Kazut De Tyr Jorjuna
Review by Lee Blackstone
"Ton Bale Daniel Philippe / Mihabadim"
Kazut De Tyr's second album takes Breton music on a journey through Central Europe and into the Middle East. The core trio of Kazut De Tyr is comprised of Gaby Kerdoncuff (trumpet, bombardes), Jean Le Floc'h (accordion), and Yves-Marie Berthou (percussion). On Jorjuna, they are joined by Maëlle Vallet (qânűn, a stringed instrument similar to the zither), Kani Kamar (voice; from Kurdistan), Éric Menneteau (Breton singing), and Lionel Mauguen (saz). The resulting mix is fascinating, and the group offers a deep revision to Fest Noz that reimagines Breton dance music with both global sounds and art-music influences.
The effects of the fusion between Breton music and the Middle East are often subtle, and exciting. The dynamic opening track, “Ton Bale Daniel Philippe,” begins with Kerdoncuff, and Floc'h stating the theme on trumpet and accordion. Then the lurching beat comes in, redolent of a processional, with the ringing sounds of the qânűn underpinning the groove. “Ton Bale” serves as an introduction to “Mihabadim,” a traditional Kurdish song that sounds positively ecstatic here, with Kamar and Menneteau trading verses.
Kazut De Tyr's mission is to combines Occidental rhythms and sounds with Breton themes. On “An hini gozh,” Kerdoncuff's trumpet and Vallet's qânűn double-up on the main phrases of the melody, while Berthou furiously works the percussive rhythm. “Boked Eured” is a traditional song that accompanies marriages in central Brittany; here, Kazut De Tyr slow the pace of the song down to a stomping beat, with drawn-out, resonating notes from the saz and impassioned singing from Menneteau. “Boked Eured” is a fusion that sounds like some kind of trans-continental blues, alien and alluring. The percussive effect conjured on that track is shared by “Dabke de Loudia,” which also features a spacious rhythm, and where the trumpet playing – notable for the circularity of the melody – gives way to some fast-paced bombard playing by Kerdoncuff. “Donnio” combines Breton music with percussive phrasing that again takes musical themes across borders, with the repetitive, round phrases one associates with the Breton bagad repertoire next to Macedonian rhythms.
Other influences abound on Jorjuna. “Sure Gul” is a Kurdish love song, sung with full longing and accompanied by grand, romantic instrumental flourishes; the track is not overwrought, but ravishing in its lushness. The track “Rasidov Pravo” dives into gypsy music, and the combination of the accordion and trumpet dance together in a light, carefree manner. “Plac'h an tour” begins with Mauguen's saz, and the pace picks up when Kerdoncuff and Berthou enter. The tune is a Breton dance, but it is paired with Turkish texts sung by Menneteau.
Kazut De Tyr's music on Jorjuna is daring and vital. At a time when France has had to choose between embracing Europe, or seeking to alienate minorities and groups from the Middle East, this album stands tall as a statement reinforcing the beautiful results of cultural exchange. The meeting of Breton music with foreign scales and new instrumentation creates a zone in which certain melodies rear their heads sounding distinctly Breton, or Middle Eastern -- or, remarkably, both in a perfect coexistence. Jorjuna is an achievement that places Kazut De Tyr on the musical and political cutting-edge. – Lee Blackstone