I like a set-up that forces me to respond to what’s coming up in the arrangement and make it sound more dangerous, or give it a stadium sound, so I see every little bend in the road as an opportunity to present the ingredients in a slightly different fashion.”

    In other words, the mixing becomes a much more intuitive and ‘live’ process.

    “Absolutely. I think the bedrock of it is it exists as an emotional performance. I usually don’t use computers for mixing, but even if I do, I make my foundation a performance, and then I might add a little something to it, change the vocal performance or the harmonies if I didn’t get that quite right. A lot of mixers start with one sound at a time and build it up, and consequently you might end up with a lovely edifice, but it might not be a place you want to go into.”

    One of Lanois’ other specialities is generating ambient sounds of no discernible origin and using them to suggest drama or danger in the mix. These are usually distortions or manipulations of fragments sourced from the artists’ performances.

    “I like the idea of, as I said in the film, grabbing a little sample from the available ingredients,” he considers, “almost like taking a photograph of the cloth that you’ve chosen to make a suit out of, and then you just blow up a certain portion of it, and maybe that becomes a pocket. It’s not just a sewn-on pocket from another batch of fabric of a different colour or a different weave, you actually use what’s already there and put it on the item.”

    So it’s like a DNA swab or a skin graft lifted from the host body instead of imported from a foreign agency. An organic approach to a synthetic process.

    “Yes. And I believe listeners feel that connection, sort of a way of maximising what you have rather than superimposing a bunch of other options, which is the tendency that people have, because there are so many wonderful tools available in making records and mixing. You can try 50 different boxes until you find the one you like, but we have to remember that some of our favourite Jamaican records, the great reggae records, they might only have had one black box, and they put everything through it. There’s some kind of wisdom to that, because nothing lives in isolation, everything is related, it comes from one effect. So I still like to do that, put everything through one echo box.”

    Lanois believes that artists can become paralysed by options, and often get the best results through consciously imposing limitations upon themselves, thus encouraging innovation within those confines.

    “It can happen even with people,” he says. “There’s something nice about deciding on a group of folks you want to work with. It’s like a group of friends around one table having a great night, and the stories keep getting better and better, and you walk out of the situation and think, ‘Wow, that was amazing!’ You didn’t have to fly in additional comics – the people at the table were funny in their own lives. They were already ridiculous enough!”

    Is he a tough taskmaster in the studio?

    “I’m tough on myself, and that becomes contagious. When people feel that level of commitment from me they expect it of themselves. It only works if you’re willing to put in the time and the hours, if you’ve high expectations of yourself and are pushing yourself – not in a bad way or anything, but in a committed way – then the rest of the room will naturally respond to that level of commitment, so it raises the standard of work done.”

    Is it easier to work with musicians he’s known for a long time?

    “What’s nice about working with people you’ve worked with before is you’ve gotten the small talk out of the way and you can pretty much get to the melodies and the lyric and the grooves. I mean, I like a fresh face, I made a record with Willie Nelson and I hadn’t met him before, and I like that record, Teatro. Four days it took, in my old shop in California. That was my best shop, an old theatre, fantastic. There’s something about not having any windows. There was a little popcorn area where you could get a soft drink and sundries, but when you walk into the theatre, it’s a very dark old cinema, and there’s something to not being aware of the day or the disappearance of it, just a timelessness.

    “Maybe it has to do with Bob Dylan’s title Time Out Of Mind,” he continues. “I like the idea of working in a dark space, more of a closet. The house that I use in Los Angeles is a beautiful villa, built in the 1920s, fantastic rooms throughout the whole house, and downstairs it has this little servant’s kitchenette, a counter and a sink and shelves all the way around the room, a little octagon shape, and there’s something very sweet about that room, it’s almost my favourite room. I’ve been fantasising about setting up a little tabletop studio and making it so that I don’t have too many rooms to flirt with.”

    Location, Lanois says, is a crucial element in the character of any record. One can’t imagine the Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon or Dylan’s Oh Mercy having been recorded in anywhere but New Orleans.

    “Geography plays a big part in record-making,” he says. “My visit to New Orleans initially was just about education really, I wanted to hear those parade bands and go to some of those clubs to hear some of the Saturday night dance bands. At that time I used to enjoy listening to (Zydeco master) Rockin’ Dopsie, who played this tiny place called The Make Believe, it had been a store at one time and was turned into a little club, and the drummer’s throne sat right in the storefront window, he had his back to the street, and you could look in the window and check out the drummer.”

    Lanois is just as effusive about the U2 sessions he and Eno attended in Fez, Morocco, last year.

    “I had never been there,” he says. “The Medina was strikingly ancient. I was humbled by how people ran their little shops, these tiny, tiny hovels in the wall, there was a shoemaker in the Medina in Fez, and he just sat while he worked, his little shop was not tall enough to stand in, so he was crouched in this little hole in the wall. If you wanted your shoes fixed you just peeked into the hole and handed him your shoes and he’d mend them. He’d probably crawl out of there a couple of times a day to get himself a cup of tea, but while he was working, that was his little cobbler’s bench, a hole in the wall. It’s very funny, because you enter the Medina and two minutes in, you’re lost. And it immediately becomes like Spinal Tap: ‘Wait a minute – is this the right way?’ And the walls are really tall, and you can see the locals sitting up there laughing.

    “But more important to the geography is the setting up of the studio specific to a record. So if you bring in equipment and unload the cases and set up in a room, the people involved in that record are going to feel it’s something special to them. I think that in itself is a good mood-setter, you’re not walking into a generic place. We made the bulk of The Joshua Tree in Adam Clayton’s house, and that was a fantastic room with a plank floor, had a fantastic sound, my favourite kind of room really.”

    Does he ever get cabin fever while making an album?

    “I’ve talked about it – it’s like being in a submarine.”

    Das Boot is often cited as the film most analogous to being on tour.

    “Yeah right, on tour especially, oh my god. A solo tour, maybe that’s my next journey. I’ve been designing a travel system, a complete touring system, that is carry-on. Here’s how you carry your personal belongings: you modify a long trenchcoat, all the way to the ankle, with a lot of pockets. And you carry all your clothing and toiletries and personal items in the coat because they can’t tell you to not take a coat on an airplane. Six t-shirts, six underwear, six socks, I wear the pair of pants I got on, one pair of shoes and one hat.

    “And with regards to the guitar and the amp, I carry a viola case – the airlines are used to seeing classical musicians so they turn a little bit of a blind eye to it – and I modify a Fender Duo-Sonic guitar, Fender’s tiny short-scale guitar, and I cut the body off of it with a jig-saw, so you’re only left with the neck and the mounting area of the neck, and that fits into the viola case. And then I put a little battery powered amplifier and speaker into the viola case. That is my entire touring equipment. That way you never lose your luggage and you’re always looking good.”