RAY LEMA QUINTET “HEADBUG”, new album !

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RAY LEMA New album  « HEADBUG »

Release 22th of April 2016 ( One Drop / rue Stendhal)

Featuring : Ray Lema, Etienne Mbapé, Irving Acao, Sylvain Gontard & Nicolas Viccaro, Special guest : Manu Dibango

Ray Lema "Headbug"“Jazz is not music, it is an attitude.” This is a saying by Miles Davis which Ray Lema has made his own, since it reflects his view of jazz performance.

Ray Lema does not consider himself a jazz man. He prefers a focus on his achievements as a composer of original music, presented through highly personal and deconstructed jazz. There is no attempt to imitate the American form of the music.

The music is emphatically carried by the spirit of his group, where friendship and careful listening lead to imaginative interplay. The group is coherent — each musician listens closely to the other, and plays with the other in every sense of the word. It is a melded tribute, where the bass and drums lay the foundation, the piano adds indispensable flourishes, and where  the sax and trumpet take off in lyrical flight and heady, overlaying simultaneous melodic lines.

This album is a construct where the music flows freely, but in a precise direction, guided by the energy of the groove, the feel of the melody and a subtle harmonic seeking. The compositions are all original, and are written specifically for this exceptional multicultural quintet which, four years after their first release (VSPN), return with force and impact to the playground of the jazz greats.

If the title, Headbug, is taken to mean “wracking one’s brain,” it is not to define the whole of this fluid, limpid, extremely well-constructed album, but is rather simply a reflection of the eponymous first track, where Ray Lema in effect wracked his brain to find a coherent and efficient harmonic structure to magnify this piece’s particularly dynamic and lavish groove. This first track delves into a realm which will is found throughout the rich and varied album, where an irresistibly playful afro-beat can make room for beautiful and romantic ballads (Naab, Ulagaresh).

Among the treasures to be discovered — an African jazz carried by acrobatic rhythms, a playful wink at Brazil, by way of a creative revisiting of “Samba de Uma Nota So,” by Jobim; an unusual composition that marries funk and samba (Mira); a dense and multi-layered jazz number that finds a way to combine Afro-Cuban rhythms and French song (Mon Bel Amour); and an homage to the elder statesman, the big brother, the marabout of African music, Mr. Manu Dibango, impressive and unexpected on Marimba in “No Hiding.”

Headbug propels the jazz quintet beyond the beaten path, toward shores of musical forms and colors seldom explored, for a voyage to a lush countryside, where energy parallels poetry, in the best of all worlds. (Lionel Eskenazi)

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Laurent de Wilde & Ray Lema – 2 pianos

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A sparkle was lit when Ray Lema and Laurent de Wilde met for the first time on a television stage in 1991, and twenty five years of separate but intense musical activities haven’t dampened it a bit. During these years the two men have deeply involved themselves in many musical adventures : jazz, choir, funk, world, electro, slam, symphonic, solo, trio, quintet, string quartet, big band… Always eager for uncharted territories, they have explored many expressions of their art with an unfailing curiosity and a daring enthusiasm.Maybe twenty five years was the right time to pass before this initial sparkle turns into a common project, but here it is and the time is now. Two pianos, one voice and thousands of ideas assembled along their travels.                                                         There will be disappointment in those who hope for a grand battle of virtuosos or a culture shock. The main objective here is to share some music. No doubt that here is Africa under Ray’s hands and Jazz in Laurent’s heart, but they have in common the same urge to play out of the box and chase emotions where they stil sound true, outside of genres and clans.

 The repertoire, composed by both artists, is where they meet.The pianos are played, struck and rubbed to deliver a common singing that is always inspired and never verbose. On a few tracks, Ray sings also, and his voice carries the duo into a world of ancient melodies where the sounds speak directly to your soul.

To sum it up : this project is more than an encounter. It’s a journey.

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VSNP – Press Release

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VSNP – Press Release  (to download the french press , click here)

Ray Lema comes back  with  « V.S.N.P Very Special New Production » a new album  100 % Jazz . In Quintet, (…) the Congolese pianist and composer pays a tribute to Herbie Hancock  and Fela Kuti. An nice escape  in a Blue Note way ! (RFI)

Boosted by the jumping bass of Etienne Mbappé “VSNP” is already recognized as one of the best  jazz releases for the beginning  of the year (L’Écho Republicain)

This VSNP quintet, very jazzistic in its language, recalls and interprets with acuity and acquaintance the energy and elegance of Ray Lema’s composition.(…) The brilliant and percussive play of Lema reaps profit of  the rhythmic duel (Mabppe Etienne, Nicolas Viccaro) on which he leans and builds  simple, efficient and dancing melodies; warmly responded by the brass (Irving Acao, Sylvain Gontard) (**** Jazz magazine, Lorraine Soliman)

