Simon Winsé – Dangada
(Gigntonium. GIG001WIN1. CD Review by Alison Bentley)
Simon Winsé was born into a family of musicians in a village in Burkina Faso. He sings and plays flute, ngoni, guitar, mouth bow, kora and drums. Concerned that local young people who play traditional instruments are laughed at by their peers, his mission is to stop the traditions dying out by mixing them with other kinds of music: jazz, blues and rock. Now living in Paris, he’s amassed 22 musicians (many Burkinabe) to play his original music. Dangada means ‘joy’, and it’s full of joie de vivre.
Calls and responses run throughout the album – there’s a sense that all the musicians are having involved conversations. The acoustic Ma Yerenda Dabo is intimate, violin riffs and layered backing vocals replying to Winsé’s gentle, throaty singing. Winsé has been working with French violinist Clément Janinet since 2005, and their musical rapport is at the heart of the album. Malemaye is upbeat, somewhere between soukous and samba with talking drums. The instruments seem to be circling round the same riff, examining it before throwing it around, in between thrilling brass stabs and a bluesy electric guitar solo. There’s a variety of moods; the musicians’ role in Winsé’s village is to provide a commentary on life, and Molokoloba is slowly tender. The rustling percussion augments the jazz-infused guitar; its lines are so complex, it’s a surprise when it unmasks itself as being in 4/4. There‘s some of Didier Lockwood’s style in the yearning violin solo, with its woody tones and eastern scales – Janinet has worked with him. The cloudy flute trails behind the reggae-inflected ending.
The opening horns of Kabebafue demand your attention; it draws on Afrobeat, with its infectious dance rhythms. Winsé learned flute from his father, who played it at village mask ceremonies. Here, he cries out as if urging it to play more and more wildly. Dounia Lorame has a slow country rock feel with drawled choral backing vocals and melting violin solo. The delicate ngoni arpeggios of Bemamendare are pitted again the groovy subtonal bass (Sylvain Dando Paré.) Multiple stringed instruments mysteriously interlock their individual riffs. You can absorb yourself in the intricate details or listen to the big picture, like an Impressionist painting. The strong rhythms of Labatombouri are urged on by a powerful second lead vocal (Victor Démé) and rocked-out interludes. Nangandeka has a burning groove fired by a percussive off beat, like an insouciant shrug.
Logue opens with a mouth bow, its percussive tone as bitter sweet as the berimbau, before lurching into a rocky Chicago blues feel with dramatic dynamics and simmering guitar fills. Noaga has a sybaritic funk groove bursting from the delicate flute opening. Winsé sings passionately. “Chez moi, you don’t sing just for the sake of singing,” he said in one interview. “If you have nothing to say, you keep quiet.” Tchinenebamane is a joyful conclusion, almost a samba, with tingling string sounds over the deep funky bass. As in all the songs, the arrangement is taut, taking you through many moods and pulling you in. The energy of the song finally dissolves into melting violin notes.
When he plays in his village, Winsé wants his music to make people “forget all their worries”. This album is full of wonderful musicianship, energy and zest for life – guaranteed to get you though a long cold winter.