Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Modern Day Troubadors: Erik Pédurand and "Elle Donne"



Before I lived in Texas, I had scant idea of what a singer-songwriter actually was. I grew up on a steady diet of bands. Bands of all kinds. My parents were into big bands. My friends were into the prog-rock, hard rock, heavy metal, hair, and new-wave bands of the 70s and 80s. Oh, I knew of artists like Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and the like but to me they were sort of folk music straying into rock and roll. I won't say that I had a sophisticated view of all this. It was just how I interpreted the music world.

Fast forward to 1995.  My wife and I, newly married, are moving to San Antonio, Texas after almost ten years of living in Milwaukee - a city we had grown to love and where most of our friends were located.  She had taken a new job there in her field right out of graduate school, and we were prepared to hate Texas.  We had all the stereotypes.  Texas was the land of prideful, boasting Texans, conservative politics, hot and dry weather, and lots of flat land with cattle.  Also, it was the land of country music, which neither of us were into.  We got there, and immediately started trying to hate Texas...and after five years of living there, when we were driving our moving van out of town on our way to New Orleans and my own graduate school work, we both were bawling like babies.

There were a lot of things that made us cry about leaving, and one of them was the music.  It was in Texas that we realized how diverse, amazing and wonderful music could be.  Texas literally expanded our musical horizons and made us open our minds to new things.  We discovered Texas swing, Hispanic ranchera and norteño.  We discovered that country music, especially the older country music, was a beautiful thing.  We discovered bluegrass, and the psychedelic rock of the 13th Floor Elevators, and the Latin-infused rock of the Sir Douglas Quintet and Augie Myers.  And we discovered singer-songwriters - too many to count.  Tish Hinojosa in the Hispanic tradition, Terri Hendrix in a whole category of her own, Townes Van Zandt and all the people he influenced, Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett and Guy Clark and Waylon and Willie and the Flatlanders and Sarah Hickman and just amazing artists with stories to tell.

The singer-songwriter to me is the modern day troubador, who sings of serious things and humorous things, love and loss.  He can be an amazing musician with a story to tell, or she can just pick and strum basic chords but the lyrics are worthy of the best poets.   They paint pictures with their words and with their instruments and a concert of two hours goes by too fast because you are so engaged and you are left wanting more and more.  That's what we experienced in Texas, in back country dance halls and in concert venues.  And so, when we began doing this world music show, I was gratified to see that the singer-songwriter is not just an American thing.  There are troubadors all over the world, sharing their thoughts and feelings through the tapestry of their music.

Today's troubador is Erik Pédurand, a singer-songwriter from Guadeloupe - a French protectorate in the Caribbean.  He began singing at 15, and made a name on Guadeloupe when he appeared on a talent show called Stardom.  He moved to Paris to study language, and while there he met Lee Siam and Manuel Mondesir who eventually produced his first CD, Chayé Kow, which was released in 2008.  The album won him the award for Afro-Caribbean Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2009.  He currently has three released albums, and this song, Elle Donne, is from his 2013 release Ecole Créole.  The video is beautifully filmed and worth seeing.