Abri Cyclonique

Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters

Released 17 February 2023

  1. Kawmélito
  2. Mendémélé
  3. Zion
  4. Driv
  5. La Lézad
  6. Nèg Africa
  7. Camargo
  8. Okipayason
  9. Ojéliya
  10. Léono
  11. Bouladjel
  12. On Jan Padjanbel
  13. Levé Yo Mano

Liner notes

In the tropical forest adjoining Grande Savane, a river runs, the streaming water drowning out the rustling of leaves, the pulse of insects and the birds’ cry. 

The song of a man, more powerful than that of the waters, rises to the tops of the ancient trees. Polobi, balanced on a rock, launches a melody towards the infinity of the sky.

He has sung like this for more than half a century, since that day when, as a child, he heard the master Guy Conquète sing at the town fair and won a five-franc piece for sketching his first dance steps. Polobi’s mother begged him to stay away from the drums, that “old nigger” business. But the child was fascinated. Shunning the school bench, he headed into the depths of the forest to strengthen his voice, measuring himself against the elements and drawing on the telluric energy to feed his songs. 

He was drawn to the drums of the léwoz (traditional rural music performances in Martinique and Guadaloupe), performing and singing with different Gwo Ka groups, throwing himself into a trance through the hypnotic dance. In the secrecy of the forest, he recorded his compositions on a simple cassette recorder, biding his time.

Kawmélito (Official Video)

In September 2020, after the world’s lockdown, Polobi joined a musical session at the home of one his neighbours, percussionist Klod Kiavué. That evening, he delivered a set of mystical songs, chronicling the daily life of a simple man deeply rooted in his environment. Hymns to Grande Savane; to Petit Bourg – mintues away on his moped; to the nearby Moustique and La Lézarde rivers where he will lower his bamboo traps to catch the ouassou; to the woods of Tanbou and Duquerry which watch over this microcosm. Taking his peers to task, invoking the ancestors, he addresses the world in a Creole language that belongs only to him. His hoarse singing, woven with onomatopoeia and improvisation, leads him irresistibly into a trance.

In the audience, passing through Guadeloupe, Valérie Malot (artistic director of French music agency 3D Family) fell under the spell and immediately arranged to take Polobi into the recording studio. The production was entrusted to Liam Farrell aka Doctor L, whose electro-acoustic palette and offbeat rhythms adorn these deeply rooted songs with a unique sound universe.

Moïse Polobi and Klod Kiavué. Photo credit: Karen Paulina Biswell

From this rock, sprung from the heart of a volcano and jutting from the river’s tumultuous flow, in the depths of the forest where, accompanied by his only drum, he comes to take refuge to sing, Polobi dominates the world with ease. He emanates an authenticity forged in the rare communion with the nature which he has made his kingdom, which gives him the ability to touch a universality that always delights his audience.

Words by Nathalie Malot

Listen

Credits

Klod Kiavué: Music & creative consultant
Moïse Polobi: lead vocals
Klod Kiavué: ka drum, backing vocals
Eric Danquin: drums, backing vocals
Christian Laviso: guitar, backing vocals
Liam Farrell: all other instruments

Produced by Liam Farrell a.k.a. Doctor L

Recorded at Studio Joab Les Abymes, Guadeloupe, except ‘Levé Yo Mano’, recorded at Klod Kiavué’s home in Grande Savane, Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe.
Recording engineer: Jacques Joab
Mixed in Dakar by Liam Farrell a.k.a. Doctor L
Mastered at Paris DJ Studio by Grant Phabao

Photography: Karen Paulina Biswell
A Real World Design by Marc Bessant
Words by Natalie Malot

Original idea by Valerie Malot inspired by Polobi, Klod Kiavué and the tropical forest of Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe.

Artistic director: Valerie Malot
Artistic co-ordinator: Oran Mullan
Production co-ordination: Nathalie Malot and Cynthia Rambaud
Executive Production: 3D Family
Published by 3D Family Publishing

Project thanks and acknowledgements
Thank you to Marie Claude Pernelle for believing in us. To Franck for the punch and the vibes. To Jimmy for being great. To Malaki for the zouk and the smile. To the beautiful city of Le Moule and the City Hall of Petit Bourg, David Nebor (Mayor of Petit Bourg), Nestor Luce (Head of Culture and Sport). To Nathalie Malot for co-ordinating the project in Guadeloupe and spreading the gospel in Europe. To Nadjib and Sam for following us in the adventure. To Karen Paulina Biswell and Louise Mootz for the incredible visuals in the deepest forest of Petit Bourg — it was a blast having you on the team.

We are so happy with what we discovered on this two year journey in Guadeloupe. Beauty, peace and music are the trademark of this project. Thank you Polobi and Klod for sharing the magnificence of your island with us. 

Thank you to Amanda Jones, Peter Gabriel and all the team at Real World for being with us and supporting us on this new adventure. The music of Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters was born on the ashes of the deepest past and blooms today in the lush forest of the island, between the crystalline river of La Lezad and the magnificent millennium of trees surrounding a magic rock where Polobi composed the thirteen songs on this album.

Polobi’s thanks: Remerciements à Dieu et à Paulette Carmel, ma mère.

Further Listening

  • République Amazone

    Les Amazones d’Afrique

    Released 10 March 2017

    Les Amazones d'Afrique are an all-female collective of west African musicians campaigning for gender equality. They have been described as a supergroup, and the characterisation seems apt. Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné hold a strong pedigree.
  • M’berra

    Khalab & M’berra Ensemble

    Released 23 April 2021

    M’berra is the sound, the story, of a collective of Malian musicians from the M’berra Refugee Camp in southeast Mauritania and Italian producer and electro-shaman Khalab. In a sprawling tent city rising out of the desert, out of nothingness, at the border with Mali in West Africa, brought together by spirit and circumstance, the group’s Arab and Tuareg members find solace and beauty in music and song.

Further reading

Susana Baca confirms rare London show

Susana Baca returns to London after many years, opening the 2023 La Linea Festival.

Loney dear releases first live album ‘Atlantis’

Atlantis is Loney dear's first-ever live album and is a rather remarkable testimony to the power of...

Track of the day: ‘Kurunba’ by Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee

'Kurunba' is the second single from the forthcoming album BAMANAN.

Track of the Day: ‘Chavale’ by Kerieva, from Dub No Frontiers

Today sees the release of Kerieva’s ‘Chavale’, the second track to be revealed from the forthc...