Hector Zazou and Swara
Hector Zazou (July 11, 1948 September 8, 2008) was a prolific French composer and record producer who worked with, produced, and collaborated with an international array of recording artists. He worked on his own and other artists' albums, including Sandy Dillon, Mimi Goese, Barbara Gogan, Sevara Nazarkhan, Carlos Nuñez, Italian group PGR, Anne Grete Preus, Laurence Revey, and Sainkho since 1976.
Zazou first came to international attention as part of the ZNR duo with Joseph Racaille, where both played electric keyboards. Their 1976 debut album Barricades 3 was notable for its "strong Satie influence, stripped to minimal essentials, everything counts".
Long-time collaborators include trumpeter Mark Isham; guitarist Lone Kent; cellist and singer Caroline Lavelle; trumpeter Christian Lechevretel, who has appeared on all of Zazou's albums after Sahara Blue; clarinetist and flutist Renaud Pion, who has appeared on all of Zazou's albums since Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses; drummer Bill Rieflin; and Japanese recording artist Ryuichi Sakamoto.
His discography demonstrates his affinity for cross-cultural collaborations, and incorporated modern techniques and sounds in re-recordings of traditional material. He was influenced by Peter Gabriel's album Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ in his fusion of musical polarities (traditional and modern, electronic and acoustic) on his own album Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses.
His groundbreaking 1983 album Noir Et Blanc (recorded with Congolese singer Bony Bikaye) garnered a lot of international attention, and is widely recognized as one of the earliest and most impressive experiments in fusing African and electronic music.
Zazou regarded his work during the 1980s as his time of apprenticeship in the studio. On his 1986 album, Reivax au Bongo, he experimented with fusing classical vocals with an electronic backdrop. On his 1989 album, Géologies, he combined electronic music with a string quartet.
The albums that he has released under his own name from the 1990s onwards are usually concept albums that draw from literary or folk sources and revolve around a specific theme. The collection of songs on each album assemble contributions from a diverse and global range of pop, folk, world music, avant-garde, and classical recording acts.
Zazou's 1992 offering, Sahara Blue, was based on an idea by Jacques Pasquier. Pasquier suggested Zazou commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of author Arthur Rimbaud by setting music to Rimbaud's poetry. Contributions included spoken word from Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Dalcan and music by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, Tim Simenon, and David Sylvian. He even adapted a traditional Ethiopian song.
In 1994, he released the album Chansons des mers froides (called Songs from the Cold Seas for the anglophone market). The album was based on ocean-themed traditional folk songs from northern countries, such as Canada, Finland, Iceland, and Japan. It featured vocals by pop and rock artists such as Björk, Suzanne Vega, John Cale, Värttina, Jane Siberry, and Siouxsie Sioux in addition to recordings of shamanic incantations and lullabies from Ainu, Nanai, Inuit, and Yakut singers. Musicians included Mark Isham, Brendan Perry, and the Balanescu Quartet. A cameraman accompanied Zazou on the project and they shot and recorded in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Japan, Scandinavia, and Siberia. The single "The Long Voyage" was the only song to be an original composition from Zazou. He wrote it in gratitude to his record company Sony who gave him complete artistic liberty. Performed by Suzanne Vega and John Cale, it was released as a single in 1995. The single featured remixes by Mad Professor as well as Zazou himself.
His 1998 album, Lights in the Dark, showcased ancient Celtic music sung by Irish singers.
Zazou's collaborative 2000 album 12 (Las Vegas is Cursed) with Sandy Dillon was regarded as a financial and critical failure. In the book "Sonora Portraits 2", which accompanies the CD Strong Currents, Zazou says that 12 (Las Vegas is Cursed) was his most elaborate album. He describes it as a work of black humour and regards his instrumental composition "Sombre" on the album as one of his best songs ever.
Strong Currents was released in 2003 and featured an all-female vocal cast which included Laurie Anderson, Melanie Gabriel, Lori Carson, Lisa Germano, Irene Grandi, Jane Birkin, and Caroline Lavelle. Musicians included Ryuichi Sakamoto, Dennis Rea, Bill Rieflin and Archaea Strings. The album took six years to complete.
In 2004 Zazou released a companion CD of sorts, L'absence, which included instrumentals, many of the same female vocalists that were featured on Strong Currents, and one male vocalist, French singer Edo.
Zazou was a member of the musical collective named Slow Music. The lineup also included Robert Fripp and Peter Buck on guitars, Fred Chalenor on bass, Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Bill Rieflin on keyboards and percussion. He contributed electronics to the group's music. At the same time, he was exploring other electronic music in other work, including a soundtrack for Carl Théodor Dreyer's silent film La Passion de Jeanne dArc and the multimedia collaboration released as a CD in 2006, Quadri+Chromies.
Zazou's last projects are documented on the Music Operator interactive multimedia web site, which graphically documents his collaborations while in the background his music plays. In January 2008 Hector Zazou released his Corps électriques album, featuring "one of the original riot grrrls" KatieJane Garside, Bill Rieflin, Lone Kent and nu-jazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær.
The last project he worked on is an album entitled In The House Of Mirrors, in which he offered a new take on classical Asian music, subtly reprocessed with a nod to some of the music produced in the '70s by Terry Riley and Fripp & Eno. In The House of Mirrors was recorded in Mumbai with the collaboration of four outstanding instrumentalists from India and Uzbekistan, as well as guests such as Diego Amador and Nils Petter Molvaer. This album came out only a few weeks following his death in September 2008.
