© 2019 by Bakfoul Prod

Lanzdifou, from Philo,

aka « Bélé », bewitching Creole groove

Some gems deserve the limelight. Among them, the science – inhabited by consciousness – of Philo’s “Tanbouyé” from Martinique. Like the eponymous concert-show, the album Lanzdifou takes us to the heart of ancestral Caribbean rhythms, especially the “bélé”, which the leader revisits, reinvents, in full respect to their original essence, with the ardent complicity of his seven musicians (with François Rémy on tambour ka and tibwa and with Nicolas Briant at the tumba). Philo, who signed all the compositions (except for Lanzdifou written by Mario Canonge) and arrangements, incorporates slam, tales, ancient creole melodies... During a concert, it always comes a time when dance takes hold of the body of musicians and audiences: that energy is perceptible in the recording.

 

Philo, who was born Philippe Gouyer-Montout, is one of the genuine heirs to the traditional tambour players from Martinique to the sound of which he has evolved since childhood. Initiated to the “bélé” (and its martial branch, the “danmyé”) in his early years, the seasoned percussionist, singer, storyteller, composer and author also always had an interest in the Guadeloupean “gwoka” drum. Likewise, he naturally fell in love with jazz music, which breading ground, New Orleans, is geographically closer to the West Indies than to Paris. “I am developing a vision of the “bélé” not exclusive but resolutely opened,” he explains. “At the source of my Lanzdifou project, I am integrating other Caribbean (gwoka, jazz) and African roots components”.  Calling his music “Afrobeat of the Caribbean” is a wink towards the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti, a Pan-African activist who created, along with drummer Tony Allen, the Afrobeat. Rather than the usual bass-drum binominal, Philo opts for rhythmic bass-drum tandem which drives the nail of a bewitching Creole groove.

BELE, a treasure from our national heritage

Born in Fort de France in 1976, Philo was raised at l’Anse Dufour, a small village in the South East of Martinique. He is part of the last generation to have known, in flesh and sound, the “bélé” when it was at the height of its splendor, before it suffers from the consequences of the fifties and sixties sugar crises and those of the 1963 French government migration policies via BUMIDOM (…). A rural exodus ensued, which lead de facto to the decline of tambour practice. Philo’s secluded village has been preserved from the breach of that cultural transmission.  In favor of the revival movement of the seventies, the ancient slaves’ legacy has not been forgotten. The “bélé”, defended by Philo is a national heritage treasure. It’s up to us all to pay it an attention worth of its cultural and artistic riches.

Praise to his village fishermen

“On Lanzdifou, it’s my fishermen village that I set up. An authentic village like in the “Rue Case-Nègre” movie. Growing up, there was no electricity nor running water”.

On the Landzdifou album intro, a strange and penetrating sound resonates, with a strong signification: the sound of a lambi conch (mollusk valued in the Caribbean), which allowed in the past villagers to communicate about the fishing of the day (“come help us pull the net!”, “the fish is ready for sale” etc.). at the beginning of the Lanzdifou track, Franck Nicolas prints his contemporary game to the conch (later, he’ll play the “buggle” on the Juakatoumba track). Then Dédé Saint-Prix launches the conch call, the same way the traditional fishermen do. The conch melody then unites with the poetry that Philo professes in homage to “the resistance of the fishermen sailors, these men who are fathers, these proud men, these men from the earth”; while the maestro Mario Canonge, at the piano, puts like a balm on the scars of a memory bruised but still lively and vibrant. About Philo, Mario Canonge says “I appreciate the research he is doing on the “bélé”. He has a very special game. I like the way he beatboxes the “tibwa” rhythm with his mouth at the same time he hits the drum”.

 

In honor of his grandfather and great-uncle, Philo wrote “Mi Danmyé-a”. In this solemn and engaging piece, he celebrates the martial art associated with the “bélé”, the “danmyé” to which he’s been training since the age of three under the watchful eyes of the neighborhood elders. The song “La senn-an echwé” (about fishing with a big net) begins with the exquisite and bucolic breeze of a walrus flute. It’s played by Dédé Saint-Prix, the famous international ambassador of the “Chouval Bwa”, who hosted the recording of the album in his studio located in Ile-de-France. “As soon as I heard this music, I was hooked, says Dédé Saint-Prix. Philo is at the height of his art”.

 

Philo’s Caribbean blues, a liberating trance

In “Mélodi Tanbou-a”, the superb horns arrangements (Xavier Sibre) join the solemn march of drums upon which the striking incantation from Philo flies. And Nicolas Genest, a French jazzman with Beninese origins, strolls his mysterious funambulate bugle all around. As for “Djoubakatoumba” the clip for this album, Philo named it by putting together the names of the three major Caribbean drums: Juba from Martinique, Ka from Guadeloupe and Tumba from Cuba; a way to encourage a form of contemporary negritude.

Arriving in Montpellier in 1996 to study philosophy at the university, Philo (who bears his nickname well!) led, in parallel, his artistic activity, without ever separating it from a mission of popular education. The pedagogical part of his project has been rewarded twice (in 2004, then in 2005), by the Regional Delegation of Youth and Sports. If Philo the Teacher was devoting himself to the transmission of the “bélé” culture, Philo the Artist was pursuing a nice path. He has been noticed in the first parts of Mélissa Laveaux, Trilok Gurtu, Papa Wemba… concerts and has appeared at numerous important events (including the Mozaïques du Havre and the Villes des Musiques du Monde festival). On July 7, 2019, he will present Lanzdifou as part of the prestigious French Jazz Festival in Vienna.

 “Philo deserves his place on the global scene of the “bélé”” states Dédé Saint-Prix. The “tanbouyé of L’Anse Dufour” is set in the noble filiation of masters of the genre, such as the dean of the “bélé”, Paul Rastocle, the flutist Eugene Mona and the vocalists Ti Emile, Ti Raoul, Espelizane Sainte-Rose and Simeline Rangon. His role models include Guy Konket, an activist for the militant “gwoka” flag as well as Dédé Saint-Prix and his commitment for the “Chouval Bwa”. Philo’s approach values the drum as a vector of identity with a universal reach, in the sense of Edouard Glissant’s concept of “the All-World”. On the album “Lanzdifou”, Philo’s Caribbean blues conveys the spirit of the “Neg-Marrons” and slowly, but surely, calls for a liberating trance.

Translation from the original text of Fara C.