Toubabou – 1975 – Attente (full album)

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Toubabou was formed in 1974 when percussionist Michel Séguin and vocalist Lise Cousineau, founding members of Ville Emard Blues Band (VEBB), were asked by the Québec government to organize the final concert of the Superfrancofête youth festival, on the Plains of Abraham in Québec City. Séguin and Cousineau had ties to French African musicians with whom they had played in 1973. These same musicians had given Séguin the title “Toubabou-djembe-folla” (bambara expression meaning “stranger playing skins”). They invited several artists from Mali and Senegal (including the renowned Doudou N’Diaye Rose) to join them for a show combining traditional African music with adaptations and original compositions by Toubabou. Others VEBB members completed the group, including Robert Stanley (guitar), Michel Dion (bass), Yvan Ouellet (keyboards), and Denis Farmer (drums). On August 24, 1974 this event was recorded on two-track reel-to-reel tape before 55,000 spectators. From these tapes, Toubabou released a live album in November of that year, entitled “Le Blé et le Mil”. The album includes somewhat raw live versions of two instrumentals to be featured on the band’s subsequent studio album, as well as “Yama Nekh”, a VEBB favorite. A highlight is the opening track “Oasis”, a sublime 10-minute voyage skillfully navigating between ’70s cool jazz and FM radio rock.

In the spring of 1975, Haitian drummer George Rodriguez joined the group, followed by Gerry Labelle on flute and saxophone. In October of that year, Toubabou released a studio album called “Attente”, showcasing a unique style of progressive funk-rock with an emphasis on African percussions. Several other ex-VEBB members make guest appearances on the record, including Carlyle Miller and Roger Walls on horns. Toubabou’s compositions for this second offering are a natural evolution of what its artists contributed to VEBB’s sound. One can hear similarities with VEBB in Stanley’s guitar playing and Cousineau’s vocalizing, her voice at times sounding like an instrument of its own (a unique style of Québécois female vocals pioneered by Christiane Robichaud during her sessions with Franck Dervieux and Contraction in the early 1970’s; this style which would endure into the late 1970’s). Dion and Ouellet then left the group, as well as Stanley and Farmer who both joined Harmonium. They were replaced by Peter Kisilenko (bass) and Fred Henke (piano and sax), and other ex-VEBB members such as Rawn Bankley (guitar) and Marcel Huot (drums). Toubabou continued to perform live shows until the end of 1977 after which Seguin and Cousineau went on to pursue solo careers. Ouellet and Cousineau each released solo albums in 1978 and 1979 respectively, while Séguin helped start the “tam-tam jams” on Mount-Royal which persist until this day.


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