As much appreciated as French pop star Claude François or James Brown by the subsaharian Bantus in the 70's, the rebel and mischievous poet Georges Brassens gets here a warm tribute by the various rhythms of Black Africa and its diaspora.
Brassens in Africa
Ah ! Africans have an astonishing ability to make their music infectious and make dumb people laugh aloud. On the black continent, everybody mixes with everybody. An so you can find in the same place things others would have automatically put apart : emotion with rigour, noise with quietness. Joy, pain, death take turns in daily life, without traumatizing anyone.
Brassens en Afrique reflects the atmosphere of the bars in post-independence Africa. From Congo to Mali, through Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Benin or Kenya. In those times, the occidental music lovers could not enjoy the Makossa, Mbalax, high-life or rumba as they could not find any African records, even in Paris where most of these records were produced.
In a "maquis"
Denis Tchangou's arrangements try to restitute this state of mind in the 10 tracks he selected, which allows Kristo to lead us in a "maquis" - African restaurant and bar - where all sorts of mouthwatering dishes can be enjoyed: ashièké - fish, farm chicken mafé with rice, alocos – plantain bananas fried in palm oil from Ghana. For those who did not know the masterpieces from the 60's-70's of Manu Dibango (apart from Soul Makossa), Pierre Akendengué, Ekambi Brillant, Franco, Rocherau, Sam Mangwana, Prince Nico Mbarga, this is the opportunity to catch up for lost time, listening to classics in a comfortable seat.
Somebody had to do it. They did it!
Very uptempo, the way Brassens' chansons are sung here can take us to the "libertine" atmosphere of urban ballrooms. As the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe said in Things Fall Apart, « the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them ». And time can be very short when it comes to selecting your future holiday partner - or, who knows, life partner.
So this is a unique opportunity to discover without any prejudice quality African music, played on very French lyrics and melodies. Somebody had to do it. They did it!
But who on Earth are those rowdy people who so fiercely africanised my songs? By adding, merging the sounds of the tropical forest to Helene's clogs (from the song "Les Sabots d'Hélène). Couldn't they hear the bugle, muffled by the sound of a drum without tom and African cymbals. And, as if this was not enough, they emptied a bottle of good wine and used it as percussion. They began hitting it with a spoon and fork, like little children.
A French-African project
« This happened to be a nice surprise when I started this project. I thought I'd never make it. The French language is so rich and unpredictable with its numerous grammar exceptions. With Brassens, there is no room for cheating with long notes within the sentences. Every misplaced breathing and you're late... And the pronounciation must be perfect otherwise the listener doesn't recognise anything. French is not the first language taught by my parents. And the Bassa people, who first had to talk German before French and English, have always find it difficult to say some sounds that exist almost only in French : the French U, the French J ("G") ; the differences between gît (as in "here lies..."), jure (swear) and jouir ("come" in its sexual meaning), pire (worse) and pure, je (I) and jeu (game). Sacré français ! Brassens, a true challenge for a Bantu ! »
This album was recorded in April 2005 in Montreuil ("African" city in France) by Denis Tchangou (drums, percussions, backing vocals and also production) and Kristo Numpuby (lead vocals, guitar, bass and backing vocals) with the support of sound technician Eric Donnart. The compatibility of the songs' sonority with various African rhythms was preponderant into their choice.
fROOTS (June 2008) : « Not really qualified to compare Kristo Numpuby and his pocket-size band with the Georges Brassens originals. But he certainly offers a beguiling sound, almost Brazilian, with simple percussion, bass, fluid and inventive nylon guitar, and a fine sense of ease and intelligence throughout. Born in Paris,raised in a Cameroonian forest, a former worker in advertising - he got into pro music writing a blues piece for a TV commercial - then becoming a respected bass player with Kanda Bongo Man and others. If you like the chansonnier tradition and gently witty African rhythms, the ideal man. » Rick SANDERS