Ifriqiyya Électrique: Post-industrial Rituals

Interview réalisé par Luc Marchessault

renseignements supplémentaires

François R. Cambuzat, Gianna Greco and two companions will perform this Thursday at Le Ministère, as part the Nuits d’Afrique festival. We can already confirm this to the music lovers who will be there: they might look hard, but they will not find anything similar elsewhere, this summer, this fall, this winter or next summer, unless Ifriqiyya Électrique comes back to town. Their musical proposal is that unusual. Cambuzat and his partner Gianna Greco have been taking their insatiable curiosity and anthropological awareness to various corners of the world, for many years. The Ifriqiyya Électrique project is the result of a singular approach that François explained to Pan M 360. It is a mixture of trance, ritual, western tribalism, sonic violence, catharsis, post-slavery and liberation, all with the necessary consistency.

Pan M 360: Hello François! Ifriqiyya Électrique was at the Festival d’été in Quebec City last night, in front of our Assemblée nationale. It went well?

François R. Cambuzat: Yes, the crowd was in the rain at the beginning, but it cleared up. It was really great!

Pan M 360: After the Assemblée nationale in Quebec, you will perform at Le Ministère in Montreal, a venue that has no governmental function despite its name. It will be more intimate.

François R. Cambuzat: Ah yes, we are very eager!

Pan M 360: Ifriqiyya Électrique’s music cannot be easily defined. If I summarize roughly, we hear sub-Saharan slave songs, then Sufi components, and finally the rhythmic patterns and post-industrial textures put forward by Front 242 and their heirs. Please rectify anything I didn’t get correctly.

François R. Cambuzat: Actually, it all started with a trip to the Djerid, the quasi desert of southwest Tunisia. With my colleague Gianna Greco (Editor’s note: the other half of the Putan Club duo, with François), we temporarily settled in a town called Tozeur to shoot a film. We met people from this community, who are descendants of slaves of sub-Saharan origin and still practice a ritual called “Banga”.

As far as the industrial or post-industrial aspect is concerned, it was obvious for us. Because this trance music we discovered in Djerid includes an unheard-of violence. We had pogo-punk in the West, but Banga is on another level. The post-industrial ornaments a la Front 242, Nine Inch Nails and so on, that was a given. It’s very tribal too. Gianna and I keep the baseline, the instrumental and electronic additions don’t change the original structure.

Then it all became a movie, which we put on the Internet. People noticed it, including representatives of festivals like WOMAD, Peter Gabriel’s festival. So we had to form a band without denying our initial objective, that of creating uplifting music. Then, “Ifriqiyya” was the name of the territory of North Africa which the Berbers formerly occupied, and which gave its name to Africa.

Pan M 360: In the West, little is said about the slave trade in the Maghreb. However, it went on for centuries. It is a kind of taboo.

François R. Cambuzat: They don’t talk about it in the Maghreb either, because people are ashamed of it. It lasted for centuries, indeed, and the number of victims of this traffic was far greater than in the West Indies and the Americas. So the Banga is a syncretism, that is, it combines the animism of the people of West Africa, especially Senegal, with the soufic elements. Then, it is a therapeutic ritual in which women participate a lot; it is their moment of total liberation, where the constraints of the sharia are lifted.

Pan M 360: It seems to me an easy parallel, but the Banga evokes Santeria or Voodoo in the West Indies: a mixture of animist and Christian beliefs.

François R. Cambuzat: Yes, it is quite that, this baggage brought by the slaves of West Africa. In Senegal, there is this cult, this therapeutic trance called “n’döp”. It is very similar to Banga and, at the same time, to Santeria or voodoo. These rituals are also similar to what has become techno or dub, in their essence.

Pan M 360: Your songs also take the form of adorcisms, that is to say the reception, rather than the expulsion, of spiritual entities. It’s nice to have music that transcends mere affect or the desire to tap our foot on the floor, and brings the listener back to the spiritual essence!

François R. Cambuzat: Adorcism is for those who participate in the Banga, it serves to bring a spirit into them and then to calm it down. This is always in a therapeutic perspective for these descendants of slaves. This ritual is above all cathartic.

Pan M 360: You launched Rûwâhîne in 2017 and Laylet El Booree in 2019. Can we expect a new album soon?

François R. Cambuzat: We take our time. We are no longer at the age where we are amazed to see our name on pieces of cardboard or plastic! We try to ignore the usual constraints of the music industry.

Pan M 360: I can only support you in this. Then, your two albums are like portable masses or celebrations that we can listen to at will! Thank you very much François and have a good concert at Nuits d’Afrique!

François R. Cambuzat: Thank you! If you’re ever in Europe or the Maghreb, come see us!

Ifriqiyya Électrique will play Le Ministère on Thursday, July 14 as part of Nuits d’Afrique. Buy your tickets here!

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