Selected by Dan
Rokia Traore - © Frank Socha
Leading world music promoter Conversation returns with its annual look at the music of
France and its former colonies. Kicking off its tenth anniversary with performances
earlier this month by French sex siren Jane Birkin, this year' Festival Halou ranges from
the West African morna of Cesaria Evora to the gypsy jazz of Bireli Lagrene;
these artists are just a sampling of the diversity of styles that will be on display at
various venues over the next three months.
Hailing from the island nation of Cape Verde, Cesaria Evora has wowed Tokyo audiences in
previous years with her post-colonial blend of Portuguese fados, Brazilian modhinas
and British sea-chanteys. Taking up singing at 16, Evora became a minor star in her own
country, but gave up singing in the '70s for lack of profit. Relocating to Paris in the
late '80s, she became part of that city's fertile world music scene, resuscitating her
career with albums such as 1997's Cabo Verde and last year's Mar Azul.
Her latest album is Cafe Atlantico, just out this month on BMG.
In her October performances at Odaiba's
new supper club Tribute to the Love Generation, Evora will be joined by young Malian
singer Rokia Traore. The daughter of a diplomat, Traore absorbed a host of musical
influences as her family moved around the world. Debuting with Mouneissa in 1998,
Traore has received considerable acclaim for her sweet voice and laid-back, acoustic take
on West African music.
Another hallmark of Festival Halou has been its Jazzin' Paris installment, which this year
will feature French trio Prysm and guitarist Bireli Lagrene. Releasing Second Rhythm
in 1999, the trio of pianist Pierre Of Bethmann, bassist Christophe Wallemme and
percussionist Benjamin Henocq provide proof that the French have absorbed the jazz
tradition as well as anyone.
Prysm will be joined by gypsy jazz prodigy
Bireli Lagrene, who dazzled the world with his flamboyant, Django Reinhardt-influenced
style when he debuted as a 13-year-old in 1980. Pushing on into heavier, fusion-oriented
sounds in mid '80s recordings with the late great bassist Jaco Pastorius, he has more
recently returned to an acoustic style, updated with hints of post-bop.
The festival continues on with a look at
the contemporary French and African pop scenes in November with visits by up and coming
French African soul songstress Natali Lorio and 22-member Moroccan group Master Musicians
of Jajouka, who have recorded with the Rolling Stones.
It concludes in December with a performance by indie-pop group Little Rabbits, whose
influences range from Beck to Sonic Youth to the John Spencer Blues Explosion.
takes place at various venues around Tokyo from September through December. See listings for details.