10/08/2023Samuele Strufaldi & Música Macondo – Building Futures In The Ivory Coast Through Collaborative Music

Every once in a while, we come across a project that is truly about making a difference through musical collaboration. Back in 2019, Florence-based "polyhedric composer" Samuele Strufaldi followed an invitation by his friend, the local djembe player Pêrmlay Boris Pierrou, to travel to the latter's home village of Gohouo-Zagna in the Guemon region of the Ivory Coast and collaborate on some music. As he settled into his new surroundings, Strufaldi became aware of Pierrou's plan to construct a library for the villagers and that is where this story begins to take shape.

The two started to "lay the groundwork" for a future musical collaboration between Strufaldi and the Guéré musicians of Gohouo-Zagna, with the intent of recording "a cross-cultural conversation that tells the villagers' stories through a modern musical language; one that blends together Guéré music, jazz, [Western classical music] and electronica." For locals, this would mark a opportunity to transmit their personal experiences, cultural heritage and traditions to a wider audience and simultaneously raise funds for the construction of a library. For Strufaldi, the motivation was also one of widening his own horizons and artistic scope through cultural exchange.

"A [self-proclaimed musical explorer], Strufaldi [had always] wanted to work outside of his traditional framework, and create a record that was rooted in all facets of jazz, connecting modern contemporary styles with the music's ancestral birthplace." And so the blueprint for "Davorio" was born. In collaboration with Pierrou's Pêrmlay de Gohouo-Zagna NGO and Tim Garcia's Música Macondo Records, Strufaldi began working alongside local Guéré musicians and gathering material. "Throughout the record you can hear children clapping, traditional songs, recordings from percussive sessions, and other musical moments. Littered throughout the tracks are 40-second snapshots of life from Gohouo-Zagna; audio photographs of a life in the village."

Over the course of 16 tracks, "Davorio" offers a jazz-led, afro-futuristic impression of Guéré soundscapes, a kaleidoscopic immersion into the culture that is both mesmerising and positively haunting, modern yet ancient. The multi-layered musical patchwork created by Strufaldi and his collaborators is seamless and seems to contain stories within stories, a library in itself of sorts. "The record is littered with energetic jazz pieces, that include elements of Afro-jazz, and more electronic-based styles. Rhodes keys and shrill saxophones, play out against the beat of the djembe, whilst dynamic drum & bass rhythms intertwine with jungle ambience and serene words and lyrics. Underpinning all the tracks are the vocals, drumming and otherwise unique percussive styles from the Gohouo-Zagna villagers." Needless to say, this extraordinary soundtrack continues to blow our minds with every listen.

"Davorio" was officially released in May, accompanied by the official GoFundMe page for the village library. That being said, this is your chance to discover this phenomenal collaborative effort and contribute to the project's realisation. The video below will provide some more insight into this worthwhile venture.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom