This is the last episode in our mini series following West of the World, and it’s focusing on the 4 days we spent rehearsing and recording the material in Toulouse.
Some quick details now about the project –
Release Date: Jan 08 2017
£1 from every digital album sold will go to Paper4all , a charity providing education supplies to school kids in Burkina Faso (the home country of Burkina Azza)
Burkina Faso has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world (24%) and I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity to make a contribution to improving that through Roving Sounds. It makes sense to me as well that having experienced and benefited so much from Burkinabe culture that I should attempt to help future generations. Presently paper4all is focussed on providing for 5 schools in Ougadougou, (the capital) and I hope to help them grow to include other schools too.
With this project drawing to a close I want to make mention of several people who made it possible.
Firstly all the amazing musicians on this album Adama Koeuta, Marco Quarantotto, Mirko Cisilino, Ousmane Koeta, Sam Priven, Sekou Coulibaly and Solo Koita. For their incredible musicianship, patience, dedication, passion, friendship and humour. They have all made it an unforgettable experience.
Secondly Sebastien Meseray, Burkina Azza’s manager for helping to get everybody in the same place at the same time and being super flexible.
To Ivan Mirosa for hosting the band at his house in Toulouse.
To Pierre and Paul Ricci for the incredible photography and filming. Pierre and Paul got right into the project and were lots of fun to have around whilst we were rehearsing and recording. Check out the link box on the right for some of their other work.
And to Anthony Leung for his generosity and help with the mixing and mastering side of the project as well as being a top human. Again link box for his stuff.
Roving Sounds is about to head in a slightly different direction over the coming months, but I can say with confidence that collaborative projects like West of the World are going to be a focus of the work we do.
In 2017 Burkina Azza will return to Europe and we’re currently in preparation for some shows in May-June so stay posted for that.
Finally I’ve uploaded below the album artwork, some of my favourite photos from the time in Toulouse, and a little behind the scenes rehearsal video which you can check out.
In the previous episode I mentioned that we’d return again to The Wayside and Home in this episode to see how they changed. Instead of doing that in the podcast, I’ve included that in the Music Nerds section at the bottom of the page with some more specific information for what changed and why.
Don’t forget if you haven’t gotten your free track yet, get it here!
West of the World: Rehearsals and Recording
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About this Episode
This episode is a bit different from the others, because it’s delivered in two sections. The first section is kind of an audio collage of the time in Toulouse. When we were there I was taking a lot of audio recordings; of the rehearsals, of my thoughts, of us hanging out, and I thought it might be interesting to use all these recordings to make kind of a timeline or big audio diary of the process. It goes for about 17 minutes, and a lot of the things we’ve talked about over the last episode are covered in here. You can hear what worked well, what we struggled with, what the communication was like, the mood, the decisions that were made etc. I think it really accurately conveys my emotional level throughout the 4 days, which is interesting too.
The second part is kind of a final rounding up of the project – quickly touching on my goals, what further challenges came up and where to from here including release details.
Burkina Azza – Adama, Sekou, Ousmane and Solo’s traditional West-African group from Burkina Faso.
Sam Priven – American saxophonist/composer, Sam played sax on the album
Marco Quarantotto – Croatian born drummer, you can follow Marco on Instagram
Pierre Ricci – Pierre and his son Paul did a fantastic job with photographing and filming the project.
Anthony Leung – Anthony helped with mixing and mastering of the project.
Behind the Scenes Video
In the previous episode I described the process by which I composed two tunes The Wayside and Home and I just wanted to use them now to illustrate how the rehearsal process affected the compositions.
Last time I talked about the call and response phrases and how they were both based on a repeating rhythmic idea (check it here). Well because we had to use all the rehearsal time to learn the music properly, there wasn’t enough time to learn both call and response phrases – so one was dropped. I think this is actually better, it gives consistency throughout the piece, and ties everything together under one phrase.
We also talked about the difficult dunun/bell part which is based on the second triplet, and locks in with the drumkit.
Well that too proved too difficult for the time limit we had, and was traded for something like this:
Given the choice between having a complex part that doesn’t lock in, or a simpler part that does, it seemed an easy decision.
Again due to time restrictions we had to cut some of the material. Last time I mentioned how there was a main melody of the piece, then I used some different bass notes to make a new section. The second section was significantly longer than the first, but unfortunately due to time restraints it needed to be cut.
In hindsight I was quite specific with the notes and rhythms I asked Sekou to play on Kora and I think this meant it took a lot longer to learn. If I’d given him the basic sound and a vibe he would’ve gotten to a different result faster, and then we’d have a different piece of music.
Here’s a comparison of the harmony in the two versions: pre and post rehearsal:
And finally one of the most interesting changes from the rehearsals was due to the difference in how Sekou was feeling the rhythm in this piece. When I wrote the Kora part for Home I thought it was relatively simple (listening now I’m not so sure), but essentially the main melody is a bar of 6/4 and two bars of 4/4.
But when sekou played it he made it one bar of 6/4 and one bar of 9/4 (or one bar of 4/4, the other 5/4) adding an extra beat from how I wrote it.
There was no discussion between us about him doing this, it just kind of came out this way when he played it and everybody adjusted to how he was feeling it.
I really like this change, it feels super organic, and though it takes some getting used to, is a real point of interest in the piece for me.
These are the kind of changes and influences I couldn’t really predict before the project, but I’m super happy about now.