World Music Matters - Piers Faccini: the organic farmer of the music world
Singer-songwriter Piers Faccini's latest opus is a four-track EP Hear My Voice. And what an original voice it is. He chats to us about his artisan approach to making nourishing music, doing it his way on his record label Beating Drum and how unpleasant years at Eton public school probably helped forge his unique musical identity.
Anglo-Italian singer songwriter and guitarist Piers Faccini launched the Hear My Voice project in 2018 as a way of giving a platform to talented artists with distinct and somewhat atypical voices.
His label Beating Drum has released three vinyl EPs: Neapolitan songwriter GNUT, Tui Mamaki and Trinidadian poet and singer Roger Robinson aka Horsedreamer.
"They have very distinctive voices," says Faccini. "And that's the notion of Hear My Voice, it's about using Beating Drum to put out and highlight the kind of voices that might not always be heard.
"Newt, for example, is a singer-songwriter who decides to sing in the Neapolitan language as opposed to Italian. Twi Mamaki is a New Zealander, but she fell in love with Bulgarian music and traditions. Horsedreamer, Roger Robinson, well we're super proud to have worked with him because he just won the T.S. Eliot poetry prize. So he's kind of the new big thing in poetry in the UK."
The fourth Hear My Voice release is Faccini’s own. And while previous albums "I dreamed an Island" (2016) and "Songs of time Lost" (2014) with cellist Vincent Segal, explored songwriting without borders, the Hear My Voice EP is more inspired by British and North American folk.
"I wanted to go back to my first inspirations in terms of songwriting. So the songs are very much coming from the African-American blues traditions and English folk music."
Faccini's characteristic broken falsetto voice soars on the song Hope Dreams.
"The idea of hope dreams was simply the take on the idea that when someone's desperately hanging on to love and to a broken relationship, it's just completely hopeless. There's a sort of addiction to the idea of hope.
"I love canto flamenco and that whole very dramatic, nostalgic way of singing about love that you hear in the Mediterranean and also in southern Italian music. So I'm sort of taking that kind of language but using it in English."
Vintage Faccini, the song offers comfort even as you drown your sorrows.
Faccini was an artist before he became a musician so in addition to recording and mixing his music in his home studio in the Cevennes in southern France, he also does all the artwork and packaging.
"I've identified myself as being a painter who plays music so when I started making music, I did everything that image-wise would be associated with putting out a record: from the record sleeve to a poster to making an animation video. The idea was just to go as far as I could down that line of trying to do as much myself but also just doing it in the most lovingly detailed way."
A way of not being slave to the music industry.
"You're like 'I really want to do a gatefold vinyl, and when you open it up there's an inner sleeve, and then I want to put my paintings and so on. And then the guy from the record company is like 'yeah, that sounds great, but we can't do that, we ain't got the money'. And then you have a bit of plastic with a CD or you have the cheapest vinyl."
The love Faccini puts into crafting his musical and artistic universe invites comparison with an organic farmer who's spent months tending the crop and then takes it trimphantly to market.
"When I started the label, I wrote a little Manifesto called 'Why music is food'.
"The basic idea is that art and music is a form of nourishment. And it's like when you buy oranges at the market, and they've been sort of mass produced and pumped full of pesticides and chemicals, they may not have the same nutritional value as ones that are grown without pesticides... in the sun as opposed to under artificial lights. So I was drawing on that parallel.
"And the parallel of a farmer who decides to be independent from perhaps a supermarket chain and decides to produce less, but better.
"The idea with creating the label is to be able to have a kind of platform where we can really share ideas and a kind of enthusiasm about making objects, making art and making music with the people that follow us."
Faccini has worked with a myriad of musicians over the years, including Malian ngoni player Badje Tounkara on The River.
It feels like the blend of English folk and ngoni were meant to come together. Music bred in very different soil but the graft took and it makes for great listening.
Faccini's Hear My Voice is out on Beating Drum records. The new album is due out this Autumn. In concert at Le Trianon, Paris on 16 November 2020.
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World Music Matters - The many voices, and opinions, of ALA.NI
"Some tracks have 300 different layers of vocals and most of them are me," says Ala.ni about her new album Acca. The London-born, Paris-based singer with a rare four-octave range beguiles us with her voice. The record is mainly her, a capella. With a bit of Iggy Pop.
She talks to us about how her great uncle the singer Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson "black and bisexual in the 30's" gave her a lot of courage to be herself and "do things differently".
We chat about how Iggy Pop took a shine to her and ending up doing vocals in French on the song "Le Diplomate" inspired by a real-life encounter with ... a diplomat.
Following the success of her debut album "You and I" she's grown a lot in confidence and now feels happy speaking her mind on a whole load of subjects.