At the « New Morning » venue, we will attend the burning wedding between hypersensitive melody and harmonic glitter, musical ingenuity and sweet infectious groove. (« Humanité » Fara C)

Here he comes wriggling behind his piano, back to the jazz,  the  love of his youth, with a quartet made of young wolves (…) Africa adorned with iridescent shades of Blue Note, a wonderfull challenge. – (Nova – Rémy Kolpa Kopoul )

Ray Lema, is the incredible fate of a child born in a train in Congo DRC, fan of Mozart, future Director of the National Ballet of Zaire and accomplice of Tony Allen and Jean-François Jenny-Clark. His new album V.S.N.P (Very Special New Production) plunges us into a joyful mix of Jazz (&Hard-Bop and Soul) and African music. (Radio TSF – playlist)

His compositions (…), the flavors of Afro jazz and the groovy rhythms turn the  V.S.N.P (Very Special New production) the beginning of the year’s most joyfull event ! (So ​​Jazz – Eric Delhaye)

The result is brilliant of sensibility,  providing us  energy and delight. Superb… (KR Home Studio magazine)

The jazz offers itself another dimension with this album! (ZicaZic)

For his new album, “VSNP”, Ray Lema took the bet bringing his partners and his numerous fans in a musical journey where the jazz is the common denominator to all his musical experiences. Surrounded by a gang of virtuosos, with Etienne Mbappé on bass, he intends to strength the expression of the black people with all his diversity (…) February 7th, 2013,  the New Morning venue in Paris will welcome respectfully one of  most discreet masters of ” The epic of the Negro music “, the too rare Ray Lema ! (RFI – Joe Farmer)

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Press release : Ray Lema Quintet “V.S.N.P- Very Special New Production”

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Press release : Ray Lema Quintet “V.S.N.P- Very Special New Production”

Release in January 2013

09 new pieces for this great quintet composed of excellent musicians, traveling companions of Ray Lema for many years.

Etienne Mbappe on bass plays the role of the Master drum in the musical tradition of Central Africa, he shares the Verb with Ray Lema whose melodic and controlled piano playing  calms down or stirs the passion and power of the young Nicolas Viccaro on drums who accompanies and highlights the edge of the two horns, Irving Acao on tenor sax and Sylvain Gontard on trumpet.

The quintet is the culmination of a long brooding process in the musical career of Ray Lema. After the solo and trio, came the experience of some concerts in Cameroon with a quartet (with Irving Acao on sax), which sparked the urge to add the trumpet of Sylvain Gontard.

Early October 2012, the five musicians met in studio to record the new compositions of Ray Lema. The magic was there and the album was recorded live with good humor and the joy of playing together that we can feel throughout the album.

4 titles are dedicated to special people for Ray LEMA: Fela Anikulapo and Herbie Hancock, both sources of inspiration, his friend “who is the pride of Africa,” the Malian essayist Aminata Traoré, and his uncle, Etienne NKAZI from the village of Ntimansi in the DRC, who died in February 2010 at the age of 129 years (whose life is partly told in the book “Congo” by David Van Reybrouck).

While using the jazz idiom which gives a wonderful freedom of expression to the musicians, Ray Lema-VSNP Quintet 
is a band of a new genre, mixing the harmonic subtleties of western music to the heavily spiced flavors of Africa.

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Ray LEMA Kongos Trio Concerts in London and Coimbra (Pt)

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Ray LEMA Kongos Trio Concerts in London  and Coimbra (Pt) 

To our  English friends from London and to the portuguese friends from Coimbra ! I’ll be playing with my Kongos Trio next week, with Emile Biayenda on  drums and Francky Moulet on bass for  a repertoire 100 % Bakongo !

In London the concert will be at the Purcell Room on  the 21rst of november at 7:45 pm and in Portugal in Coimbra at Teatro Gil Vicente Academico  at  9:00 pm on the 23rd of november

It’s going to swing !!!!

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New Album Ray LEMA Quintet “V.SN.P- Very Special New production”

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New Album Ray LEMA Quintet “V.SN.P- Very Special New production”

Here I am just out of the studio after a week of intense and magical recording with my musicians, faithful companions, this time  in a crazy  quintet, with the great Etienne Mbappe, with whom I have the honor and pleasure of playing for many years, the young and very talented Nicolas Viccaro on drums , “my” two fantastic brass players, Irving Acao on sax and Sylvain Gontard on the trumpet, already sharing the road in the adventure of the “Saka Saka.”

