Lo'Jo

Creation date : 1982
Language : French
Category : Composer / Songwriter
Style of music : world music
Members : Denis Péan, Richard Bourreau, Coline Linder, Kham Meslien, Nadia Nid el Mourid, Yamina Nid el Mourid, Franck Vaillant

Nomads from Angers, the children of world music, a vibrant multicultural tribe - journalists have come up with a number of colourful descriptions in their attempts to define Dénis Péan’s cosmopolitan clan. Lo’Jo have enjoyed an impressively itinerant career spanning 25 years now, but the group’s style remains as hard to pin down as ever!

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    Nomads from Angers, the children of world music, a vibrant multicultural tribe - journalists have come up with a number of colourful descriptions in their attempts to define Dénis Péan’s cosmopolitan clan. Lo’Jo have enjoyed an impressively itinerant career spanning 25 years now, but the group’s style remains as hard to pin down as ever!

    The Lo'Jo collective got together in 1982 in a village just outside Angers, spearheaded by a young poet by the name of Denis Péan and Richard Bourreau, a violinist friend Péan met at the Conservatoire d'Angers. The early ‘80s witnessed the formation of a host of punk and new wave bands but Péan, already keen to mark himself out from the crowd and the general zeitgeist, preferred to set up an original community-based project instead. 

    Likening his prospective troupe to "a tree trunk waiting to be sculpted", Péan set about recruiting a group of multi-talented dancers and musicians. The troupe’s core was nevertheless instrumental with Péan himself (on bassoon, piano and vocals),Richard Zenoun (on double bass)Richard Bourreau (violin),Kanga Kamden.Over the years Lo'Jo would become a shifting formation, with various members joining and leaving the group, but the basic influences remained the same – Lo’Jo specialised in cooking up a rich "world music” melting-pot long before the term existed as a genre. 

    Lo’Jo marked the real beginning of their career with "Musique pour l'homme en marche", a sort of ‘concert-performance’ staged at the Beaux-Arts art school in Angers in June 1984. Then the outfit, still functioning as an easy-come-easy-go collective with a constantly changing line-up, started performing regular concerts in Angers and the surrounding region.  

    In 1987, Péan’s eclectic collective teamed up with the Compagnie Jo Bithume, a street theatre troupe from the same Maine-et-Loire region. Lo’Jo offered to create the music for the troupe’s travelling show, "Décrocher la lune", a spectacular street performance combining music, theatre and circus numbers. The two troupes set off together on an extensive tour of Europe in 1988, travelling round the continent in caravans and spending almost three years on the road. 

    Between 1990 and 1992, Lo'Jo underwent a major series of line-up changes with Richard Zenoun quitting the group. New members rapidly filled the ranks with the arrival of Renaud Pion (saxophone), Eric Aubry (bass), the two backing singers Nadia Nid el Mourid and Crystèle Chiaudano, accordionist Guy Raimbault and guitarist Rachid Séfrioui. Meanwhile, Stéphane Barral replaced Kamga Kamden on bass (who had himself been drafted in to replace Bruno Baudry before him). 

    Leaving street theatre behind, Lo’Jo went on to orient themselves towards a more purely musical form of expression. And in 1993, their debut album, "Fils de Zamal", was released on the Fnac Music label. In another minor line-up change, Méphisto was drafted in to replace Renaud Pion on sax. 

    In 1994, the group went on to stage their "Triban de Lo'jo" show at Le Nouveau Théâtre in Angers. This show found the group branching out into other artistic domains and combining elements of dance, circus and art in their work. This show was to be one of numerous collaborations with ZUR (Zone Utopiquement Reconsitutée), a collective of artists whose aim was to incorporate artworks into music and cinema.

    In 1995, Stéphane Barral, Méphisto and Rachid Séfrioui quit the group and Yamina Nid el Mourid was brought in to replace Crystèle Chiaudano on backing vocals.

    1996: "Sin acabar"

    1996 saw the release of "Sin acabar", an album which Lo’Jo produced and financed themselves. Meanwhile, Denis Péan published his first book, "Les Passagers ordinaires du temps." The group also kept up a busy tour schedule throughout ‘96, playing dates across France, Spain, Germany and Belgium.

    In 1997, Lo'Jo headed off to Africa where they met a number of local groups and artists. Their most significant encounter was with the Benin Brass Band, a group they met while performing at the Festival du Théâtre des Réalités, in the Malian capital, Bamako. Péan and his travelling band also spent time with the Tuaregs, a desert tribe they would become particularly close to. The group’s experiences in the sand dunes led them to come up with the idea of creating an annual desert festival. However, before they began preparing the first edition of the " Festival au Désert", Lo'Jo went back into the studio to record a new album, "Mojo Radio." Released in 1998, the latter went down well with both music critics and fans. And its totally eclectic content confirmed the band was impossible to pin down in any existing music category.

    Following their album release, Lo’Jo embarked upon another hectic series of concerts, appearing at a number of major music festivals including Le Printemps de Bourges, Womad (organised in Cacéres, Spain), Les Francofolies de La Rochelle and the Womad festival organised in Seattle, in the U.S. In 1999, Lo’Jo invited the Gangbé Brass Band to tour with them on a two-month stint that took them to France, Switzerland and Canada. 

