Tiny little french label Born Bad Records released two years ago Francis Bebey´s epic “African Electronic Music 1975 – 1982” compilation that featured lots of cameroon´s best known hits like “Agatha” or dancefloor tracks like “new track”.
Now the story continues with “Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984”. It´s way more experimental and psychodelic, but nevertheless magic, mysterious and groovy, although listening to all tracks in a row of the “Sansa” tracks is maybe not the best idea. Listen and read – there is nothing more to add.
Born Bad Records
The first time I saw a sansa (a type of African “thumb piano”), it was just sitting there on a piece of furniture in my family’s living room/dining room – a space that our father also transformed into a recording studio every day. It seemed more like a box than a musical instrument: a mysterious instrument, which arrived at our house, like many things, in a somewhat miraculous way. We knew our father loved to collect anything that could produce a sound. I don’t know where he got this sansa. It was rather crude, clearly handmade, with only a few “keys” or “tines”. I don’t think he really played this one. The sounds it produced seemed particularly bizarre; to my young musician’s ears, trained in Western classical music, it sounded out of tune. That’s because, like my brothers and sisters, I had been trained on the piano. I had trouble understanding how anyone could endure these tones and, honestly, our father’s passion for “unusual sounds” did not interest me.
One day he put a sansa in my hands, without saying a word. He was sending me a message: “Let’s see what you can do with it!” That’s when I really discovered something. Exploring the instrument and playing, I transcended the “imperfect” aspect of its sound and began to discover its fascinating potential. Playing the sansa, you enter a world that enraptures you in a very serene and mesmerizing way. I think its sounds evoke a rainbow, with rain falling while the sun shines. A very peaceful feeling. It allows you to make music that truly sounds like life. The sansa is also the instrument that my father and I shared the most because I am a pianist and he was a guitarist. I also share this eminently African instrument with my musician brother, Toups. Our father loved to tell us one of the legends of the sansa: how it even managed to dispel the boredom felt by… the Creator himself! This instrument gives life to the world, to beings and things.
I did not participate in the production of the various records that my father devoted to the sansa. He did it himself, you might say, in his “laboratory.” Yet today, I cannot imagine playing a concert without using a sansa. The piano remains present so that listeners don’t become disoriented and wonder about the weird sounds invading their ears! However, I find the eccentric and disturbing side of sansa interesting. And the sansa always affects the audience: in reality, it excites them. The secrets of this instrument are surely its beneficial powers and… its magic!
Second compilation ” Mobilisation General -Protest and Spirit Jazz from France 1970-1976″ was already released a few month ago but I came across this record when I was preparing the radio emission for the french exotica and psychedelia issue lately but got hold of the record just a few days ago so I couldn´t use it for the show, alors this is a kind of annex: An amazing collection of spiritual jazz & protest songs in the post 68 era with tracks by Brigitte Fontaine, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Full Moon Orchestre and incredible funky unknown tracks like this one by François Tusques & Le Collectif du Temps des Cerises:
Or a really hard to find 45″ of the Baroque Jazz Trio (this seems to be the long version called “Zoma” of the 45 “Orientasie” featured on the compilation.
Or one of my favourite is as well: Chêne Noir – Hey…!
Born Bad Records says about this release:
“1968. France, Incorporated. The entire building was being consumed by flames and was slowly collapsing. Nothing would survive. Out of the rubble of the old world jumped the children of Marx and Coca-Cola, ripping the white and blue stripes off the French flag. Yet, the socialist revolution was more mythic than real and music did nothing to mitigate people’s behavior. It was time for innovation.
While singles from the Stones, Who, Kinks and MC5 provided an incendiary soundtrack for the revolution, it was Black Americans who truly blew the world from its foundations in the 60s. Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp left behind the jazz of their fathers’ generation, liberating the notes, trashing the structures, diving headfirst into furious improvisations, inventing a new land without boundaries – neither spiritual nor political. Free jazz endowed the saxophone with the power to destroy the established order.
In 1969, the Art Ensemble of Chicago arrived at the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier in Paris and a new fuse was lit. Their multi-instrumentalism made use of a varied multiplicity of “little instruments” (including bicycle bells, wind chimes, steel drums, vibraphone and djembe: they left no stone unturned), which they employed according to their inspirations. The group’s stage appearance shocked as well. They wore boubous (traditional African robes) and war paint to venerate the power of their free, hypnotic music, directly linked to their African roots. They were predestined to meet up with the Saravah record label (founded in 1965 by Pierre Barouh), already at the vanguard of as-yet unnamed world music. Brigitte Fontaine’s album Comme à la radio, recorded in 1970 after a series of concerts at the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier, substantiated the union of this heiress to the poetic and politically committed chanson française (Magny, Ferré, Barbara) with the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s voodoo jazz and the Arab tradition perpetuated by her companion Areski Belkacem.
A UFO had landed on the turntables of French teens, who were discovering underground culture via publications like Actuel, Libération, Charlie Hebdo, Rock & Folk and a vigorous free press. It was a generation ready for any and all combats: alongside farmers on the Larzac plateau and the Lip factory workers; fighting the Creys-Malville nuclear plant, the Vietnam War, the death penalty, discrimination against women, gays and immigrants. For 20 year olds in the early 1970s, making music was a political act; they grabbed a microphone to advance a cause, not to become rock stars. While the price of oil skyrocketed and Pompidou went overboard building horrible concrete apartment buildings for public housing and “adapting the city for the automobile,” some took refuge in the countryside. Alternative communities formed all across France, giving rise to groups (or rather, collectives) with open-minded structures, cheerfully mixing music, theatrical happenings and agitprop, along with a good dose of acid. Projects bordering on the ridiculous were often tolerated (progressive rock was one of the primary banalities the era produced), while those who followed the route paved by spiritual jazz often ended up elsewhere. The vehemence (if not grandiloquence) of their declarations was carried and transcended by the finesse and brilliance of their musicianship. For the “straight” France of Claude François, it was something from another world. Simultaneously spatial, pastoral and tribal, the tracks in this collection represent an ideal intersection between a sort of psychedelic legacy, the space jazz of Sun Ra and Afro Beat (then being created by Fela in Lagos): they are as much incantations (often driven by the spoken word), war cries or poems as they are polemics.
1978. Giscard was at the helm. Punk and disco were busily decapitating the last remaining hippies. Peoples’ blood was still boiling, but it was already too late. The war was over, lost without anyone noticing. Nevertheless, people still tilted at windmills or talked tough in dead-end struggles; a dream is not so far from a nightmare. We knew that an enchanted era had ended, the hope for a brighter future was now behind us and that we would leave behind nothing for our children but a few records. Indeed, ghosts may still crackle from our speakers, as the 45 spins and Brigitte Fontaine asks Areski: “Hé mais je pense à un truc, on ne va pas mourir dans une minute ?” (Hey, I was just thinking, aren’t we going to die in a minute?)”