Totally fascinating by Blues & Rhythm

‘France d’Outre-mer’ is the name for the French overseas territories (as opposed to the former colonies) and this selection of thirty tracks covers such far-flung outposts as the French Caribbean, French Guyana in South America, Mayotte between Mozambique and Madagascar, La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, New Caledonia, and the Pacific islands of French Polynesia. This CD of mostly field recordings, all made between 1962 and 2007 and with odd dog or cockerel joining in on occasion, is part of the same ten-volume collection – each CD is also available separately – that includes ‘Francais d’Amerique’ (FA5270), reviewed in B&R 245. The series is the first major overview of French traditional music for over thirty years. The CD under consideration here is totally fascinating, with performances that cover material from intimate numbers by solo singers to a lively biguine inflected number, the eerie sound of Guyanan bamboo clarinet (from near the border with Brazil) to a Christmas carol and a wild marching band to venerable French folksongs. There is one track from the only French territory in North America – ‘Figure de Quadrille’ is an almost Scottish sounding accordion and violin piece from Saint-Pierre-Et-Miquelon. Other highlights include the amazing mouth bow accompanied rendition of a schottische recorded on Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean in 1998, a lively séga from the wonderfully named Orchestre Toussaint de Sainte-Rose (First issued on Frémeaux’s ‘Musiques En Cuivre’, reviewed in B&R 228), and a track from Martinique collected by Alan Lomax (the oldest recording here) and also previously issued, though much of the material is making its first appearance on this CD. In total, this is a CD of rare delights for the listener with ‘big ears’, as Gary Von Tersch puts it.