Sofritio`s Hugo Mendez has put together an amazing document. Nouvelle Ambiance!!! comprises four sides of vinyl, and a twenty-eight page booklet, aiming and succeeding in introducing outsiders to an `80s Parisian musical melting pot.
Visually, photographer Bill Akwa Betote captures nightclubs full of extravagant fashions. The Bataclan, La Defense, La Farafina, La Plantation, The Rex, Le Tango, and Le Titan. The Alize, The Atlantique, Keur Samba, Manapany, The Nelson, Opera Cineama, O`Timis, Le Palace, Phil One, and Ruby`s (my but Paris had a lot of clubs). Venues packed with party-goers wearing shades, and as much gold as they could carry. Colourfully and expensively dressed mixed crowds. Skins black and white. Clothes bright, bold, and primary. Candy stripes and painted silks. Designer loose fits, like Jazz` Zoot meets Miami Vice. DJs in sharp suits and neckties. Performers in sequins and cloaks. Playing to these Parisian peacocks and peahens.
Text and interviews describe a fascinating period of cross-pollination. Hybrids of musics brought over from disparate Africas and the Caribbean. Musicians from Cameroun, Congo, Guadeloupe, La Guyane, Martinique, Reunion, Senegal, and Zaire. Griots from Guinea and Mali. All converging on small, independent studios. Diane Musique, Studio Caroline, Studio Johanna, and Village Music. Hanging out and contributing to each others tracks. Mixing Bikutsi and Makossa with Soukous, and Zouk. Adding ahoco and Baoule to Highlife and Merengue. Creating fusions designed for dance that took over nightlife in the City Of Love. Artists eventually travelling from Abidjan, Brazzaville, Dakar, Doula, and Kinshasa, to recreate these sounds.
More commercial proponents of this environment might be names like La Cie Creole, Kassav, Mory Kante, M`bamina, and Tumblack, and sonically these are, of course, reference points. Most of the selections are urgent synergies of Mutant Disco and Ju Ju. Soloing saxes. Full horn sections. Squealing synths, and accordion tones. Rolling pianos. Relentless percussion. Non-stop grooves interwoven with hypnotic, lattice-like guitar. Drum machines lending Proto-House punch. Batteries dropped into delay a la Dinosaur L`s Go Bang! Zangalon`s female chants, echoed on releases by Zazou / Bikaye / CY1 and Nyra Bakiga.
Despite the detail, Nouvelle Ambiance!!!, still only serves as a sampler. A foot through the door of a new world. Leaving the listener / reader keen to hear and learn more. Begging for additional volumes, and perhaps a book? A documentary?
P.S. / I know this is gonna sound daft, but I can also pick up the Gipsy Kings in cultural mix. Maybe that`s due to a Rumba shared between the Spanish Gitando and Congolese Soukous.
You can order a copy directly here.