Malian pop meets Daft Punk electronica with Krazy Baldhead’s Donso project
It is no surprise that Pierre-Antoine Grison should gravitate to African music. His 2009 album The B Suite (put out under the name Krazy Baldhead)was a beguiling mix of tricky time signatures and polyrhythms. Originally from Marseille, Grison made his name as part of the Parisian house, hip-hop and electronic music scene that grew up around Ed Banger Records in the wake of Daft Punk. Started by Daft Punk’s then-manager Pedro Winter, many of the label’s artists used similar techniques of heavy filtering and abrupt edits. The Krazy Baldhead album highlights Grison’s command of the Ableton Live software and integrates a disparate range of styles into four ambitious movements.
Alongside his output for Ed Banger, Grison had also been working with Thomas Guillaume. At first the project was defined by the sweet and somewhat trance-inducing sound produced by the donso ngoni, the traditional Malian stringed instrument played by Guillaume. It was the later addition of Bamanankan vocalist Gédéon Papa Diarra and guitarist Guimba Kouyaté, however, that gave Donso a unique aural identity. There is little of the dreaded ‘fusion’ about the music. Instead, Grison’s electronics belong with their Malian counterparts, just as Kouyaté’s lightning guitar jumps in and out of spaces in the rhythm. The chopped and filtered effects from French house are still discernible, but are mitigated across the traditional string and percussion instruments.
When Donso was finally released last September on Comet Records, Grison began to speculate how the mix of Malian pop and trance-like jams would translate to the stage. Much of the Krazy Baldhead project explores the live potential of music software and footage of Donso at work reveals some astonishing musicianship. What might seem the perfect example of a studio creation could well find its apogee with an audience. Luckily we’re about to find out as Donso join Fela’s son Seun Kuti on his Spring tour. Kicking off at London’s Royal Festival Hall on April 13th, the tour takes in Northampton (15th), Edinburgh (16th), Manchester (18th), Bristol (19th), Basingstoke (20th), and Poole (21st).
Great footage of guitarist Guimba Kouyaté (with vocalist Nampo Sadio):