    After another lengthy tour which literally took them to the four corners of the world, Lo’Jo released a new album entitled "Bohème de Cristal." The starring role on this new album went to the multi-talented Nid El Mourid sisters, Nadia and Yamina, not just singers but also saxophonists, photographers, DJs, percussionists, songwriters and composers. Up until this point, it had always been Denis Péan who provided vocals for the group’s poetic lyrics, but the vocal harmonies of the Maghrebin sisters added a whole new dimension to things. Thanks to the new material on "Bohème de Cristal", Lo’Jo were hailed as the hottest new discovery at the Vancouver festival that year. And they brought the house down when they performed at Le Cabaret Sauvage, in Paris, for a fortnight in May. 

    In 2001, Denis Péan and his joyous band returned to Africa to stage the first edition of the "Festival au Désert" (9 - 11 January) in Essakane, in the middle of the Sahara desert (several hours’ drive from Timbuktu). Organised to coincide with the first full moon of the third millennium, the three-day festival gave a glimpse into Tuareg culture, featuring music, dance, local folklore, horse races and sporting games. On this occasion, Lo'Jo met the Tuareg rebel chief Mohammed Ag-Illale, a member of the group Tinariwen, who made a profound impact on Lo'Jo. Indeed, the latter invited the Tuareg group to come and play in Europe with them during the summer and the autumn of that year.

    2002: "L'une des siens"

    A new Lo’Jo album, "L'une des siens", came out in 2002. It was re-released the following year accompanied by a DVD featuring highlights of the "Festival au Désert". This new album was largely inspired by the group’s experiences and musical encounters in Africa.

    In October 2003, Lo’Jo went on to release their first live album, "Ce soir-là", featuring extracts of their tour of Europe and Quebec the previous summer. At this stage of their career, spanning more than ten years at this point, Denis Péan and Richard Bourreau were the only original members of the collective left. But the group’s collective ethos remained essentially unchanged. Based on a thoroughly eclectic mix of ages, nationalities, musical influences and tastes, Lo’Jo remained committed to the idea of solidarity and exchange. Throughout their career, they have continued to perform around 80 concerts a year worldwide, frequently playing in prisons and the world’s conflict zones as well as local schools. The collective are also committed to the idea of community fun and they regularly organise the "Kabar de Lo'Jo", traditional festivities lasting three days and three nights. 

    In 2004, in another line-up change, drummer Mathieu Rousseau quit the group and was replaced by Franck Vaillant.

    2006: "Bazar savant"

    In 2006, Lo’Jo released a new album entitled "Bazar savant", their usual rich melting-pot of sounds, only this time with stronger rock overtones. Inspired by their incessant travelling and their encounters on the road, the album featured contributions from a number of guest stars including the desert group Tinawaren, the bandoneon-player Cesar Stroscio and the reggaeman Bunny Barrington Dudley. Lo’Jo went on to hit the road again shortly after this release, playing a series of dates across France and the U.K. At this point, Denis Péan announced the group would soon be widening their horizons. (They aim to visit Turkey, Egypt and Cambodia in the near future).

    In March 2007, the group’s ‘greatest hits’ album, "Tu connais Lo'jo", hit record stores. And, to mark the 25th year of their career, Lo’Jo gave a special anniversary performance at La Maroquinerie, in Paris (4 - 6 April), inviting artists such as René Lacaille and the group Tinariwen up on stage with them. In true Lo’Jo spirit, the three-day stint at La Maroquinerie included art installations and poetry readings as well as music.

    During the following months, Lo’Jo carried on globetrotting with a series of concerts in Algeria, the Reunion Island and Georgia. At the end of the year, the group stayed put long enough to compose twelve new numbers, which resulted in “Cosmophono”, released in March 2009. The album has a more intimate, darker atmosphere than the lush “Bazar Savant”, and a more acoustic sound. It tells the story of a planet in turmoil, and advocates fraternity and travel. It was produced by Philippe Teissier du Cros and Philippe Fruchard.

    Lo’Jo immediately put “Cosmophono” on tour, with a date at the Bataclan in Paris on 28 March, and was on the road in France and Britain before summer was up. The tour comprised around sixty dates, nine of them in the United Kingdom.

    2010 saw the group with a bit more time on their hands to work on personal projects. Lo’Jo also often participated in intercultural projects. They performed either as a band or a threesome in France, Mali, Canada, the United States, Russia, Tunisia and Nepal, with each event providing an occasion to meet new artists. Out of the ten concerts that the band gave in 2011, seven were outside France, in places like Austria, Hungary and Lithuania.

    In early 2012, Lo’Jo set off for the southern hemisphere, playing in New Zealand and Australia. In June, they were billed at the Musique Métisses d’Angoulême Festival, before setting off for Georgia and the UK.
     
    2012:"Cinema el mundo"
     
    In September, Lo’Jo marked thirty years in the trade with the release of their album "Cinema el mundo", this time produced by Jean Lamoot (Salif Keita, Bashung, etc.). Participants included the members of Malian group Tinariwen, Argentinean duo Las Hermanas Caronni, the Barbarins Fourchus from France, Menwar from Mauritius, and veteran British rock star, Robert Wyatt. Taking the group’s familiar colourful musical imagery one step further, Denis Péan’s lyrics played with words more than ever. Two Parisian concerts at the end of October gave Lo’Jo a chance to present their new album live.

    October 2012

     

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