Abri Cyclonique Review: A New Take on Guadeloupean Music

The voice of Guadeloupean singer Moïse Polobi, 69, is a uniquely powerful presence. Deep, laden with heavy vibrato and grating through a yearning melody, his delivery has been honed over a lifetime with groups singing and drumming gwo ka in unison in the woods near his hometown of Petit-Bourg.

In 2020, an impromptu concert with local percussionist Klod Kiavué caught the eye of artistic director Valérie Malot and sparked the idea for Polobi’s solo debut. Produced by Mbongwana Star contributor Doctor L, the result is Abri Cyclonique.

Playing in a similar vein to dub producer Adrian Sherwood’s standout 2022 collaboration with singer Horace Andy, Midnight Rocker, Doctor L’s work on the album transposes remarkable vocals into a musical accompaniment garnished with electronic effects. Opener Kawmélito lets Polobi’s vocal power resonate through delay over a lopsided acoustic bassline and a smattering of snare brushes, turning his Creole song into a kind of freeform dub poetry.

The genre bending continues: Nèg Africa places Polobi’s rising, yearning vocal line over a rhythm of Cuban percussion and high-register guitars, while Ojéliya leaps over an Afrobeat funk. Okipayason sinks into a head-shaking dub beat and the album’s climax Mendémélé builds on a plaintive piano motif to create a trip-hop version of a gwo ka work song.

Throughout, the unwavering force of Polobi’s baritone gives the genre-hopping feel a sense of coherence, rather than playing like a jagged pastiche. Although the traditional vocal and drum minimalism of gwo ka music is discarded, Abri Cyclonique’s embellished arrangements bring Polobi’s voice to a wider audience and showcase his prowess, heralding a new talent born of a lifetime’s experience.

Also coming out this month

Trumpeter and affiliate 22nd nick walters releases his latest album, Padmāsana (DOT Records), fusing jazz instrumentation with synths and Indian classical ragas. It’s an intricate listen that touches on the work of the Pakistani group Jaubi and the jazz fusion productions of Tenderlonious. Poet and collaborator of Madre Mora Sham-e-Ali Nayeem‘s Moti Ka Sheher (self-released) blends sparse electronic soundscapes with hopeful lyrics about collective resistance. Soprem Bons Ventos (Soundway Records) is the debut album by the Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Peter Ricardo. Mixing jazz, folk with guitar licks and melodic ambience, Ricardo produces a beautiful and light-filled LP that confounds the expectations of the genre.

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