LO'JO Interview and Concert Review
|By Anya Wolf|
|LO'JO came to give a single concert in Moscow last Thursday. We couldn't miss such an event and sent our journalist there to share her impressions with us. Before the concert Anya Wolf went along to interview Denis Pean of LO’JO on behalf of "The Moscow Expat Site". And that's what she has found out...
AW: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. First question, what does Lo’Jo mean?
DP: Yes, nothing. Just a word coming from my imagination.
AW: Is this your first time in Moscow?
DP: Yes. It’s my first time in Russia.
AW: And how do you find it?
DP: It’s my first day in Moscow, because we arrived, but very late.
AW: Is it not too cold for you here?
DP: (laughs) No, not too much. It’s good for me!
AW: Have you been able to see any of the city today?
DP: Yes, a little bit. And I have a good friend in Moscow; we played with him in France a few years ago. His name is Anatoli Gerasimov, the saxophonist. He played in this place (B2) about five months ago.
AW: Will you perform anywhere else in Russia or only in Moscow?
DP: Yes, tomorrow we will go to Riga and then the day after that, St. Petersburg. When I was a teenager I dreamed of going to St. Petersburg.
AW: I’ve read that you are the ‘shaman in chief’ for Lo’Jo. You come from a catholic background though, so how did this title come about?
DP: (laughs): Yes, I’m the old one in the band, the one that gives direction, who has organised the band and the direction. Now we are a collective and we all imagine the songs together.
AW: The old one. Do you see yourself as the father of your collective?
AW: Do you consider yourself still Catholic?
DP: No, originally with my grandparents, but now no. I believe in all things.
AW: But no specific religion?
DP: No, I’m interested in all different religions, all different people, and enjoy communicating with people of all faiths.
AW: In ten years, do you still see yourself making music with Lo’Jo?
DP: I’ve been making music with Lo’Jo already twenty years, and I hope that I will still be making music with them for twenty more.
AW: What makes a band able to stay together for twenty years?
DP: Passion. Love about the way the band travels and our image in music, we fit together like family. We like to be together, to compose music together, to organise our lives together.
AW: Do you have any influences?
DP: Many. All of the things I’ve heard in my life, but sometimes we don’t know which things give influence. I’m interested in modern music, hip-hop, pop, all music coming from many centuries ago. When I was a teenager I played all music, then after I played classical music. Some of my favourite music is coming from jazz music.
AW: Any specific jazz artists or just jazz as a genre?
DP: Not all of it. Just some.
AW: As a child you studied at a music conservatory. Were you trained in just classical or all genres?
AW: Has this had any influence on Lo’Jo’s music?
DP: Yes, some part. I like Claude Debussy, etc. and the harmonies have influenced me.
AW: Are you ever influenced by places you’ve visited?
DP: Yes, we traveled many times in Africa, and we got power and magical vibes, which I like very much and which now I have in my body all these vibes. We have now this instrument from Africa, for example. The violin player from Lo’Jo is now playing this little violin coming from the Sahara, traditionally played by the nomadic people in the desert. Yamina now plays this kind of harp that’s coming from West Africa. We have many influences from playing a long time with this band, a voodoo band coming from Benin.
AW: So do you think you’ll be inspired by Russia?
DP: Sure, of course! The trip is short, but after this we will tour in Great Britain for one month. But we hope to come back here.
AW: Does it bother you to be traveling so much? Do you have a family at home waiting for you?
DP: No. My family is the band, my wife is music, and my father is sound.
AW: As far as venues, do you prefer to play clubs, or concert halls, or festivals?
DP: I don’t like crowds so much; I like to be close to the people. This kind of place (B2) is good. It depends also on the quality of the sound. If we have good sound, and a good crowd, then it’s all good.
AW: If you had only one word to describe your music, what would it be?
DP: (long pause) Harmony. Because you can find harmony in music, and in life and relationships too.
AW: The last question I have for you, Denis, is if you were not making music, what would you be doing?
DP: Ah I’m interested in many things. Education for children. That I can do with music. Sometimes I work in jails with young people and teach them about music and poetry. All education for children is important, in this modern world, we need education to continue on.
AW: Agreed. Merci, Denis, and I look forward to the show tonight!
And here what it was like:
Before the show, I had the pleasure of interviewing Denis Pean, the founder and shaman-in-chief of Lo'Jo, who carries the vibes of the entire planet in his small frame. From the moment we sat down, I could feel that this is a man with 10.000 melodies in his mind, who has the unique gift of taking the songs of the world and channeling all of them into one amazing harmony. The crowd at B2 was diverse, and while it wasn’t a packed house, the crowd very easily and quickly began feeling the vibe of Lo'Jo.
To try to contain Lo'Jo within a genre is impossible, because Lo'Jo IS a genre. This isn’t the kind of music that you would put on as background noise, as from the opening notes, Lo'Jo takes you by the shoulders and demands all of your attention. The talented sextet plays a dizzying array of synthesized and acoustic instruments that they have acquired from all four corners of the world. Lo'Jo’s beat is unusual and infectious; it’s impossible not to tap your toes or move to the rhythm. Denis has a uniquely melodic voice which, combined with sisters Yamina and Nadia on backing vocals, makes for songs that will long stay in your mind. Although they sing in Arabic, French, and English, Lo'Jo’s music transcends any language and nationality. The two-hour performance went by too quickly for me, and even after two encores, I found myself wanting more.
Lo'Jo as a band is not for everyone, but there is something in their music that everyone can get into. In their songs, it’s easy to pick out strains of rap, hip-hop, Arabian, classical, funk, jazz, and African, but it’s Lo'Jo’s unique ability to combine these very different genres that have enabled them to be a French tour de force for 20 years. Although this trip to Russia (they are also performing in Riga and St. Petersburg) is short, they will most certainly be back. Kudos to B2 for their continuing ability to find the best of world music and bring it to Moscow.
More background info and tour dates for Lo'Jo can be found on their website, www.lojo.org