Album of the Week // 22–26 March
Creole poetry, folk mysticism and heavy-grooving cosmic synths combine on this unprecedented survey of spiritual Martinique polymath Gratien Midonet’s first four albums.“I always broke free from the rules, from codes being too narrow,”says poet, musician and sonic shaman Gratien Midonet.“I have always had this sense of peaceful knowledge that there is no separation between genres, beings and universal things.”
For Midonet, pushing musical boundaries was less a choice than an extension of his spirit. A self-taught guitarist and composer, drawing on his childhood memories of bélé and beguine rhythms, Midonet’s musical life developed in parallel to his academic and spiritual pursuits. Studying philosophy and psychopedagogy in France, it was his fascination with pan-Africanism and animism which fuelled the transcendent energy of his music.
Although Midonet honed his sound in France, the four albums he released during the late ’70s and ’80s were heavily inspired by diasporic nostalgia, or what he describes as the “smells and colours… subliminal noises… fruity notes, the memories of funeral wakes, the bombastic organ of the cathedral and the gasps of the drums” of his childhood home on the Caribbean island of Martinique.
Fittingly, it’s there that Midonet achieved cult status for the title track of his 1979 debut, Van An Lévè, which became a protest anthem for the island’s independence movement, and was briefly censored by the French authorities. Look no further than ‘Mari Rhont Ouve La Pot’, which opens this collection, to hear the propulsive mix of cosmic synths, acoustic folk, and Creole lyricism that became the essence of Midonet’s sound.
Released on Martinique label Touloulou, Van An Lévè was followed in 1980 by L’inité, whose tropical acid folk (‘M’en ka Monté Mon’) and majestic,violin-led melodies (‘Kannaval Sakré Pou Tout Z’Heb Poussé’) confirmed Midonet’s unique and intuitive approach to composition.
Not content to skip effortlessly between genres and influences, Midonet also began pushing the boundaries of the album form itself. His third album, Bourg La Folie, released in 1984, was a soundtrack for a lost film about the mysticism sof carnival, while his fourth, Fô Ou Tchimbé, took the form of a ‘conte musical’ (a narrated story accompanied by music) presented at the Pompidou Centre,and spoke to Midonet’s literary prowess as a fierce proponent of the Creole language.
Like Fô Ou Tchimbé’s iridescent ‘Antille Ô Cristal’, with its sparse synth stabs and rubbery bassline, Midonet’s music has found a new home on psychedelic dance floors like Beauty and The Beat, where resident Pol Valls first brought Midonet to curator Cedric Lassonde’s attention.
As Lassonde writes in the liner notes: “Midonet’s musical world is cosmic,mystical and he has created his own idiosyncratic style around it: not plain folk,not bélé, chouval bwa, beguine or gwoka, but rather a transcendental fusion ofall these and a true reflection of his personality.”Now based on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia, Midonet and his message of musical unity are ready to resonate once more.
The music of Martinique poet and composer Gratien Midonet is being treated to a special three-track remix EP, A Cosmic Poet Revisited, providing anew context for the political activism and cosmic folk sound of the original recordings.
A musician informed by his academic and spiritual pursuits, who penned albums in France that became cult anthems for the independence movement in his native Martinique, Midonet developed a unique sonic language that combined bélé and beguine rhythms, acoustic mysticism, Creole lyrics and electronic instrumentation.
Releasing four albums across a ten-year period between 1979 and 1989, Midonet’s catalogue has been revisited for the first time on Time Capsule compilation, A Cosmic Poet from Martinique.
With the label also reissuing all four original albums digitally over a number of months, this extensive retrospective of Midonet’s career is joined by an EP featuring three new interpretations from a trio of like-minded sonic disciples from across the globe.
On the A-Side, Sapporo-based producer and sound designer Kuniyuki Takahashi tugs at the spiritual threads of Midonet’s ‘Osana’ to unravel the sun-soaked funk devotional into an 11-minute deep house odyssey. Up next, London-based Time Capsule boss Kay Suzuki’s soft-touch rework of ‘Roulo’ emphasises the organic syncopation of Midonet’s original to craft a tantalising slow-burner that ebbs and flows with a natural ease. Closing out proceedings, Romanian duo Khidja provide anacid-tinged adaptation of ‘La Reine’, the final track of the TimeCapsule compilation. A minimalist affair which nods towards kosmische musik in its forward motion, Khidja bring the loose drums and elastic synth lines to the front on what is a fittingly euphoric climax to the EP.
Speaking to compilation curator Cedric Lassonde, Midonet stressed the spiritual necessity of his music in approaching “the transcendental worlds whose door remains closed for most humans”. In curating a remix project that seeks not to exaggerate the intention of the originals but to compliment them, Time Capsule has succeeded in lifting Gratien Midonet’s message of mystical togetherness into new realms.
Hear tracks from both albums all this week on Morning Mari*! A 15 minute mini breakfast show from 9:00–9:15AM GMT every weekday.