Hinting at Afro-cuban and early indigenous musics through a jazz-drenched Caribbean funnel
Gwakasonné is the ecstatic articulation of Robert Oumaou’s artistic and political vision, a unified expression of his interests in American jazz, pre-colonial rhythms, Guadeloupian independence, and Créole poetics. Over the course of three albums, all released in the 80s, Robert piloted a revolving cast of musicians, a venerable who’s-who of Point-a-Pitre avant-jazz pioneers, to deftly intone his creative communal concepts. The songs on Vwayajé are compiled from these three releases, Gwakasonné, Temwen, and Moun, along with an electronic mantra taken from his 2007 solo album Sang Comment Taire. Viewed from our current artistic and cultural landscape, Robert’s work is exceptionally enduring, grounded in its declarations of freedom and foundational use of the Ka (drum) and voice, and prescient in its borderless explorations of protest folk, electronics, ambient atmosphere, music from the African diaspora, and spiritual jazz. The long-form hive-mind expression of the group has parallels with similar explorations by The Grateful Dead, electric Miles, Pharaoh Sanders, and even the Boredoms, but these are only oblique references for a truly peerless sound. Like other conceptual children of Gérard Lockel, the group was part of a progressive movement of like-minded musicians, such as Serge Fabriano, Dao, Erick Cosaque, and Gaoulé Mizik, who embraced Lockel’s modernist ideals, fusing Gwo Ka drumming and tuning systems with contemporary jazz and vanguard recording technologies. Robert’s ecstatic phrasings, embrace of electronic instruments, and daring lyrics set the group apart as the beatific expression of a sagacious soul.