Lo Jo



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Time stands still for Lo’Jo — pain of longing and sweet strains of a ‘je ne sais quoi’, strange ancient melodies gather like lazy cumulus clouds over African-gypsy rhythms — this French group from Angers brings Europe and the vast continent to its south together in a seductive dance, a musical trance.

As the thickly sensual lead voice of Denis Péan delivers the lyrics — mostly his own poetry — the spectre of Tom Waits and Arthur Rimbaud, France’s 19th century bad-boy poet, rises above these wild rivers and savannas of language: parce que les mots sont fragiles à l’embrasure des lèvres (“because words are fragile at the opening of the lips”).

Burning powders of desire, pelvic undulations, threads of accordion enchantment spun around violins and hand claps, the high backup voices of Algerian sisters Nadia and Yasmina Nid El Mourid: They all come together in a communal chanting, a celebration of bohemian crystal (as in the title of their CD for World Village, Bohême de Cristal). Cosmopolitan is too cold a word for the mysterious, borderless beauty of this ensemble.

Each year they produce Le Festival au Désert with English guitarist Justin Adams and the Tuareg rebel guitar band Tinariwen, struggling against heat, political tensions, and sand-covered roads in search of new experiences and adventures.

Swallowing up everything from the riotous beat of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas to folk tunes performed by African griots, the “world music" section of your record shop is so nebulously defined the category can seem meaningless. But trust the phenomenal and globe trotting sound of the Angers-base sextet, Lo’Jo, to finally make some sense of it. For over 20 years the wild expanse of this group’s talent has accommodated seemingly immiscible influence's.
In a sympathetically adventurous Crawdaddy [in Dublin] pan-cultural songs spun a subtle tapestry from French chansons and Arabic harmonies to the screech of gypsy violins, from funk rhythms to contemporary dance beats. It felt – for a moment - that all cultural friction would soften with the right harmony. This cynic-busting idealism is testament not only to the instrumental skills of the musicians, but also to Lo’Jo’s ability to facilitate seemingly impossible unions.
This is the band, after all, which organised The Festival of the Desert and drew Malian musicians, Tuareg Tribesmen and a smattering of western groups to a remote stretch of the Sahara. Such journeys have clearly enriched their perspective with tremendous violinist Richard Bourreau equally compelling when scratching a melody from the imzad, an onion shaped Saharan fiddle played with something like an archer’s bow. Meanwhile French-Algerian sisters Nadia and Yamina Nid el Mourid deliver lockstep, lilting Maghrebian harmonies to relieve the parched Tom Waitsian verses of slouching singer/keyboardist Denis Pean. In other hands the limpid beats of Petit Homme, the cabaret jazz of Le Piano or the psychedelic chatter of Cinq Cauris Ocre would make for an indigestible gallimaufry. But to Lo’Jo this is second nature.
As Yamina finally whirls through a ferocious dance while an intoxicating number swells around us, world music seems to agree upon a common language. In the afterglow of their unifying performance, one wonders what Lo’Jo could do for the European Constitution. But that may be just the fusion talking. Peter Crawley - The Irish Times 2005


" 'Au Cabaret Sauvage' is the richest episode so far in the extraordinary" If Tom Waits divided his time between France and Mali and collaborated with the Penguin Café Orchestra, this is an album he would have been proud to make" Financial Times


" Lo' Jo play a high-class multi-cultural pop which takes in French chanson, rock and Arabic or African influences, a mix that made them a huge success at WOMAD." The Times


" Not since Les Negresses Verts has a band whose music you could truly identify as "French" had such an impact abroad." The Guardian


" They have to be one of the best live bands in the world now." The Independent


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Last modified: 02/23/11