L’Chantage D’Or

chantage1With a quiet sigh of relief, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Spiky Dread is finally in the shops, and seeing as we’ve been counting down to the release date with a few album tracks over the last week, I decided it’d be nice to mark the occasion with a quick Q&A with Vivien Goldman regarding one of my favourites from the LP, Same Thing Twice by her group Chantage.

Things are never that straight forward in dread-land of course, and after posing the simple question “how did the Chantage record come about?” Viv replied with the following tale which answered all my other questions in one fell swoop, further cementing her status as punk professor and reggae raconteur. Over to you Viv…

CHANTAGE means “blackmail” in French – to make someone sing like a bird. I was sharing a flat near the Boulvd St. Michel in Paris in 1983 with Eve Blouin my fellow singer in our harmony duo. We both relished the double entendre of Chantage: it was the age of the chant, and we knew that in piecing together our precarious and harum-scarum lives, we might surprise even ourselves, Emotional blackmail? Not out of the question, perhaps.

chantage3At the time we called it “an Afro-Hungarian Rhapsody.” Really, we were making world music before the genre was around. Chantage came by our pan-African sound naturally. Of gloriously mixed descent, Eve was actually born in Guinee, Africa; and I felt Jamaica had changed, if not adopted me, just like my fellow Brit, our producer Adrian Sherwood.

As first generation Anglo-Jamaican reggae was busting out in London, the glorious sounds of young Africa were percolating through Paris. Eve and I were entranced by the silvery, twinkling guitar runs on the soukous of the sapeurs – the fashionplate denizens of the shabbiest bidonvilles of places like Kinshasa, Zaire. We played punchy, meandering African 12”’s on Cherie Noire, our Sunday night African music show on upstart pirate, Radio Nova (an offshoot of the magazine where I freelanced, Actuel; Chantage was released by Actuel’s virtual house label, Celluloid.)

chantage2African tailors in Belleville whipped up our special Chantage clothes – different styles sewed in matching African fabric. (Pictured left, photo by Janette Beckman). Chantage sang backup for a visiting Kinshasa artist, Prince Lucien, who’d been invited over by the late Jean-Francois Bizot, the Actuel supremo, an important figure to Eve and I both.

Eve and I had always loved the tenderness and vulnerability of “Same Thing Twice, so unusual for the swaggering Rude Boys the Wailers were when they cut the song as “Do It Twice” for producer Leslie Kong in 1970.do it twice Celluloid sent us from Paris to my home town, London, to record our “lover’s ragga” version with Adrian Sherwood. The song grew from a drum track by Style Scott that Adrian had been saving. The pan-sonic Chantage groove was set by an eclectic line- up including our Musical Director, Steve Beresford of the Slits and my fellow founding member of the Flying Lizards. Bass was played by my frequent collaborator, original Aswad bassie George Oban. In tribute to my gypsy-jazz playing violinist father, we discovered Jancsi Hosszu playing in a trio in a Hungarian restaurant in a basement in Queensway. This passionate performance was his first time in a studio. For the lyrical steel pan we only had to walk up the road from our house at 145A Ladbroke Grove to the Front Line, All Saints Road, where everyone advised us we had to find Bubbles, the leader of the Mangrove Steel Band. What a personality – what a player. Bubbles helps the track float and dance, intertwining with the stirring guitar of Jerry Malekani, the Zairean guitar player of Manu Dibango, who we also brought in from Paris. And I got to hammer out ideas for horn lines with greats Annie Whitehead and Deadly Headley.

carroll thompsonIn the course of a day, the players laughed and jammed and dug finding their fusion, in Chantage’s post-boundaries, pan-jamming spirit. The song’s protagonist “lives in these woods alone,” and we all know what that feels like. But being a harmony duo, it’s like family; we had that sisterhood, plus an extra helping thereof from Lover’s Rock queen, Carroll Thompson, who graciously co-produced the vocals with us and Adrian Sherwood.

The silken way my and Eve’s voices mesh on “Same Thing Twice” was just as true in life, and she is still my super sistr’en today. Viva Chantage!

By Vivien Goldman, aka Viva Chantage.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

So now you know the story, feast your ears on the track itself below, and while you’re at it, why not treat yourself to a copy of the Spiky Dread album (direct from our Rongorongo shop) on which you’ll find Same Thing Twice bubbling alongside 13 other dislocated dub and punky reggae offerings.

And if that’s not enough, check out the A side from the Chantage single – the pan-afro-funk of It’s Only Money.

Playing us out is The Wailers’ original Do It Twice which, like Chantage, almost slips into quasi-reggae territories with it’s unusual samba tinged intro, anyway, there’s one more thing I’d like to say right here…

(Wrongtom)

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