Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who needs self-righteous bullshit artists?

'I do not know if you are aware of this, Pl, but in Gaelic Bono means "self-righteous bullshit artist"...is there anything more lame then white guys ripping off black musicians,poorly? Yes, multi-millionaires telling me I need to give money for starving kids.I remember when musicians had a conscience. It seems an eternity ago...'
That pithy comment, which was added to my recent post about U2's Glastonbury Festival gig, leads to the CD seen above, which is one of several I brought back from my recent trip to France.

Aziz Sahmaoui grew up in Marrakech, Morocco where he absorbed a range of musical influences including the healing sounds of the Gnawa masters. After studying literature he moved to France in the late 1980s and became one of the founders of the very successful Orchestre National de Barb├Ęs which combines North African rhythms with jazz and fusion. In 2005 he played on Joe Zawinul's live double album 'Vienna Nights' and went on to become a permanent member of the Zawinul Syndicate.

Sahmaoui's first solo album is titled Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa and on it he is backed by a new five piece band which mixes traditional and contemporary instruments. Martin Meissonnier is the producer and his long list of credits includes working with Don Cherry, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. The album is rooted in the Gnawa tradition but blends Moroccan and Black African sounds thanks to the three Senegalese musicians in the University of Gnawa backing band.


Yes, this is fusion music, and I wrote recently about the diluting effect of border-transcending projects such as this. But what makes Aziz Sahmaoui's new album particularly noteworthy is the message behind the music. Here is my English translation of some of the lyrics:
Is it a miracle or a new religion?
We have become the servants of the corporations
And of bad TV programmes
And scheming and colluding accountants:
In the past people were what mattered
Today it is technology
So they worship in front of computer monitors
It is a universal problem
Now books are forgotten at home
Injustice is on the horizon
As the right and left jostle for position
The good news is that some musicians do still have a conscience, you just have to look beyond the celebrity circus to find them. French independent label specialist Socadisc handles the distribution of Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa. Which is interesting because U2 record for the same corporate label as the nuns of l'Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation at Le Barroux in France, and their 2010 bestseller prompted me to write A musician is also a person.



* Music samples and a valuable sub-titled interview with Aziz Sahmaoui that picks up on the recurring theme of transmission in the video above:

** The outstanding sleeve art for Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa was photographed at l'Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris which featured in a 2008 post. This inspirational building is the venue for the first concert performance of Titi Robin's bullshit -free Les Rives project on November 25 2011.

Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa was bought in FNAC in Perpignan. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Also on Facebook and Twitter.

2 comments:

The Wound Dresser said...

Well, it sounds wonderful to me.I think the fusion[as it were] can be wonderful when it is done without commercial cynicism ,which,I'll grant is increasingly difficult.MEETING of ANGELS is an excellent example of this being done, and done well.Gnawa music is beautiful,by the way. Thank you for this post[and I apologize for being over the top about wee Bono}

Pliable said...

TWD, what classical music needs is more people over the top.

Off to see the Kit Downes Trio tonight, a band to watch - http://www.kitdownes.com/biog.htm