Maybe the high point is ‘Hommage à Tonton Ferrer’ in which Ibrahim Ferrer, passing through from Cuba, joins the gang. Its passionate verve makes your hair bristle with sheer pleasure.

The way that music may change the world, suggests Kad Achouri, is not through assault but by more gentle methods. To this end, Achouri – now resident in London after leaving France – has come up with the mellifluous, jazz-inflected Liberté, which showcases both prodigious ability and a reflective maturity. The word ‘liberty’ features heavily in Achouri’s début album. There’s the liberty of the opening track (adapted from a poem by Paul Eluard), which exudes a carefree aroma across soft reggae and catchy chorus lines. Then there’s the ‘liberty’ that’s growled out on ‘Il Faut Que Ça Change’ (‘Change is necessary’). ‘Liberté, égalité – va t’ faire niquer’ – an obscene corruption of the French Republic motto to reflect, perhaps, the rage and despair of undocumented migrants (the sans papiers) and others facing the loss of any hope of ‘fraternité’.

Liberté reflects its writer’s heritage – Berber, Spanish and Algerian – and producer Marc Eagleton has displayed a sensitive touch in its mix. Achouri’s quiet French lyrics always dominate: the jazzed-up arrangements and Latin rhythms provide a buoyancy. But Liberté is above all about pleasure. ‘Mi Negra’, a song which if it were a little punkier might stray on to Manu Chao territory, is a late-night salsa class. And then there’s the disarming maturity of ‘J’aimerais’ (I would like): ‘I would like the governments to reflect the population,’ it starts, insistence building through the repeated phrase: ‘j’aimerais, j’aimerais’. Power and simplicity itself.

New Internationalist issue 352 magazine cover This article is from the December 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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