Mémoires is the fruits of the meeting of gwoka royalty Edmony Krater, à la fois singer, poet and tanbouyé, with classical harpist Anne Bacqueyrisse and percussionist Olivier Maurières. Together they created a fusion between the traditional music of Guadeloupe and the harmonic universe of harp. Unique on paper and unique in sound. Recorded in 2009 but only released in 2020, Mémoires is an invitation to travel, between dream and reality, in uncharted territories.
Edmony Krater is no stranger to pairing gwoka rhythms with new sounds and instruments, as he was instrumental in pioneering the fascinating gwoka fusion and gwoka évolutif sub genres which came to the fore in Guadeloupe and France in the 1970s and 80s. Contemporary to Gaoulé Mizik, Krater was notably part of Robert Oumaou’s seminal Gwakasonné, and had his own project with his group Zepiss. Lèspri ka (“ka spirit”) incarnated.
“Gwadeloup” is a cover of a song penned by Krater with Zepiss, an ode to the butterfly island which featured on the groundbreaking 1988 album Tijan Pou Velo (reissued by Digger’s Digest a few years ago). This pared down version sounds no less anthemic, with Bacqueyrisse’s harp adding cosmic and spiritual flourishes to a deep and uplifting gwoka rhythm. Stunning and mesmerising altogether.
By the second track, “Mazunga”, the entrancing fusion achieved between Afro Caribbean percussion and oriental scales sounds already natural, as if the harp had always been part of this culture.
“Natibel”, another cover of an original Zepiss track (from their 1983 album), is a poetic hymn to Nature and ecology, which calls to mind the organic spirituality of the likes of Alice Coltrane and Don Cherry.
The majestic “Atacama” is a musical translation (“musique mélangée, sang mélé”) of Edouard Glissant’s notions of créolité and tout-monde: a (Creole) culture that is open and mixed, both culturally and in its blood, and which embraces a natural fusion of genres, between tradition and modernity, away from all restrictive forms of purism.
‘Arawak E Karayib’ is a powerful tribute to the native West-Indian people of Guadeloupe, that has Krater reciting his poetry to a deep grounation style rhythm, before getting into a meditative state with the nostalgic melodies of the superb ‘Armelance’ and ‘Nou La’ which conclude an album of blissful mind travelling music.
The mixture of classical and tradition, harp and percussion, give the music a light and airy texture which is equally soothing, contemplative and spiritual. A one of a kind album which should find a prime spot in every music lover’s discotheque.