Friday, May 29, 2020

“The Ways of the Oyapock”, and sail the canoe

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“I hate travel and explorers.” The famous word of Claude Lévi-Strauss, so smashing and so often commented, aimed above all to break away from the vogue of speakers and mass tourism. The ethnologist would later clarify that “The journey is not a goal but a means. […] What matters is not the tourism side but what we bring back knowledge and information. “ The second album of the French group No Tongues (“no languages”) brilliantly illustrates this idea. After Ways of the world virtuosos, created from a highly sought after anthology of vocal expressions (published in 1996 in Song of the World), the curious jazzmen Ronan Prual, Ronan Courty, Alan Regardin and Matthieu Prual acquire the attention and the respect of the ethno-folk world. traditional. Bernard Lortat-Jacob, former head of the Ethnomusicology Laboratory at the Musée de l’Homme de Paris, supports their approach and prefaces the disc.

The Ways of Oyapock, for its part, benefits from the research of the young ethnomusicologist Florent Wattelier. Where we have seen so many blending “projects” of all kinds, suspected of cultural appropriation, jazzmen are the type to move humbly, favoring listening. Reached on the phone, bassist Ronan Courty says: “We were mixing this first record in Paris and we came across Florent Wattelier by chance. He told us about what was going on between French Guiana and Brazil, the traditions and songs that were lost along the river; he worked with a family, the Panapuy [du peuple teko, ndlr], it was the trigger. “

Reed carinette

The musicians’ first trip will take place in August 2018 near Camopi, Guyana, the second in December 2019, even further in the jungle, in the village of Trois-Sauts, to meet neighboring Wayãpi Indians. “We wanted to meet an environment that is precisely on the border between different peoples, and that of two countries. But these borders only exist for us, they are much more porous in reality. “

Immediate boarding from the first seconds of the disc. Nice ambient sound, two men talking to each other, we think we can hear “Chicken, chicken” and the canoe engine starts. The only means of transport on the Oyapock River, the 75 horsepower motor turns in a loop and is soon covered with strings bowed ostinato, trumpet and saxophone in continuous breath, then tule, sort of freshly picked reed clarinet. A traditional theme then collected from Jean-Etienne Couchili, teko musician from Camopi, is then incorporated into the Tule suite which begins on a toucan flute, played by Jean Napien Missau, Wayãpi musician from the village of Trois-Sauts. Concrete music, noise, ethno-jazz in the jungle 2.0, stick on it the labels you want, No Tongues and their accomplices sail at high speed on unknown waters.

Turtle shell

“” Kodj apam oho “: here are strangers arriving, says a great teko song, as an omen of openness to the meeting”, teaches us the fascinating booklet, full of precise information. The ethnomusicologist Florent Wattelier describes with a subtle gluttony the landscape of which he made his field of study: “Wayapuku: the great river and its living waters, this artery through which blood laden with silt flows indefinitely […]. Where paku fish, carp and piranhas spawn, and the swallow which caresses them with its graceful flight. The great river […] where canoes circulate splitting the waters of their aluminum hull, engines with many horses hidden under the hood. Because it is through this that we enter the sound universe of the Oyapock, by the throbbing buzzing of the propulsion machine which shortens the distances between the villages and facilitates connections with the nearest town. “

The immersive experimentation of this soundscape brings out here the song of paypayo, the stridulations of the cicadas, to which the sound inventions of the four musicians respond. A rubbed turtle shell, a tropical downpour, the tule of the anaconda are all starting points for the audio conversation, and the return to a culture. “The young people we met are often educated in Cayenne, they come back surrounded by Rihanna, that sort of thing. So in a cachiri [nom qui désigne aussi bien la bière de manioc blanche traditionnelle que la réunion, la fête locale] you will always find a Bluetooth speaker that spits out reggaeton or a local Auto-Tune rap. When we made them listen to what we were doing, and we played for them, they told us that they heard the forest in our music. It’s the most beautiful compliment we can receive, ” confides Ronan Courty. Today embarked like everyone in the blockade of the coronavirus, the group should however resolve to cancel the arrival of the Amerindians who was scheduled for a series of concerts. “In ethno, everything begins on the way back”, wrote Bernard Lortat-Jacob. Its success will have been due to more factors than the vagaries of a river.

Matthieu Conquet

No Tongues The Ways of Oyapock (Ormo Records).

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