“V.S.N.P-Very Special New production “, is a  tribute to the legendary quintet “VSOP, the Quintet”, which had, in his time, revolutionized the world of jazz music. More modestly, we would just bring our little stone in the edifice of Jazz, with our small New Production, trying to bring a slight touch of the flavor from Africa.

We recorded in the studio, in live conditions, to preserve the magic, the freedom and the joy of playing together. I just hope you have as much fun listening  as we had, playing and recording for you.

You’ll have to wait a bit… the release will be on late January , but certainly from time to time, we will put a music or another to be listened l on this website.

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Ouro Preto – Brazil

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Ouro Preto – Brazil

In August 2011, I went for some  concerts in duo with my friend Chico César, to Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais (Brazil).  After that, I went with some friends, to Ouro Preto, located about 1:30 drive from the capital. I particularly wanted to go there because I knew the area, very rich in its time because of the mines contained in its soil, was also a big hub of the slave trade in Brazil, coming mainly from the region of former Kingdom of Kongo. Few people know this, because we are talking more generally about the Yorubas who also inhabited Brazil, the Congo Basin,  has also contributed heavily and sadly to form the people of Brazil.

I was deeply moved while walking in the city, I entered the Mine of Chico Rei  (I just visited one…) where have suffered and died so many human beings in totally inhumane conditions. The houses of the city are very beautiful and the churches, resplendent and covered with gold, also demonstrate the ability of humans to invent and create beautiful things. But I can not look at these beautiful houses and ignore the fact that in the basements of these so beautiful buildings   were stocked and chained in unsanitary and overcrowded cellars , those who carried out the construction of these masterpieces of art baroque, now classified as “World Heritage of Humanity”

What strikes me particularly, beyond the shame that is slavery, and whatever the people who are the victims, it is the general amnesia which then hit the two Congos, regarding those  Brazilian who are truly relatives and are constantly  in search of their roots.

I was shocked to see that until today, there is absolutely no honor, no mention of the hundreds and hundreds  thousands of people who suffered and died, submissed by others.

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Working sessions with Fredy Massamba

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Working sessions with Fredy Massamba

A small video clip just to give you a premiere flavour of my new duo ! The first working sessions with Fredy Massamba just ended. A very exciting week! I think the work we will present you in concert next September will be surprising ! It’s a real pleasure to work with Fredy, he’s good partner, with a beautiful voice and a musical background that allows him to navigate happily between traditional songs and rhythms from Congo, gospel, hip hop, soul…. a little brother I ‘m very happy I finally found !

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Ray Lema, a whole world !

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Ray Lema, a whole world !

The mythical Congolese musician played Saturday in Douala on the stage of the FCI (French Cultural Institute ) .

French Institute of Cameroon, Douala antenna, May 26, 2012.

It is just  8:00 pm and the dream of many spectators will come true, to see finally, live on stage , Ray Lema, son of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a global citizen. Thanks to the initiative of the theater  and world music Festival ” Scène d’Ébène” , the musician came for the first time to Cameroon.  After two concerts in Yaounde, it’s the turn of Douala  for this artist who has an abundant discography not counting a lot of different collaborations.

Douala is a special city for him, and he tells it to the public. He first has lived and imagined the city through the eyes and the sounds of Manu Dibango , with whom he was on the road and shared the stage in duo for three years, and  then with the great bass player Etienne Mbappe  who’s on stage with him tonight. To complete  the band, on stage at the FCI we have the cuban saxophonist Irving Acao and the french drummer  Nicolas Viccaro.

A multicultural quartet which tells perfectly the story of Ray Lema, who is on a perpetual journey, borned on a train, at ease in all registers, in all the vocal exercises. Crossing the world in each direction . For this show, he performs as a pianist, because he is also guitarist and percussionist. For the beginning, no need to talk or sing or comment anything. Just an instrumental piece that takes the accents of a  rumba ballad. With his nimble and expert fingers, the author of “99” wakes up  “Kinshasa la Belle ” of his youth. Fingers which all along  the show, according to the solos and dialogues with the other instruments, immerse themselves in the folk, swing, bebop, mandingo blues, tunes colored with  the Caribbean sun, creating a carnival atmosphere filled with creole latin sounds… It’s the same journey around the world with the  range of his voice, totally under control, although marked sometimes by the characteristics of the crooners of the zaïrense rumba, but taking as well intonations of a jazz poet, a griot of  West Africa or a bluegrass singer from the South of the United States.

