18 February 2008

Monday's mp3: Sounds from La Ciotat

A swirl of birthdays clusters around today. Here in the USA, it's the day weHappy birthday, Katia! (brazilian footballer) celebrate the births of two presidents, the always-behatted Abraham Lincoln, and President #1: George Washington. Less celebrated (at least in my neighborhood) are the birthdays of John Travolta, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Bengali developer of bhakti yoga), Lord Nityananda (Vaishnava saint), Wallace Stegner (writer), Toni Morrison (another writer), Yoko Ono (wife of a British mophead), Vanna White (famous TV arm-waver), Dr. Dre (rapper), Katia (Brazilian soccer star), and your own dj earball (blogger and cultural agitator). Oh, apparently it's also the birthday of Kosovo (newest European nation).

Excuse me for a moment while I imagine a dinner party attended by all of them, and the possible topics of discussion...

[pause]

Man...that's intriguing. Kosovo has already had a little too much to drink, and Vanna is just shoving the food around on her plate with her fork. At least Dr. Dre and and Wallace Stegner seem to be hitting it off.

But I didn't beckon you here with a mere imaginary meal. No, the sound of new music has been filling my ears, and it's from that sound that I pluck an offering for you. Just last month I was writing about the French port city of Marseille and the sounds of a group called Moussu T e Lei Jovents. Now the trio has a new album out, called Invente a La Ciotat.

Truth is the band isn't from Marseille, and I apologize if you went looking for them there. In truth, you need to head down the D559 a little farther to the port town of La Ciotat, an industrial city where ship-building cranes tower like giant white trees, much of the town is clad in denim, and Moussu T make their mischief.

In a technological first (at least to me), the CD comes with a DVD on the flip side, featuring concert performances knit together with locally shot video. Included are intriguing hints to the neighborly feeling of the town, including parties, interviews, and a fish fry at the docks (featuring pre-made breaded fish sticks cut out in curious shapes and enjoyed, tongues firmly in cheek). The video explains that it was in La Ciotat that several important inventions took place, including the concept of a round earth, graffiti, arc welding, the apertif, the bowling game of petanque, punk music, opera, and platform shoes. Of course.

One non-musical but highly intriguing social experiment appears to involve giving a camera to someone on the street, with the instruction that they should take a picture of someone else, then give them the camera to carry on the chain. In the end, posters of all the photos were posted around town, with people searching all over to find themselves or their friends.

The band's music is a background to all this, and the stripped down sounds serve this purpose well. Mostly acoustic and mostly with the trio of lead singer Tatou, guitarist/banjo player Blu, and drummer Zerbino (who are sometimes joined by Brazilian percussionist Jamilso), the sound is largely acoustic, and quite casual.Moussu T e lei jovents - invente a la ciotat (So casual, that it doesn't really seem the focus of this project, what with five previously released tracks and five new ones totaling only about a half hour of music.)

This tune captures some of the irreverent fun of the group, with slide guitar joining their trademark banjo. It's got a wonderful high-tech/low-tech video (that you can't yet find on YouTube) and charming lyrics: "You're not a champion / You're not a model / You're not a queen / You are the one I love / You are for me my forever pretty."

[mp3] Moussu T e Lei Jovents: Forever Polida
from the album Invente a La Ciotat

By the way, if you've lived a good life, you may find that Paradise is La Ciotat, where good people go, turning into seawater and spending their afterlife licking the feet of young girls. Or so I'm told.
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