" One man and his music in the service of mankind. One people and it's music for the happiness of all. "
Toubabou : from the expression Toubabou-djembe-folla means stranger who plays the djembe in the Bambara language of Africa.
In 1974 a group of young Québecois musicians were asked by the Québec government to organize the final concert of the large outdoor festival known as Les Francofetes . Percussionist Michel Séguin and vocalist Lise Cousineau, both founding members of Ville Emard Blues Band decided to get in contact with musicians from Africa that Séguin had played with the previous year, and who baptized Séguin with the name "Toubabou". Several musicians from nations such as Sénégal, Mali, and Togo, took to the stage along side Québecois artists to play traditional African songs, mixed in with some original material. The result of this collaboration is Disc II of this superb anthology.
Le Blé et le Mil , which translates as " The Wheat And The Mill", and is meant to signify the meeting of the African tam-tam ( the wheat if you will ) and the white man's technology to transform it into something completely different ( the mill). The result is a fascinating blend of progressive rock and hauntingly beautiful African numbers which convey a sense of world unity, a melding of cultures, well before "world beat" music became fashionable. Toubabou original pieces such as the achingly beautiful ballad "Oasis" and the free flowing ,funky, "Ambush" are well contrasted with traditional numbers like "Man Yaka Ghane", with it's repetitive percussives and chanting voices, and the hypnotic "Noumoulou" ,which is an homage to the hunting men of Mali. The modern meets the traditional in numbers such as "Carignan" , where a Mali melody is used to accompany French lyrics , to communicate a message of unity and world peace. The band also goes back into the VEBB catalogue to play us a beautiful version of "Yama Nekh", which was released as a single by VEBB the previous year. The closing " Doudou N'Diaye et ses Rosettes" is a jam session where , once again, African percussions meet Western modern instrumentation, as Yvan Ouellet lays down some great Rhodes piano lines amidst a sea of drums and tam-tams.
The disc is completed with 2 black and white videos of the band playing "Oasis" and "Yama Nekh" in the studio. Not the best quality picture or sound, but still an interesting piece of history.
The band underwent a couple of line-up changes with the arrival of Haitian drummer George Rodriguez and flautist /saxophonist Gerry Labelle. In 1975 they released their only studio album: Attente. The songs contained herein , while still melding modern rock and African rhythms, emphasize compositional skills more than free form jam sessions. The superb vocals of Lise Cousineau are front and center in many tracks, as her impeccable delivery soars above the music on numbers such as the sublime "Le Chant Des Choses" . However, the band can lay down some funky riffs and "J'Freak Assez" becomes the perfect vehicle for the members to showcase their chops. The Diane Dufresne-like vocals in the opening segments give way to some stellar keyboard/ guitar interchanges between Yvan Ouellet and Robert Stanley; while the rhythms of Séguin, Rodriguez, Farmer, Dion on bass contend to overtake the number. "Ambush", from the live sessions, gets overhauled to become a very jazzy number, with horns , organ, and more fiery fretwork from Robert Stanley. "Pylone" follows in a similar fashion as the underrated prowess of Stanley is once again brought to the forefront. "Doudou à la Toubabou" was co-penned by Doudou N'Diaye Rose, the famous African percussionist that graced the stage with them the previous year on "Le Blé et le Mil". Once again, it melds African percussions and modern jazz-rock into a unique, hybrid sound; and may arguably be the signature piece to showcase what Toubabou set out to accomplish with their music. The title track, "Attente", is yet another ballad to emphasize Cousineau's beautiful clear voice. The disc closes with the haunting "Mon Tambour" which speaks of the permanence of change. We also get video versions of "Ambush", "J'Freak Assez" and the never before released "Esmerelda". All of the video tracks in this collection appear to be from the same source and it would be interesting to see if a DVD will ever be released of these live performances.
The folks of ProgresSon Québec avoid the sophomore jinx and release yet another gem from the very rich annals of the Québecois musical scene of the 70s. From the informative liner notes, via the archival photos and videos, to the restoration and re-mastering of the music itself, one gets the feeling that this truly was a labor of love for all those involved with this project. They seem to be following a certain chronological order as well by releasing VEBB, which can arguably be seen as the Big Bang of Québecois prog, and now following up with a spin-off band. For any fans of the Québecois scene, I'd strongly suggest you pick up both of the releases on this excellent label.
Disc I – Attente (1975)
- Youvalou Rada (La nature en personne) (3:50)
- Le Chant Des Choses (3:09)
- J'Freak Assez (7:50)
- Ambush (3:25)
- Pylone (5:47)
- Doudou à la Toubabou (8:50)
- Attente (3:43)
- Mon Tambour (3:45)
- J'Freak Assez
Disc II- Le Blé et le Mil (1974)
- Oasis (10:07)
- Man Yaka Ghane (6:20)
- Ambush (7:10)
- Noumoulou (3:07)
- Carignan (3:18)
- Yama Nekh (4;45)
- Doudou N'Diayne et ses Rosettes (7:35)
- Yama Nekh