The tour also took place in the discography of the artist who strolled the audience from one album to another, between “Ali Farka”, “Paradox”, “StopTime”, “Ata’Ndele”, “Yalelo” , “Yolele”, “São Tome”, “Nalelela”, “Jamais Kolonga”, “Lusala”, “Souira”… Tributes to artists missing, but also to his land, which he dedicated  his thoughts between two notes… sweet tones, never aggressive, capable to find the perfect chord with the public, which showed its assent by applause and shouts, happy to see a show at the height of the living legend, Ray Lema.

Rita Diba

Cameroon Tribune on May 29, 2012

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Scène d’Ebène 8th edition: amazing concert by Ray Lema at IFC of Yaounde

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Scène d’Ebène 8th edition: amazing concert by Ray Lema  at IFC of Yaounde 

The legendary african pianist Ray Lema  has literally offered a phenomenal show  to a large crowd at the IFC Yaounde Friday, May 25, 2012.

Unforgettable! And the word is low;  the congolese-born pianist Ray Lema flooded with joy the fans from all over the capital, which came to listen to his work. More than a immeasurable talented musician , Ray was until then seen as a myth by most spectators who were there Friday in the concert hall of the French Institute of Yaounde. And if they were able to live this magic moment, it is partly thanks to this young Cameroonian who through his festival “Scene of Ebony,” works for the promotion of our culture, and which is nobody other than Tony Mefe.
Announced to start at  8:00 pm, it is rather timidly that the public came down. A scene that woke up the  discontent of some people : ” Ray Lema is here and where is the public ?…Cameroonians really know nothing of real music …, ” says a lady , just on our left. What has happened?  has the communication  been mismanaged?  Or maybe the public would become hostile and decided to boycott the “good” music in favor of the so-called “hips music” as  stated Ray himself? 
After thirty five minutes late, the doors are closed but finally bit by bit arrives the public ; Roblack (the presenter of the show) can then seize the microphone and present Ray Lema terrific team who will have the difficult task not only to accompany this monument of the world music, but also to satisfy a public who time passing became exigent. 
Here they are : the young and very promising Irving Acao Sierra (Cuba) on saxophone, the incomparable bassist with black gloves Etienne Mbappe  from Cameroon, and Nicolas Viccaro a young french musician on drums.
Standing ovation for the great Ray Lema when he stepped on stage, very relaxed and with the  good humor that we know. The voyage can begin, and casting a quick glance behind us, we can see finally the place packed with people.
Each time the quartet will tear shouts and applauses from an audience captivated and conquered; but this is only the beginning …
The atmosphere peaked when the time came where each musician went into the solos showing the skills and mastery of the instruments to an exulting audience . Even Ray had trouble keeping on his sit at the piano
Several tracks from Ray’s latest album “99” were played and  he occasionally paused to tell us some  anecdote or few  explanations relating to his career.
After nearly two hours of performance, the audience still wanted more. One for the road … as we used to say, and the famous pianist (40-year career already, around the world), Ray Lema  called his musicians friends at his side, the moment for salutation , a farewell to this beautiful public showing gratitude to him.
Later we found him  again with his many fans in the lobby for autographs and some pictures; but the pianist will not have time to breathe as the band will also play at the IFC of Douala the next day.

CulturEbene.com with Darysh – 27.05.2012

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The quartet in Cameroon

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Thanks  to the public from Cameroon for its warm welcoming, and thanks  to the wonderful musicians who followed me in this adventure in Africa, where our new quartet is born. On command : Etienne Mbappe on bass, Nicolas Vicarro on drums and  Irving Acao on sax . Thank to the Festival  ” Scène d’Ebène”  and its director Tony Meffe for inviting us, thanks to the two  directors of the French Institutes of Yaounde and Douala, Yves Ollivier and Aida Sy for their support and hospitality and a very special thanks to Laurent Eze whose work allowed me to play on real pianos, unfortunately quite rare in Africa. Now we just have to work to release a new album with these wonderful companions of my musical adventures !

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Homo economicus mediocris

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Homo economicus mediocris 

… “Almost everywhere, but unfortunately more with us, western republics, where two or three centuries of commercial, industrial and financial capitalist development crowned by an ultra-liberal European Union have created an homo economicus mediocris for whom sense of personal and collective life  summarizes now conquering the money markets, and therefore creates from a generation to the next , the obsession of growing wealth  and enrich themselves by all means. It is the degree to which each is able to satisfy its consumer frenzy that has become the main criterion of social classification. What is shameful is neither vice nor crime, but it is not to be able to get a place in a particular market, among the wealthy, which means those who have enough money ( regardless of its source) to buy more than others, that is reflecting the highest honor.”

The Sarkophage (mars/19-17 May 2012) – excerpt from the text of Alain Accardo and Gerard Loustalet-Sense: “Sarkozyism: a double record of bankruptcy”

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