Zembrocal Musical

Groove Lele / Ernst Reijseger

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Zembrocal Musical Review

by Michael G. Nastos

The tiny island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern shore of Madagascar and the African continent, produced the great native musician Granmoun Lélé, who passed away in 2004, but left a huge legacy to his family. Lélé's children formed this ensemble to play his maloya or sega styles of music, and extend the euphoric vocal tradition, evidenced on this live album edited from three performances done in France. Willy, Urbain, and Beatrice Phileas are the familial principals in Groove Lélé, leading this vocal-and-percussion ensemble, with ace-in-the-hole help from the Dutch improvising cellist from the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, Ernst Reijseger. As village tribal music burnished from the landscape of non-urban life, this group produces a sound that might seem typical to Westerners, but is specialized to and from their Malagasy, Hindu, Tamil, and general religious traditions. While themes reflect family values, homages to deities, and social mores or customs, it is the infectious music beyond the lyrics that relay the bigger picture. Though Reijseger is an important member of the ensemble in his intros, which light the fuse of the ensemble, he's also an integral part of the chants and forms its percussive underpinning. Though there are more hymn-like or invocational-type songs here, most of them are upbeat and celebratory, as on the binary rhythm and a cappella singing of "Inawangue," or the tale of proven manhood for "Garson Davida." In typical African call and response fashion, the cellist and the ensemble talk at each other in separate passages during "Sinibalala" before joining and jamming together, albeit in a different fashion, the more bass-rooted notes that dominate "Oh Lele," urging the percussion and vocal choir to a higher plateau. The visceral quality and pure joy emanating from Zembrocal Musical identifies Groove Lélé as an exciting listening experience, one you'll want to play loudly and proudly.

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