"I’m all for calling people out right now whether it’s about sex, race or whatever. I’ve not been allowed to have an opinion for many years as a black female, this is a new thing for me. I'm like 'wow, I can talk, people listen'.
"My mum didn’t have this. She doesn't want me to talk but I will talk. So here I am."
Listen to her, in the podcast.
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Check out the album Acca
World Music Matters - Asa unpicks many faces of love on new album Lucid
On her latest album Lucid, Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa explores the many colours of love: warm, dark, brilliant, somber, the joy, the longing, the wanting. But also the violence that can seep into a relationship and destroy lives.
As the world wakes up to the reality of sexual violence against women, Asa's song Murder in the USA, the opening track on the album, couldn't be more pertinent. She was fully aware that femicide was getting a lot of media attention, but personal experience also pushed her to write the song.
"I grew up in Lagos seeing my parents having this problem, especially my mum, and wondering why she would have to allow herself go through that.
"I think murder in the USA is really about being aware of the signs and leaving. I feel like my mum saw the signs but she thought society expects you to be married, to be with your husband, with the children, to stay.
"Now I’m like 'no I don’t have to go through that', to buckle under the weight of society...things are changing now."
Lucid is Asa's fourth album and comes five years after Bed of Stone; five years during which she began and ended a toxic relationship. "It was a big deal in my life," she says. But she's come out stronger.
"I've come to a stage of lucidity that I don't have to stay in a relationship if I don't want to. I think I love myself more and need to invest more in that idea. I have to go against what everyone expects of me."
Asa is on tour in Germany and France. Check out dates here
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World Music Matters - La Mòssa: five women, one voice
La Mòssa are a five-piece band of female vocalists who excel at polyphonic chant. They've just released their debut album A Mòssa and talk to us about reinterpreting folksongs they love in a free and playful way in the spirit of Nina Tirabouchon, a 1920s Italian cabaret artist with hip swing to die for.
La Mòssa means movement in Italian. Listen in to find out why that suits the women so well.
La Mòssa: Lilia Ruocco, Emmanuelle Ader, Sara Giommetti, Gabrielle Gonin, Aude Marchand
Upcoming concerts: Le petit Duc in Aix-en-Provence, 5 March 2019; Jardin de Verre in Cholet, 26 March 2019; Peniche Spectacle in Rennes 27 March 2019.
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World Music Matters - Sona Jobarteh: Changing the tradition of kora playing to ensure its survival
Sona Jobarteh comes from a long West African tradition of Griots and kora players from Mali and The Gambia. She's become one of the rare women in the world to master the 21-string instrument which is traditionally reserved to men. She talks to RFI about working within the tradition to be better able to expand it.
Sona Jobarteh's grandfather was Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, an oral historian and hereditary praise singer from the Mandinka people of The Gambia. Her cousin is Mali's Toumani Diabaté. Her brother began teaching her to play the kora when she was just three, but when she decided she wanted to make a career out of it, she turned to her father Sanjally Jobarteh.
"I always had a very natural connection with the older repertoire," Jobarteh explains as we sit at her hotel before a concert in Paris's New Morning early November. "That's why I really wanted to study with my father because he is very much an expert in that style of playing."
Her father was a demanding task-master.
"He told me that he will teach me as his child, not as his daughter, not as his son but as his child which is no gender. And also he told me that the one thing he wanted in return for teaching me is that I aim to be just a good kora player not a good female kora player."
"He said if someone listens to you they shouldn’t be able to say it’s a girl or it’s a boy it’s just a good kora player."
Jobarteh has gone on to become a very successful and respected kora player, vocalist and instrumentalist, demonstrating to her own and future generations that "you don't have to conform to outside influence to be successful in the music industry."
"You can actually represent your tradition, you can even sing in your own language without having to bend to pressure not to do so."
She did just that in 2011, singing in Mandekan on her album Fasiya.
"Fasiya was all about my heritage and I saw it as a risk or a challenge because I’m no longer singing in English, I’m no longer playing any European instruments, and it’s traditional.
"I was not sure if I would get any audience, but I made the conscious decision to prefer to do what means something to me and have very few people follow than try to conform to something that is not true to me and be popular."
Her gamble paid off. But she hasn't released another album since, putting all her energies, and finances, into the Gambia Academy of Music and Culture she returned to The Gambia to open in 2015.
The school educates children in their cultural traditions and heritage alongside the mainstream curriculum.
She says it's important to "demonstrate the worth of what they have rather than what they don't have," so that they remain in the country rather than believing that "hope, the future and everything lies outside their country".
"The academy is actually everything I do," she continues, "and in many ways the music increasingly is now just a means for me to be able to support and to spread awareness about what I’m trying to do in The Gambia."
Music in this week's programme is from Jobarteh's 2011 album Fasiya. Her upcoming album will focus on the future: social activism, education, women and raising awareness of the challenges her country is facing.
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