The CD is indeed an imaginary voyage through several cultures and rhythms. Although a majority of tracks have been inspired by Africa and the African diaspora, some of the other tracks are pure jazz (with an incursion into free-jazz), blues or even spanish-inspired tunes.
Whilst all the tracks have been composed by Robert Falk, most of the arrangements have been done collectively with the band in an effort to create contrasting moods and plenty of room for improvisation. Most of the tracks were recorded live in one or two takes, thus capturing the special energy of the band’s concert performances as well as the constant interaction between musicians.
The cover art for Tukki Janner is an original painting by the young Brazilian painter Cleverson de Oliveira. It represents the fusion between two legendary figures on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Mami Wata is a water spirit or deity venerated in most of western Africa. There is a rich symbolism associated with her, with the emphasis on sex, fertility, healing and a paradise like underwater realm. Jemanja, who is worshipped in Brazil, is one of the seven Orixas. She represents several things, including the feminine principle of creation, and is also the patron saint of fishermen and shipwrecked sailors. The left side of the painting shows Brazilian figures and artefacts, and the right side is more African-oriented.
CD review (french) on Dragonjazz.com
It is also available on Bandcamp Tukki Janeer
The Fuuta Tooro is the semi-desert region in the north of Senegal, along the Senegal river. It is the home of the Tukuleurs, a branch of the Fulani people. This track is based on the yella, one of their traditional rhythms. The general mood of this piece reminds me of African-American blues, hence the rather unusual title. A very different arrangement of this track was featured on the previous CD ‘Xelu Sowu’.
Vila Sabrina is one of the neighbourhoods of Saõ Paulo and where my in-laws lived for many years. I thought this title would be appropriate for a Braziliantype samba. In order to have a contrast between the first and second part of the theme, the double bass switches from jazzy (odd beats) to a Brazilian feel (even beats).
This is based on the mutuashi rhythm from the south-east of Congo (DRC). It was initially written for an electric band using keyboards and flute but the transcription for violin and acoustic guitars works rather well. I added some extra drums to get a more powerful overall sound. The violin intro, which is repeated towards the end, is a typical mutuashi lick. This region is rich with diamonds hence the title.
Freegyan Love Song
This is a very old composition, dating from the height of the jazz-rock period in 1978. I kept the initial chord structure but completed the melody four years ago. The title reflects the use of the Phrygian mode as well as the free part in the middle. It is the ideal piece for ‘out of the box’ improvisations. A special bravo to Benoit who really went over the top on this track.
This is a G minor blues composed in 1984. The emphasis is placed on the improvisations, so this piece can sound very different from one take to another. In our set (and on this CD) we play it immediately after Freegyan as it provides a good contrast, which the audience seems to enjoy.
The Thiof is an excellent fish that is found (and eaten) along the coast of Senegal. In slang, it also means a good-looking young man. Maggat means “old”, thus the title could be the wolof equivalent of the English ‘old beau’, although I guess no-one has ever heard that expression in Dakar. The tune is built on the ‘mbalax’ rhythm which is typically Senegalese.
The title reflects the Spanish feel of the track as well as its 7/4 meter. The initial theme is quite long, directly followed by a great double bass solo by Alessio, which provides a nice contrast. The long legato intro finds its counterpart in the final violin solo. It is one of our most popular pieces, in concert and on the internet.
Another 1984 composition, the title is a joke about the tacky music generally played in the supermarkets at that time, GB being the main chain in those years. The improv is done on a 3/4 part, which has a very lyrical feel, quite the opposite of the bouncy theme.
Chérie / Sicap Amitié
This is a new version of the same two tunes that were on my first CD ‘Muzungu’. The first part is an arrangement of a traditional Senegalese song (‘Chérie’), the best known version of is by Baaba Maal. The second part, which is based on the mbalax (a Senegalese rhythm), gets its name from the Dakar neighbourhood in which Youssou N’dour’s nightclub Thiossane can be found.
Written in 1982 after I had more or less recovered from a romantic break-up, this is one of my finest ballad. It is vaguely reminiscent of Coltrane’s Naima. The original version was with piano, but the C ostinato that is the bedrock of the piece sounds quite good on the violin as well.
This Samba is another old composition from my ‘Falklands’ days. It has the structure of a classic real book song with a short theme and a lot of improvisation. We recently added a percussion solo to give Gauthier a sliver of the spotlight! The title of this track refers to a lost piece called ‘Pentagon’ by a friend of mine.