Pierre Bensusan

Press Release

In your long career you sure have crossed the territoires of folk, could you tell us something about your way to see at folk and popular music ?

Pierre Bensusan:
The way people looked at folk music at the time I started my career and now is like day and night. In the seventies, we were still in the progressive movment coming directly from the 60s in the US, with the civil rights, Kerouac, W. Guthry, Dylan, Baez, Dave Von Ronk, and all that league of artists and protest stands + on the other side of the avenue, Hendrix and the Woodstock festival. Today, I have a hard time listening to musicians who play that type of music without the eye and the knowledge of what is the present about, culturally, musically and politically. There needs to have an evolution and an original creative process behind it. Otherwise, it brings me back 25 years ago, less the originality and the fire. In my case, I have never been completly immersed into only folk music, but always very keene in listening to songs, pop, rock, jazz and classical.

Did you work with some folk musicians ?

PB: I did work in that gendre with poeple such as Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, Alain Giroux, Patrig Molard, Gene Parsons, Philippe Eidel, Gerard Delahaye, Leo Kottke, Dan Ar Bras, David Bromberg, John Renbourn, Marcel Dadi, Michel Haumont, Michael Hedges, to name a few.

Do popular music sometimes inspire your sound ?

PB: For sure, this can be heard in all my recordings, including the latest Altiplanos. And this exactly is my very trademark: to use and mix these colours with my internal chant. At the start of my career, I was very inspired by French, British, Irish, Scottish, US, Blues and Bluegrass music. Then, there has been a switch towards Latin America, with Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and musiques from the Andes. I listento lot of music from the Arabic countries, from India and China. It would be too long to name all of it. Today, I mostly listen to jazz and classical…

Most of your repertoire is only music but sometimes you sing, where do you take inspirations for your words, do you write them or you work with some poets or other people…?

PB: My wife Doatea has been and still is writing most of my songs, and there will be several new ones in my upcoming concerts. I also like to write music on poems, which I have done since my very first album: Pres de Paris. I have been using traditional poetry or Rabidranath Tagore, Victor Hugo. Some French authors such as Jacques Higelin or Philippe Val, have also written lyrics for me.

Do you know Italian folk musicians/singers ?

PB: I have heard some of it, such as Sardinian vocal polyphonies, the vocal music from Naples, Tarentelles played on percussion, people such as Fabrizzio Andre, but I would not say that I am big connaisseur in Italian Traditional Music.

And your favourite folksters in France or you met around the world ?

PB: Alan Stivell is defenetly one of them, also people such as Gabriel Yacoub and Bamboche, traditional music from Brittany and Corsica. These 2 regions are today still very active musically speaking, where there is a very interesting creative process going on at the moment using the traditions an mixing them with today’s language.

Which is your album – if there’s one – most involved with folk and popular music ?

PB: Defenetly my 3 first albums: Pres de Paris, Pierre Bensusan 2 & Musiques (on Rounder Records). But as I said before, you can hear very strong and distinctive elements of folk and popular in ALL my albums.

The agency that booked you here in your Italian tour is well known in the folk ambient, on the other countries your agents are part of this scene too, or more rocky and mainstream ?

PB: I work with all kind of agents, producers and also managers. In France, my manager has been very involved with the folk circuit of the seventies, but also with pop, rock an d jazz. He lately produced part of the French tour of Richard Bona. In the UK, my agent is very folk and guitar oriented, in Belgium, my agent is a jazz producer, in the US, my agent comes from a family who organised the first Newport folk festival in the sixites and founded the first folk club in Boston (Club 42). He worked with Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Doc Watson, Taj Mahal a nd plenty more. In Canada, my agent is a big mainstream agency which works with all types of acts, my US and Canadian manager comes from the rock and pop culture, in Japan, my agent is a guitar freak, etc. I really owe a lot to the folk world and will not only never deny or reny this but brings it with me in my luggage wherever I go.

At last, what do you think about world-music, do this label fits well for you ?

PB: Why not ? In my opinion, the world music movement has been emerging from several points at the same time after years of incubation in the west, like a reminescence and vivid testimony of the different ethnic group composing our western nations after decolonisation. The North American, British, Celtic and French Folk Revivals have helped lots of people to get aware of what is called today World Music, which is already a western original and compositional global approach using ethnics elements mixed with other musical elements coming from pop, rock, classical, jazz, african, techno, R&B, Raggae, Reggea, sound effects and so forth. In the Folk/Rock gendre, Alan Stivell was pretty much ahead of everyone else and helped the Celtic World to move and bloom. In France, we use the expression "Musiques du Monde" when we speak about ethnic music and its original patchwork progression as lots of contemporary artists use them today. "Folk" sounds corny I guess but still illustrates a very disctintive gendre coming from the US. Maybe the real inventors of World Music are people like Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy, Ravel, Gerswhin, Satie, De Falla, Bartok, Villa Lobos, Berstein, etc. who were already then fully aware of the profundness and wealth of their respective cultures but also eager to discover and recognise the cultures of other people and nations and mix them into a very distinctive creative process. That’s what Jazz musicians do today.

It is also interesting to poin out that acoustic guitar music has used the Folk movment vehicle to emerge and route itself. Marcel Dadi was reveling the Fingerstyle techniques of Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Jerry Reed while Davey Graham, Renbourn and Jansch were labelled " The English School" and offered a different strum. Steve Waring and Roger Mason living in Paris then also brought a lot of frehness to it. Dick Annegarn has a superb original guitar style to support his powerful songs. I remember finding out about Martin Carthy in one of the a Folk Clubs in Paris. This changed my guitar approach. When the Folk mouvement diminished in amplitude, most of these performers would offer only rare performances in France, while they'd would still be present in other countries of Europe. For me to work, wold music should be a discrete and honnest form, where you don’t feel the plagiat but only the respect for using sounds coming from various cultures.

The spirit in which I guide my own work is that wherever I go, I always try to look for the commun denominator between me and the place and people I visit. Whatever I listen and enjoy is also filtered and enriches my musical vocabulary and understanding of what is music about, and how it should be served and handled. Musicians and people I meet and their feedback are also another source of inspiration, as well as listening to the great musicians all over. I aim to translate all my emotions and perception of life into a music that I would play in my own way, and into a language which fits with our world today, without sacrifying to the effect of fashions.

What are you preparing for us after the wonderful Altiplanos ?

PB: That’s a secret.

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