"French World Music" manouche-style
For almost 20 years now, François Petit’s compositions have traveled the world, teetering between gypsy and manouche music.
A violin and a cello have now joined forces to replace the famous “pompe manouche” of the rhythm guitar, all still carried along by the ‘good ole’ double bass.
The four of them pluck, strum, and strike, their music taking off with a contagious fervor and spirit, and a never ending desire to take us along for the ride. A clever mix of music from the East, North, South, sometimes a little bit country or a little bit Rock’n’Roll, lyrical even at times, and so much more…
Nancy Jazz Pulsasions | Le Divan du Monde, Paris | Festival Chalons dans la Rue, Chalons sur Saône (71) | Festival « Les Bernics en Folies », l’Ile d’Yeu (85) | Festival Le Chaînon Manquant, Figeac (46) | Festival les Transcevenois, Sumènes (30) | Festival sur les Cultures Nomades, Ecole Centrales, Chatenay-Malabry (92) | Circuits Scènes Conventionnées, Auch (32) | Francofolies de Spa, Belgique; Festival les Déferlantes Francophones, Cap Breton (32) | Fête de l’Humanité, ParisFestival Paroles et Musiques, Concerts en Prison, St Etienne | Foire de Mai, Uzeste | Festival Django à Liberchies, Belgique | Festival des Puces, Paris St Ouen | Les Francofolies, La Rochelle (17) | Solidays, Paris (75) | Printemps de Pérouges (01) | Parc Régional des Landes de Gascogne, Belin Beliet (33) | Gypsy Festival, Lyon (69) | Vercors Music Festival, Autrans (38) | Les Bonus de l’Eté, Aix-les-Bains (73)| Festival d’Avignon (84) | National Geographic Cruise, Honfleur (14)Festival Paroles et Musiques, Concerts en Prison, St Etienne | Foire de Mai, Uzeste | Festival Django à Liberchies, Belgique | Festival des Puces, Paris St Ouen | Les Francofolies, La Rochelle (17) | Solidays, Paris (75) | Tunis, Tunisia , USA | Printemps de Pérouges (01) | Parc Régional des Landes de Gascogne, Belin Beliet (33) | Gypsy Festival, Lyon (69) | Vercors Music Festival, Autrans (38) | Les Bonus de l’Eté, Aix-les-Bains (73)| Festival d’Avignon (84) | National Geographic Cruise, Honfleur (14)
USA : Louisianne, Nouvelle Orléans, Festival International de Lafayette, Salt Lake City,Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City … | Rogers Park, World Music Festival, Chicago | Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center, Washington DC | International Festival, Houston || Canada : La Francofête, Moncton, Nouveau Brunswick, Oakville || Django Festivalen, Oslo, Norway || Tunis, Tunisia
My 20 years of SAMARABALOUF !
– by François Petit
Back then, I didn’t want to play the guitar anymore, I wanted to write songs… No such luck!
It was during an international festival in the city of Amiens that a friend of mine, a bar and café owner, asked me to do three shows for the event. The theme of the festival was “the travelers”, in other words, “Gypsies”.
I’d barely accepted to do these gigs, that my wife Isabelle started playing the double bass (an instrument she’d never played before), and our babysitter’s husband took up rhythm guitar!
We even had a drummer for those first concerts: Maxime… Maxime… ? Umm…oh well.
We quickly came up with our repertoire, directly inspired by my 6 years with “Swing Gadget”, and Arnaud “Nono” Van Lancker’s musical vision.
We started getting noticed very quickly. Soon, our quartet became a trio, and throughout the region of Picardie, we sowed the seeds of what would later become “Samarabalouf”.
Three days before ringing in the year 2000, at Le Hérisson studio in St Omer, Isabelle, Nicolas and I record our first CD, the eponymous Samarabalouf. It took many 14-hour days of relentless work, and the album was finally released at the dawn of the new millennium.
The album was incredibly well received, and thanks to Manu Jantzen and the Toujours plus association, we were able to start touring outside of Picardie.
