Where did the blues come from? Historians would have had the reflex of geolocating it in the southern United States in the early 20th century. 100 years later, intercultural exchanges have redesigned an expressiveness that plays with borders. The Bab El West group demonstrates this brilliantly today.
Defining the contours of a musical genre is always a risky exercise, because, even if it serves to understand the origin of an art, naming it actually limits its possible evolution. The blues is no longer just the cry of black Americans looking for a way out of their daily vicissitudes. Today it takes on very different forms without however having lost its social and claiming dimension. Album Houdoud of Bab El West is the perfect example of this artistic research that broadens our horizon. This openness can only come from selfless and generous musicians whose respective roots push them to get closer to each other.
Founded by two Breton instrumentalists (Clément Vallin and Marc Dupont) attentive to the sound convolutions of their time, Bab El West was quickly enriched with the Moroccan sap of singer Habib Farroukh. Oddly, or perhaps not for that matter, their ancestral traditions found a common space for unbridled creativity. If their tone matches the era of the time, it is based on strong regional identities. The communion of these different sources of inspiration creates a new melodic texture that immediately draws any listener attached to the authenticity of the music. Could it be the blues? We can reasonably think so, especially since then, ever since the first album Douar Released in 2017, Bab El West’s musicality is enhanced by Hamza Bencherif’s rough electric guitar and qanun (a millennial oriental harp that appeared in the 8th century) revitalized by virtuoso Nidhal Jaoua.
Mix the differences
In 2019, Bab El West pushes the boundaries of the impossible even further. Welcoming the Celtic ornaments of the Shiels family (Tracey, Ruby and Erwan), the fusion of Irish, Breton, Gnaouas and Chaabi notes, amplified by saxophonist Yannick Jory and flutist Jean-Luc Thomas, becomes natural, evident, clear. . This vow of musical celebration is not just a posture for these valiant craftsmen, it is a commitment while retreat is too often the norm. Hear the wise words of Habib Farroukh, read their translation and immerse yourself in this sensible, meaningful and inspiring poem. Houdoud it is not a trivial album. He speaks to us, calls us, urges us. Let’s not contrast our differences, let’s combine them! This is the promise of Bab El West …
Of course, geopolitical reality has nothing to do with wishful thinking. However, the spiritual strength of artists can sometimes influence speeches, positions, tensions. Paul Eluard said: “The word border is a one-eyed word, man has two eyes to see the world”. This absolute truth guided the writing of the album Houdoud. Made on emblematic lands, this record breathes history, the legend of ancient peoples who faced the sea with the ardent desire to challenge the elements to discover the planet. In the Maghreb as in Brittany, going beyond the seas, overcoming obstacles is a constant. Habib Farroukh said at the end of his musical journey: “I want us to escape riding the winds. Up there, no border separates us”.
A wave of crossroads and hope
Sometimes, we like to imagine the harmonious concert of nations. It would take some listening, pacification, sharing and understanding. We should rewrite the human adventure. The blues should be happy, full of hope and vitality. Isn’t the Bab El West group on this path? The freshness of a repertoire does not make it naive. It even raises the point. It is never in vain to believe in a better future. And when that laudable intention becomes a work of creation, it is heard and often respected. Houdoud it is therefore clearly just one stage on the journey of Bab El West. What will be the last frontier? We prefer not to think of it as we hope in other great productions of these brilliant musicians. Success, however, is a dangerous line to cross. We can bet that modesty will take them beyond this invisible, but immediately palpable line. All that remains is to navigate from continent to continent to transmit this fraternal word, ignoring borders.
See you on December 5th at the Studio de l’Ermitage in Paris, then in Montreuil, Le Blanc-Mesnil, Saint-Nazaire, Nantes, etc …
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Bab El West Houdoud (Big Banana / Inouïe Distribution) 2019