From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- "In England they have Peter Gabriel, in America they have David Byrne, in France we have Hector Zazou” (Jean-François Bizot)."
Hector Zazou (July 11, 1948—September 8, 2008) was a prolific French composer and record producer who has worked with, produced, and collaborated with an international array of recording artists. He has worked on his own and other artists' albums, including Sandy Dillon, Mimi Goese, Barbara Gogan, Sevara Nazarkhan, Carlos Nuñez, Italian group PGR, Anne Grete Preux, Laurence Revey, and Sainkho since 1976.
Long-time collaborators include trumpeter Mark Isham; guitarist Lone Kent; cellist and singer Caroline Lavelle; trumpeter Christian Lechevretel, who has appeared on all of Zazou's albums after Sahara Blue; clarinetist and flutist Renaud Pion, who has appeared on all of Zazou's albums since Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses; drummer Bill Rieflin; and Japanese recording artist Ryuichi Sakamoto.
His discography demonstrates his affinity for cross-cultural collaborations, and incorporated modern techniques and sounds in re-recordings of traditional material. He was influenced by Peter Gabriel's album Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ in his fusion of musical polarities (traditional and modern, electronic and acoustic) on his own album Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses.
Zazou regarded his work during the 1980s as his time of apprenticeship in the studio. On his 1986 album, Reivax au Bongo, he experimented with fusing classical vocals with an electronic backdrop. On his 1989 album, Géologies, he combined electronic music with a string quartet.
The albums that he has released under his own name from the 1990s onwards are usually concept albums that draw from literary or folk sources and revolve around a specific theme. The collection of songs on each album assemble contributions from a diverse and global range of pop, folk, world music, avant-garde, and classical recording acts.
Zazou's 1992 offering, Sahara Blue, was based on an idea by Jacques Pasquier. Pasquier suggested Zazou commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of author Arthur Rimbaud by setting music to Rimbaud's poetry. Contributions included spoken word from Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Dalcan and music by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, Tim Simenon, and David Sylvian. He even adapted a traditional Ethiopian song.
In 1994, he released the album Chansons des mers froides (called Songs from the Cold Seas for the anglophone market). The album was based on ocean-themed traditional folk songs from northern countries, such as Canada, Finland, Iceland, and Japan. It featured vocals by pop and rock artists such as Björk, Suzanne Vega, John Cale, Värttina, Jane Siberry, and Siouxsie Sioux in addition to recordings of shamanic incantations and lullabies from Ainu, Nanai, Inuit, and Yakut singers. Musicians included Mark Isham, Brendan Perry, and the Balanescu Quartet. A cameraman accompanied Zazou on the project and they shot and recorded in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Japan, Scandinavia, and Siberia. The single "The Long Voyage" was the only song to be an original composition from Zazou. He wrote it in gratitude to his record company Sony who gave him complete artistic liberty. Performed by Suzanne Vega and John Cale, it was released as a single in 1995. The single featured remixes by Mad Professor as well as Zazou himself.
Zazou's collaborative 2000 album 12 (Las Vegas is Cursed) with Sandy Dillon was regarded as a financial and critical failure. In the book "Sonora Portraits 2", which accompanies the CD Strong Currents, Zazou says that 12 (Las Vegas is Cursed) was his most elaborate album. He describes it as a work of black humour and regards his instrumental composition "Sombre" on the album as one of his best songs ever.
Strong Currents was released in 2003 and featured an all-female vocal cast which included Laurie Anderson, Melanie Gabriel, Lori Carson, Lisa Germano, Irene Grandi, Jane Birkin, and Caroline Lavelle. Musicians included Ryuichi Sakamoto, Dennis Rea, Bill Rieflin and Archaea Strings. The album took six years to complete.
In 2004 Zazou released a companion CD of sorts, L'absence, which included instrumentals, many of the same female vocalists that were featured on Strong Currents, and one male vocalist, French singer Edo.
Zazou has recently been a member of the musical collective named Slow Music. The lineup also included Robert Fripp and Peter Buck on guitars, Fred Chalenor on bass, Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Bill Rieflin on keyboards and percussion. He contributed electronics to the group's music, and much of his recent work, including a soundtrack for Carl Théodor Dreyer's silent film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc and the multimedia collaboration released as a CD in 2006, Quadri+Chromies, has focused on electronic sounds produced on computers.