For family reasons, both my wife Isabelle and Nicolas preferred to leave the group. Enter stage: Pierrot Margerin, a hard-rock drummer at the time who took up rhythm guitar for the occasion, and Agnès Duvivier on double bass. Together, we spent two years touring, playing over a hundred concerts throughout France.
This also coincides with our first concert tour overseas.
In Mexico we played with the widely acclaimed Son Jarocho band, Mono Blanco. That was an incredible experience. We played together every day, from Veracruz to Mexico City, in farms, Indian reservations, and of course more standard music venues.
Never one to put my instincts aside, Samarabalouf à 7 sees the day with added saxophone, violin, guitars, drums and a belly dancer. This, while simultaneously performing in our original formation. But the trio literally took up all of our energy and I had to put Samarabalouf à 7 on hold, although traces of that project can be heard with the track C’est la vie.
Next to join us was Daniel Despagne on the acoustic bass, and with Pierrot Margerin still on guitar, we recorded our 2nd CD in 2002. Luc Ambry joins us on the double bass shortly after that to support our new song, “La Valche Folle” (a play on “mad cow” and “mad waltz”, vache and valse respectively, in French).
And we continued touring… From music venues, to concert halls, theaters, festivals – we did it all!
In 2004, I finally fulfill my dream of recording a live album with accordion player Arnaud Van Lancker: Profitez-en. This album literally propelled us allowing us to play together non-stop for years.
Canada and the US welcome us with open arms. At a rate of three tours a year, we travelled from New-Orleans to California, Montana to New York, Chicago to Washington, and even Alaska. We discovered America, relished in the great American landscapes, its towns and large cities, its theaters and festivals. The people, laughter, and adventure with a capital A, led us from international to local airports, we flew on planes of all sizes, and even got to ride in a few limos. And then finally, we returned to France, exhausted but exhilarated. We parted ways, Luc, Pierrot and I, on a Paris subway platform.
2007 sees a change in management.
We tackled the 3rd studio album with a real yearning to share, unite, and mix who we are with about 50 different musical ethnicities. Whispers, sounds, energies – we wanted to mix all this “over-the-top craziness” into our music. It took a whole month to record the album in Mathieu Chedid’s studio, Labo M. This album is full of voices from all over the world, including some highly acclaimed talents such as Nosfell, Laïla Bounos et les human bit box, AngeB and Wab.
“BaBaBa” is released in 2008.
Thanks to Luc Ambry’s craftiness and his ingenious “foot sampler”, we were able to promote this album with its multitude of voices on stages all around France and Europe. These concerts have been captured and compiled on DVD in 2010: 10 ans de tournée.
Still animated by my desire for inclusiveness and openness, as well as rekindling with a bigger Samarabalouf formation, a new concept is born: Le BalOuf. The idea is simple, and that is to create a really mad ball, from java to electro, Boogie to Twist, this time with bass, drums, guitars and 3 female singers. Something truly festive, energetic, a bit over-the-top, a hundred or so concerts, a CD…and we’re off on a new adventure!
Stop! Screeching halt!
The producer at the time never took the CD out of his crates.
A real shame!
The idea of creating a bal (ball) where energy and brimming creativity abound, allowed me to segue from the GrandBalOuf to LittleBalOuf. Still showcasing my “French Word Music” compositions, but this time with a kind of Rockabilly energy. A “GypsyBilly” of sorts…
All of these ventures keep me very busy until 2015.
So… what about Samarabalouf then?
I needed to find a new concept for the original Samarabalouf. THE Samarabalouf!
Meeting Léo Mathieu and Michel Sanlaville was serendipitous and a good omen.
Another one of my long-held dreams can finally come to fruition: A SWING string quartet, playing the music of “my world”.
Violin, double bass, guitar – three out of four! Close…
Enter Phyllipa Scammell, cellist, and my dream becomes reality.
And “UP” we go!
As for the rest of the story, we hope to write it with you and THANKS to you!!!
We created a film to illustrate our adventure.
Youtube : https://youtu.be/30eZWCjHQIs
Enjoy the show!
And see you soon at one of our concerts.
Fou, Fou, Fou… (French for ‘crazy, crazy, crazy’)