- 1976 ZNR Barricades 3
- 1978 ZNR Traité de Mécanique Populaire
- 1979 La Perversita
- 1983 Zazou/Bikaye/CYI Noir & Blanc
- 1985 Zazou/Bikaye Mr. Manager
- 1985 Géographies
- 1986 Reivax au Bongo
- 1988 Zazou/Bikaye Guilty!
- 1989 Geologies
- 1989 Géographies/13 proverbes Africains
- 1990 Zazou/Bikaye/CYI Noir & Blanc (with extra tracks)
- 1991 Hector Zazou & Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses
- 1992 Sahara Blue
- Lead vocalists: Samy Birnbach, Richard Bohringer, John Cale, Dominique Dalcan, Sussan Deihim, Lisa Gerarrd and Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance, Gérard Depardieu, Anneli Drecker, Barbara Gogan, Khaled, Ketema Mekonn, Malka Spigel
- Contributors: Kent Condon, Yuka Fujii, Kenji Jammer, Vincent Kenis, Nabil Khalidi, Bill Laswell, Christian Lechevretel, Keith Leblanc, Lightwave, Gilles Martin, Denis Moulin, Renaud Pion, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Shehan, Guy Sigsworth, Tim Simenon, David Sylvian, Elizabeth Valetti, Daniel Yvinec
- 1992 Various artists Nunc Musics
- 1994 Sainkho Out of Tuva
- 1994 Various artists Sonora 4'94 (includes one outtake from Sahara Blue entitled Realeza)
1993 Produced "Sorrow and Solitude" with vocalist Penta Leslee Swanon on ErdenKlang Musik
- 1994 Chansons des mers froides (Songs from the Cold Seas)
- Lead vocalists: Björk, John Cale, Tokiko Kato, Lioudmila Khandi, Kilabuk & Nooveya, Catherine-Ann MacPhee, Värttina, Suzanne Vega, Wimme Saari, Jane Siberry, Siouxsie Sioux, Lena Willemark
- Contributors: Ainu Dancers of Hokkaid, Balanescu Quartet, Tchotghtguerele Chalchin, Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance, Budgie, Barbara Gogan, Mark Isham, Lightwave, Sargo Maianagacheva, Demnine Ngamtovsovo, Marc Ribot, Sakharine Percussion Group, Noriko Sanagi, Sissimut Dance Drummers, Angelin Tytot
- 1995 Harold Budd/Hector Zazou Glyph
- Lead vocalist: Lian Amber
- 1997 Barbara Gogan Made on Earth
- 1998 Lights in the Dark
- Lead vocalists: Breda Mayock, Katie McMahon, and Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola.
- Contributors: Kristen Noguez, Mark Isham, Andre Compostel, Silap' (choir), Thierry Robin, Carlos Nunez, Pierre d'Aquin, Peter Gabriel, Kent Condon, Francoise Debout, Germain de Loing, John B., Brendan Perry, Denis Mc Ardle, Caroline Lavelle, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Daniel Yvinec, Ivan Tchekine, Richard Bourreau, Papa D'jabate, Noriko Sanagi, Lucie de Lisieu, Minna Raskinen, Didier Malherbe, Hossam Ramzay, and The Wiltshire Souls.
- 1998 Mimi Goese Soak (four tracks produced by Zazou)
- 1999 Carlos Nuñez Os Amores Libros
- 1999 Laurence Revey Le Creux Des Fees
- 2000 Sandy Dillon & Hector Zazou 12 (Las Vegas is Cursed)
- 2000 Bigazzi/Chianura/Henson Drop 6The Wolf and the Moon
- 2000 Various artists Drop 5.1
- 2001 Anne Grete Preus Alfabet
- 2002 PGR Per Grazia Ricevuta
- 2003 Sevara Nazarkhan Yol Bolsin
- 2003 Strong Currents
- Lead vocalists: Laurie Anderson, Jane Birkin, Lori Carson, Melanie Gabriel, Lisa Germano, Irene Grandi, Nicola Hitchcock, Nina Hynes, Caroline Lavelle, Sarah Jane Morris, Catherine Russell, Emma Stow
- Contributors: Archaea Strings, Carlos Nuñez, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Stefano Bollani, Bill Rieflin, Lone Kent, Dennis Rea, Mathias Desmiers, Pierre Chaze, Renaud Pion
- 2004 L'absence
- 2006 Hector Zazou and Bernard Caillaud Quadri(+)Chromies
- 2008 Corps électriques
- Contributors: KatieJane Garside, Bill Rieflin, Lone Kent and Nils Petter Molvær
- 2008 Hector Zazou & Swara In The House Of Mirrors
- 1983 Hector Zazou/Papa Wemba Malimba (12" single)
- 1984 Zazou/Bikaye/CYI M'Pasi Ya M'Pamba (12" single)
- 1985 Zazou/Bikaye Mr. Manager (7" and 12" singles)
- 1988 Zazou/Bikaye Guilty!/Na Kenda (12" single)
- 1990 Zazou/Bikaye Get Back (12" single)
- 1992 "I'll Strangle You" featuring Anneli Drecker and Gérard Depardieu
- 1995 "The Long Voyage" featuring John Cale and Suzanne Vega
- Taktic Music bio
- Music Operator
- Hector Zazou at All Music Guide
- Sound on Sound
- Crammed Discs, the label on which Hector Zazou released 11 of his albums.
- Necrology for Hector Zazou
- Guardian obituary