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Grace Barbé

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Nominated yet again for a WAM Award in the ‘World Music Act Of The Year’ category, Grace Barbé launches her second album, Welele!, at the Fly by Night this Saturday, November 2. BOB GORDON reports.

There’s barely a week when Grace Barbé isn’t playing several gigs.

It has been five years though, since her last album, Kreol Daughter, and there were certain sounds the multi-award winner was keen to bring to the fore on her new LP, Welele!

“More of the Seychelles and Indian Ocean rhythms and influences,” she notes. “With a live band feel and sound reflecting our years of touring and performing following the Kreol Daughter album. The concept is something that could have been produced in Seychelles during the ‘70s.”

Welele! explores a variety of styles and influences, including Afrobeat, rock, Congolese soukouss, disco, Latin, classic Seychellois sega and moutya rhythms, seggae, funk, soul and reggae. This stuff don’t write itself, it comes together…

“Gradually,” Barbé affirms. “Some of the songs myself and (musical partner) Jamie Searle have been writing are over five years-old while others are quite new. Because we wanted to work on a concept album, we had to be selective of which songs would make it on the album and only 10 would. We also wanted to stay true to the aesthetics of the music.”

Given the amount of time that has passed since Barbé has written songs for a new album, it’s understandable that her writing process has matured over this period.

“I’m older and my mind is a lot more opened to write about more diverse topics,” she says. “We are approaching some serious issues such as the impact of global warming and ocean acidification in the Indian Ocean region. The islands are being hit hard and it is top of the agenda in the Seychelles.

“Also, one topic which we are very much passionate about and standing behind is the very sad history of Diego Garcia, a group of Indian Ocean islands and part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Between 1968 and 1973, the population of Diego Garcia was expelled by the British government to Mauritius and Seychelles to allow the United States to establish a military base on the island. Today, the exiled islanders are still trying to return. The forced expulsion and dispossession was illegal and inhumane. It’s time to let the world know about Diego Garcia and be the voice for these people.”

In a similar-yet-different vein a traditional Seychellois song, Mous Pran Fler, is also featured on the new album. It’s a song that resonates for Barbé on several levels.

Mous Pran Fler is a love song and a dance song,” she explains. “It is sung in ‘paraboles’ so the song has a double meaning. A lot of the old Seychelles songs are like that. Sometimes it’s hard to analyse what the singer is really saying.

“I find old Kreol lyrics fascinating. You don’t really hear that style in Seychelles music nowadays. I chose that song because I grew up listening, singing and dancing to it.”

Elsewhere, Tou Lannwit is a rearrangement of Lionel Richie’s All Night Long. If you think that sounds surprising you’re not alone.

“We wanted to do something that showcased the type of rhythms we’re using like seggae, sega and soukouss in a context that people were familiar with,” Barbé explains. “It could have been almost any song but for some reason it ended up being this one!”

Barbé and her band, Afro-Kreol, play many a headline show in pubs and clubs, as well as major festival appearances. Importantly, however, they also still perform at  community-based events. It’s an important link for Barbé to maintain.

“Community events are where I started before pursuing a music career,” she says. “I have been very much active with the Seychelles community in Perth over the years and still am when the time allows.

“For me it is very important to reconnect as it gives me a sense of pride of my culture and a reminder of where I come from. I still play community events, whether for Seychelles or other communities where I can. I started singing Mous Pran Fler in my community with the Seychelles community band years ago!”

With the release of a second album it now, in a sense, all begins again. It seems Barbé can hardly wait.

“I want to continue touring and take the Afro-Kreol sound internationally,” she enthuses. “I am hoping that with Welele! we will be able to take our sound to the next level and be one of the leading acts in world music internationally.”

Grace Barbé launches her second album, Welele!, at the Fly by Night this Saturday, November 2.

Get your tickets here.

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