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Henri Guédon
Hocine Chaoui
Outre National
Review by Bruce Miller

For its first two releases, Montreuil, France-based label Outre National (not to be confused with at least three other labels all called Outernational) has brought two crucial albums back into circulation.

Twenty years ago, short lived France-based label Isma’a released Creole Love Calls- Rythmes Latin des Antilles, a double LP that captured 1970s-era dancefloor classics from the French Caribbean. Leading off the collection was “Karma,” a slightly foreboding track that gained intensity as it went, featuring a snaky synthesizer undercurrent and mountains of percussion. For those of us previously unaware of Martinique or Guadalupe as Afro-Latin musical forces from the era, much less labels such as Aux Ondes or Disques Vancances, the grooves on the collection were a revelation.


As it turns out, Henri Guédon, a Martinique-born sculptor and master percussionist, had been living in France since the early sixties, where he led bands as a musician and vocalist, releasing many albums up until his death in 2006. Karma, originally issued on French label La Voix du Globe in 1975 (an imprint largely focused on Algerian music), shows Guédon and company’s ability to synthesize Bomba, Tamboo, Biguine, and Zouk into a batch of tracks that have remained infectious. There are percussion-only workouts (“Racine”) as well as tracks gathering their energies from carnival sounds (“Can’naval Nou”). The entire LP suggests Latin jazz and features that eerie synth throughout. Considering the amount of Guédon’s music that has made it to compilations in recent years, not to mention a reissue of his 1974 LP Cosmozouk Percussion, it’s surprising it’s taken this long for Karma to get some much-deserved 21st century attention.


As awesome as the Guédon reissue may be, it’s Hocine Chaoui’s Ouechesma- originally released on a cassette in the 1980’s- that demands surrender from its listeners. Ouechesma is 6 tracks and 30 minutes of hardcore Chaoui, a Berber genre that took hold in Algeria’s Aures Mountains and was first waxed in the 1930s. Featuring sandstorm blasts from the Gaspa flute underpinned by electronic beats, Hocine’s vocals get into a call and response with the flute, kicking up dust and forcing the body to move. There are no chord changes to this stuff. It hits and rides until it ends. Well known and loved in Algeria and in French-Algerian communities, Hocine’s music is finally getting a bit of wider exposure thanks to this vinyl reissue. This gets my highest recommendation.

Find Outre National Records online

A later live performance by Henri Guédon, in 1986

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