A number of recent projects are documented on the Music Operator interactive multimedia web site, which graphically documents his recent collaborations while in the background his recent music plays. In january 2008 Hector Zazou released his newest album, Corps électriques, featuring "one of the original riot grrrls" KatieJane Garside, Bill Rieflin, Lone Kent and fusion jazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær.
- 1976 ZNR Barricades 3
- 1978 ZNR Traité de Mécanique Populaire
- 1979 La Perversita
- 1983 Zazou/Bikaye/CYI Noir & Blanc
- 1985 Zazou/Bikaye Mr. Manager
- 1985 Géographies
- 1986 Reivax au Bongo
- 1988 Zazou/Bikaye Guilty!
- 1989 Geologies
- 1989 Géographies/13 proverbes Africains
- 1990 Zazou/Bikaye/CYI Noir & Blanc (with extra tracks)
- 1991 Hector Zazou & Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses
- 1992 Sahara Blue
- Lead vocalists: Samy Birnbach, Richard Bohringer, John Cale, Dominique Dalcan, Sussan Deihim, Lisa Gerard and Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance, Gérard Depardieu, Anneli Drecker, Barbara Gogan, Khaled, Ketema Mekonn, Malka Spigel
- Contributors: Kent Condon, Yuka Fujii, Kenji Jammer, Vincent Kenis, Nabil Khalidi, Bill Laswell, Christian Lechevretel, Keith Leblanc, Lightwave, Gilles Martin, Denis Moulin, Renault Pion, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Shehan, Guy Sigsworth, Tim Simenon, David Sylvian, Elizabeth Valetti, Daniel Yvinec
- 1992 Various artists Nunc Musics
- 1994 Sainkho Out of Tuva
- 1994 Various artists Sonora 4'94 (includes one outtake from Sahara Blue entitled Realeza)
- 1994 Chansons des mers froides (Songs from the Cold Seas)
- Lead vocalists: Björk, John Cale, Tokiko Kato, Lioudmila Khandi, Kilabuk & Nooveya, Catherine-Ann MacPhee, Värttina, Suzanne Vega, Wimme Saari, Jane Siberry, Siouxsie Sioux, Lena Willemark
- Contributors: Ainu Dancers of Hokkaidō, Balanescu Quartet, Tchotghtguerele Chalchin, Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance, Budgie, Barbara Gogan, Mark Isham, Lightwave, Sargo Maianagacheva, Demnine Ngamtovsovo, Marc Ribot, Sakharine Percussion Group, Noriko Sanagi, Sissimut Dance Drummers, Angelin Tytot
- 1995 Harold Budd/Hector Zazou Glyph
- Lead vocalist: Lian Amber
- 1997 Barbara Gogan Made on Earth
- 1998 Lights in the Dark
- 1998 Mimi Goese Soak (four tracks produced by Zazou)
- 1999 Carlos Nuñez Os Amores Libros
- 1999 Laurence Revey Le Creux Des Fees
- 2000 Sandy Dillon & Hector Zazou 12 (Las Vegas is Cursed)
- 2000 Bigazzi/Chianura/Henson Drop 6—The Wolf and the Moon
- 2000 Various artists Drop 5.1
- 2001 Anne Grete Preux Alfabet
- 2002 PGR Per Grazia Ricevuta
- 2003 Sevara Nazarkhan Yol Bolsin
- 2003 Strong Currents
- Lead vocalists: Laurie Anderson, Jane Birkin, Lori Carson, Melanie Gabriel, Lisa Germano, Irene Grandi, Nicola Hitchcock, Nina Hynes, Caroline Lavelle, Sarah-Jane Morris, Catherine Russell, Emma Stow
- Contributors: Archaea Strings, Carlos Nuñez, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Stefano Bollani, Bill Rieflin, Lone Kent, Dennis Rea, Mathias Desmiers, Pierre Chaze, Renaud Pion
- 2004 L'absence
- 2006 Hector Zazou and Bernard Caillaud Quadri(+)Chromies
- 2008 Corps électriques
- 1983 Hector Zazou/Papa Wemba Malimba (12" single)
- 1984 Zazou/Bikaye/CYI M'Pasi Ya M'Pamba (12" single)
- 1985 Zazou/Bikaye Mr. Manager (7" and 12" singles)
- 1988 Zazou/Bikaye Guilty!/Na Kenda (12" single)
- 1990 Zazou/Bikaye Get Back (12" single)
- 1992 "I'll Strangle You" featuring Anneli Drecker and Gérard Depardieu
- 1995 "The Long Voyage" featuring John Cale and Suzanne Vega